13 June 2012

Boyle’s vision taps British pride in countryside

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Danny Boyle has tapped straight into the heart of the national psyche, and what makes Britain distinct,  with his colourful countryside concept of the Olympic opening.

British Future polling shows that across Britain, not just in England as some sceptics argue, there is immense pride in our green pleasant lands, from the Lake District, to Snowdonia and the Highlands.

For those who think that Boyle has chosen to create a mini world that represents more for the English than the Scots or Welsh, our research shows they couldn’t be more wrong. Across the land, there is a great pride in our countryside, and our mountains, that crosses age groups, political affiliation and edges into every corner of this diverse nation.

In our polling, 92% of English people said the English countryside made them proud, while the Scots were even prouder of the Highlands at 96% and the Welsh lagged only slightly behind at 84% pride in the Valleys.

While 85% of the English felt particular pride in the Lake District, 75% of the Scots in Ben Nevis and 86% of the Welsh in Snowdon, according to polling of 2600 people by YouGov for British Future.

The pride in the countryside stretches across all political parties.  English countryside gets a 97% pride vote from the Conservatives, but 91% from the LibDems and Labour, based on voting intention, across social grades it polls above 90% and Londoners give it 89% and the north 91%. Pride in Snowdon as an icon that makes the Welsh proud, polls strongly across all parts of Wales from the north (92%) to the Cardiff (84%),  while the Welsh valleys pull out a pride of 84% among the 18-25s, and 89% in the 60 plus age group. In Scotland young people (18-25s) find a particular pride in Ben Nevis as making them proud to be Scottish (95%), compared to 77% of the 60 plus age group.

For many those iconic hills, vales, woods and streams make their hearts leap a little faster, when returning from a sun-baked holiday in one of those lands where the shadows are always long, and the colours bright. Then suddenly below is a palate of greens, and soft purples and sparkling blues  as the plane circles to land there is a feeling of sofa-comfortable homecoming.

Boyle will be trying to capture that bit of Britain that makes us different from France, Spain, and Scandinavia in his vision of fields, hedges, soil, cricket, sheep and ploughing. When tourists visit from other countries, it is this patchwork that draws and fascinates them, these tiny fields dotted with sheep, hedges and woods, and that crazy paving network of public footpaths.

In Suffolk last week with my family I visited castles, and stomped along country paths through woods and marshes, past people out walking in their rain macs with dogs on leads, and those eating sandwiches under rain dripped trees, Boyle is drawing on all of that to put together a ceremony which is uniquely British.

Some might argue that this is a backwards looking vision that draws on the words of poets of times past, but this is not a yokel mummerset madness, this is a fun take on our nation today, which whatever the weather, shows a sense of humour under its umbrellas as it strides out in its wellies across a muddy country path waiting for the sun to come out.


Read more of our articles on the Olympics and national identity:

Olympic games is not an Anglocentric affair

Our Island Story

Humour is great part of British Olympics

The real Olympic opening ceremony?

Olympic bosses should not let mad branding rules hit Games fever

Fans at Olympics say good chance for “everyone to come together”

Olympic torch journey has touched many hearts

Hopes and Fears


Or watch our Olympic interviews and videos:

British Future director Sunder Katwala at the very first Olympic event of 2012

British Future at the Olympics’ first day

British Future interviews crowd at first match of Olympic Games

British Future interview with football fans at Olympic Games match in Cardiff



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