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!
This England has also spearheaded a number of campaigns and during my time in the editorial department I am proud to have made a contribution: writing articles, taking part in radio broadcasts, handing out leaflets and even going on marches through the centre of London!
A special section in our Golden Anniversary Celebration will include details of these campaigns, most prominent of which was “Don’t Let Europe Rule Britannia”, the title of which speaks for itself. Through a lively letters page, envelope and car stickers, a petition to Parliament, Constitutional Challenge in the courts, sales of numerous books and support for patriotic eurosceptic authors and speakers (Norris McWhirter, Rodney Atkinson, Lindsay Jenkins, Nigel Farage, Robin Page, Bernard Connolly, Christopher Gill, Teresa Gorman etc.) we rallied thousands of supporters and I am convinced that This England’s relentless repetition of the message - including how we were lied to about the consequences of membership by Prime Minister Edward Heath - played an important part in revealing to the public the true nature of the EU and its destruction of national sovereignty, and the need for the people of the United Kingdom to be allowed a referendum on our continued membership. The rise of UKIP followed and the long-awaited vote which has introduced a new, very welcome word into the English language: Brexit!
“DLERB” as it was affectionately known in our office was linked to another campaign against compulsory metrication and the abolition of traditional English weights and measures. This led to the shocking revelation that it was now a criminal offence to sell, for example, a pound of bananas. We supported a group of prosecuted market traders who quickly became known in the press as the “Metric Martyrs”. The most famous among their number was Steve Thoburn, a greengrocer from Sunderland.
Supported by a long-running series of articles celebrating the richness and diversity of the traditional counties of England, we also ran a vigorous “Save Our Shires” campaign (again accompanied by car and envelope stickers - and supported by a very informative book by celebrity astrologer Russell Grant!) This highlighted the misconception, perpetuated in the media, that new administrative areas of local government had replaced English shires, many of which (Cumberland, Westmorland, Huntingdonshire, Rutland etc.) date back a thousand years. Wherever possible we still refer to these counties and their historic boundaries on the pages of This England, and to underline the fact recently published “A Celebration of the Traditional Counties of England”.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, given the magazine’s title, our longest running campaign has been to increase awareness of St. George’s Day (23rd April) and the life of England’s patron saint among English people, encourage its annual celebration and ensure that proud English men, women and children are not afraid to fly the Cross of St. George. This began with the very first issue of the magazine in Spring 1968 which had a photograph on the front cover showing the English flag flying over a village church in Somerset. I have taken part in dozens of broadcasts about St. George, the most entertaining of which was a chat I had several years ago with Radio Merseyside’s Billy Butler. There does now seem more of a mood to mark England’s special day, with numerous events regularly taking place in city centres and at English Heritage properties.
Other campaigns have included a survey asking readers which song/piece of music they would choose as an English National Anthem for purely English occasions (I’ll include details of the “winner” in the anniversary magazine for those who missed it), a successful reader petition to get comedian Ken Dodd a long-overdue knighthood and, one that is ongoing, a push for a new Festival of Britain to coincide with the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.