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During the 50 years of This England, as well as interesting one-off articles there have been numerous regular features running through the magazines, linking them like ink-and-paper threads. There are too many to mention here, but off the top of my head I can recall: “Characters from the Classics”, “Faggies”, “English County Regiments”, “English Village Alphabet”, “This Earth”, “Monologues and Comic Songs”, “Our English Heroes” and “Minor Masterpieces of English Art”. We will be reproducing many of these, and numerous other articles, pictures and photographs, in our forthcoming “Fifty Years of This England” publication, orders for which, I am pleased to report, are coming in at a rate which - if not quite matching all those envelopes delivered by owls that flooded the house of the awful Dursleys in the first Harry Potter film! - certainly promises some healthy sales figures. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you don’t have to hire an owl to send your order, simply click here and our sales staff will do the rest. It promises to become a collector’s item, so don’t delay!

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As someone who can remember queuing up outside telephone boxes with pockets full of coins - collected for the purpose for days (when, that is, they weren’t needed to feed into the mouth of the greedy electric meter on the wall of my bedsit) - I find it astonishing that I can now make calls and send text messages from a small device I carry in my pocket. That 19-year-old student who once waited patiently in the cold for more than 20 minutes while a woman in a kiosk (with ten pence pieces stacked on the shelf as if it were a miser’s counting house) turned back and forth, waved her arm around and chatted into the receiver unconcerned about the middle-aged man outside tapping on the glass and pointing at his watch, wouldn’t have believed such a technological advance or change in lifestyle was possible.

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alice-hawkins-250x189

One of our occasional features in This England is entitled “Great Britons” and over the years it has shone the spotlight on subjects as varied as Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Frank Whittle, Thomas Paine and Gustav Holst; in the Summer 2018 issue the series will be continuing with an article about Philip Astley, the Staffordshire man regarded as the founder of the traditional English circus. The current commemorations, widely reported in the press, to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (1918) which gave women the right to vote for the first time (but, for all the celebrations, only women over 30 years old who owned property) has highlighted a number of other individuals who will make excellent “Great Britons” in the future.

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There are a number of notable anniversaries that we will be marking with illustrated articles on the pages of the magazine during 2018. These include the centenary of the RAF, the 250th anniversary of the first circus (created by an entertainment pioneer from Staffordshire by the name of Philip Astley), and the birth 200 years ago of poet and Wuthering Heights author Emily Bronte. Incredibly it was 60 years ago that popular television programme Blue Peter first appeared on our TV screens (a 15-minute slot with Christopher Trace, Leila Williams and Tony Hart) so we will be looking back on how it developed into the stalwart it has become today.

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bodleian-library-250x189

Whether it’s a book, newspaper article, television programme or film, I am always interested when anything appears with the word “England” in the title. Nowadays, of course, there are emails as well, and I was quick to open one that landed on my computer recently with the words “Research on things to do in England” in the subject box. This arrived at a particularly appropriate moment, bearing in mind that we are just putting the finishing touches to Explore England 2018 (click here for further details) which itself highlights dozens of attractions and sights around the country.

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spring-18-250x189

On a day that is damp, dripping and foggy it’s difficult to imagine the sunlit uplands of spring. However, at This England we are always looking forward with optimism and it does help that we prepare each seasonal issue of the magazine well in advance. At the moment we are just putting the finishing touches to the spring issue which this year has a lovely picture of Sissinghurst Castle in Kent on the front cover. The magazine goes on sale in the shops on 7th February, although if you take out an annual postal subscription you will receive it a few days earlier and save a few pounds, shillings and pence at the same time! Click here for further details.

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craven-arms-250x189

I wasn’t a 16th-century seafarer poring over charts in search of the elusive Northwest Passage, or a Victorian explorer studying documents to locate a lost city in the jungles of South America. And I wasn’t a modern-day mountaineer looking at a map of the Alps, Andes or Himalayas in the hope of finding a new, untried ascent of one of the world’s highest peaks. Nevertheless, as I examined a map of England and keyed in some search instructions on the National Rail Enquiries website I couldn’t help feeling some of the same, adventurous, pioneering spirit. It was a few days before Christmas Eve and I was planning my journey to the place I would be staying for a few days, just over the border with Wales in the historic county of Radnorshire.

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nativity-250x189

The Christmas Story
(St. Luke 2)

2
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

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snow-poetry-250x189

The snow might have gone now, but it was certainly deep and crisp and even while it lasted, and at the same time as it was covering the fields and hills with a white blanket it was uncovering, in my mind, some favourite poems on the subject.

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coventry-250x189

As the announcement was made on Thursday evening that their city had been chosen as the United Kingdom’s next City of Culture - ahead of the other contenders, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea - the people of Coventry were understandably jubilant. We will now watch with interest as they plan their programme of events for 2021, with those who organised the bid hoping to “change the reputation of the city” and emulate the success of Hull, the current UK City of Culture, where it is estimated that the local economy has been boosted by tens of millions of pounds and attracted £1 billion of new investment. In the meantime, here are a few facts about the Midlands city.

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