The Other Side Of Everything
Growing up in Birmingham during the 70’s and 80’s with an Irish Republican father meant the St George Cross and to a greater extent, the Union Jack symbolised more than a token of where you were from and where you belonged. With the troubles in the north of Ireland, the flags were a potent symbol of which side of the divide you stood. In Britain, used by the National Front, they became synonymous with right-wing political views and a rudimentary form of nationalism.
Today these flags hang from tower blocks and are proudly displayed in the windows of houses. It is easy to dismiss them as remnants left over from celebrations of what it is to be English and what it is to be British. For me, they take on a darker meaning, almost like outposts, the last bastion and one last stand. It was said of the British Empire, “ The sun never set and the blood never dried.” So with remnants of its colonial past still hanging on and its attitudes to multiculturalism, psychologically I think, it can be argued that the English still see Britain as an Empire.
Previously my work has touched on what it was to be second generation Irish in England, realising early on that it was not about being Irish but about not feeling English or more importantly British. For the English, I think the two are the same. The heart of the Empire was England and the English. So when a Union Jack is hung in a window of a house, the same feelings of nationality will resonate with the house in the next street proudly displaying the St George Cross.
So with this as my starting point, by referencing dates of 12 notable events from my life growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and by looking at a past where society was more political (even for a 10 year old growing up in Birmingham) I hope it will make the viewer ask questions about where we are today. What does it mean to live in a multicultural society? What is it to be political within that society? The last point for me is especially important, as we seem to be living in a time that is as brutal as it was when I was growing up in Birmingham.