Remembrance Day in 2014 could provide the next major national moment to bring people together – and to ensure that we know the shared history of modern Britain, British Future director Sunder Katwala told a fringe meeting at Conservative Party conference.
“This Jubilee and Olympic year has shown how much people value moments that bring us together. As we again wear poppies next month to remember the sacrifice of all of those who have served this country, it is also a moment to consider how we could choose to mark the centenary of the Great War in two years time”, Katwala said at the ResPublica and Barrow Cadbury Trust fringe meeting in Birmingham on the theme of immigration and integration in civic life.
“The centenary of 1914 offers an important chance to reflect on the tradition of remembrance, but also to ask how far we know the history which it represents.”
“We should use the centenary to ensure that the next generation, and all of us, discover or remember the history that we share as a society. This is a moment which can link our family histories and the places we live with the sweep of national and Commonwealth history. How many of know as much as we would want to about that history? If we don’t, we may not realise that our multi-ethnic society shares more history than we think,” he said, adding that schools had perhaps tended to see the history of Empire and Commonwealth as too tricky to teach.
British Future wants to see a broad civic debate about how Britain could mark the centenary of the Great War, and to ask how it could be used in schools, and in society more widely, to increase our understanding of our shared history, Katwala said.
Other speakers at the ResPublica and Barrow Cadbury Trust fringe meeting in Birmingham included Damian Green MP and Lord Popat. Damian Green said that the inclusive Britishness of the Olympic opening ceremony showed how British identity had changed and adapted, but that it was “exactly the opposite of multiculturalism”, stressing the common traditions and culture of Britain, and its ability to include those from different ethnic and faith backgrounds.