CULTURE CLUB • August 2019
“We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too.” The words of Hugh Grant’s heart-throb Prime Minister in Brit-flick Love Actually ring just as true today as they did back in the film’s heyday, but does our panel of beloved Brits agree? We dig deep to find out what makes Britain, Britain
Says who: Mary Portas, the Queen of Shops
My sense of identity is very much connected to my home country. Being British to me is being accepting, innovative, daring and mischievous, as well as being a thoroughly decent human being.
Where to go: Walking in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire (pictured) makes me weep with joy. It’s absolutely stunning, as are the Highlands of Scotland where we rented a lodge for my son’s 21st birthday. Finally, London. I think I live in the greatest city in the world.
Says who: Oriele Frank, co-founder of Elemis
As a nation we love to learn along the way with grit and determination. We come together during sporting tournaments like the Rugby World Cup (my three sons play rugby so I consider myself a real ‘rugby mum’), and we have a stand-out sense of humour, because we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Where to go: Galway in Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland and the Lake District (pictured) – all truly stunning.
Says who: Sonia Friedman, votedThe Stage’s most influential theatre producer
What does being British mean to me? It means being open and interested in other people. We’re a little island and so we have to look outward to the rest of the world. I grew up in a house and a family full of curiosity; I like to think that our house was like our country.
Where to go: Sunday is my day away from work, so my fiancée and I like to take our dog, Buddy, to Victoria Park, East London (pictured). We wander round the lake and have breakfast at a gorgeous Italian café on the corner. That, to me, is the definition of bliss.
Says who: Gabrielle Aplin, Brit singer
Through touring, I’ve realised one of Britain’s best assets is how easy it is to get around by car or train. If you’re going anywhere, though, make it the British seaside. I love the sea, which is partly why I moved to Brighton. When I first got here, I was having a coffee in my (now) favourite spot, The Coffee Counter, and ended up making some of my first friends in the city. These open-armed welcomes are what Britain is about.
Where to go: I have amazing memories of holidays to Cornwall (pictured) when I was younger. St Ives is my favourite town, but I also love Holywell Bay’s rugged beach.
Says who: Richard Curtis, the philanthropic rom-com king
I love our comedy heritage. The time when I feel most British is when I'm watching Fleabag or Gavin & Stacey or Peep Show – original British television. I'm also very fond of our Royal Family; I’m really impressed with the way that they’re using their influence to raise big issues.
Where to go: It has to be Notting Hill. I lived there for 25 years. If you live somewhere for a long time, it does become like a village and you end up always bumping into someone you know every time you go for a walk. If ever I need to relax, I’ll just go to one of Notting Hill’s bookshops – Lutyens & Rubinstein (pictured) or Daunt – and buy books I'll never read.
Says who: Duncan Goose, the ethical drinks entrepreneur
Being from Britain means being humble with a sense of humour. My wife is Italian and our two children, Mattie and Danny, definitely inherited my British sense of humour.
Where to go: Hawksmoor (pictured) in Seven Dials has to be one of my favourite places. It’s totally changed my view on steak. In fact, when I was in Norfolk last year, I went to my folks’ local butcher and asked for a certain cut. The butcher looked at me and asked if I’d been to Hawksmoor. It’s like a secret only certain people know.
Says who: Tan France, one fifth of Queer Eye’s fab five
To me, being British means the freedom to be who I want to be. It means inclusivity and acceptance. It means true democracy. It means home. My favourite places in the UK? My mum’s house in Manchester and Finsbury Park, London, where I used to live with my husband.
Where to go: I’m going to have to say London (pictured). It’s the city I always feel most inspired walking around.
Says who: Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi
In the engineering world Britain has a precise, finicky engineering ethos that we export, very successfully, both as products and as a service. We put ourselves down, but they’re truly some of the best out there. We also invented democracy, and exported that around the world; if Britain never did anything again, we’ll have always done that.
Where to go: Mawgan Porth, Cornwall. I’m terrible at surfing, but you see surfers there who might be able to teach you something. The Gower Peninsula in South Wales is a good one, too.
Says who: Alice Temperley, fashion designer and founder of Temperley London
Being British means having a (often self-deprecating) sense of humour, and knowing that it’s OK to be a bit eccentric in your later years…
Where to go: Somerset (pictured), where I grew up and still call home; being there feeds my soul. Either that or the Jurassic Coast, which is wild and awe-inspiring.
Says who: Jason Robinson, England Rugby player and Coco Fuzion 100 ambassador
Being born in Leeds in the north of England, I was brought up to believe Sunday meant Sunday dinner. Yorkshire puddings, roast beef, the works. I’m the chef at home, so now I cook a mean roast. It’s the British thing to do!
Where to go: Sunday’s are usually pretty drizzly here in the UK, so one thing you must do is get to the countryside, find a cosy pub full of locals who’ve popped in from their dog walks, settle in by a roaring log fire and order the roast.
Paloma Faith, Brit singer and star of Pennyworth
Britain is about multiculturalism, good humour, creative innovation, risk, eccentricity and our subcultures. If you want to blend in with the population, don’t take yourself too seriously, make sure you have an umbrella, and always be ready to eat!
Where to go: London is my home city, and – believe it or not – largely undiscovered. To do London like a local, head to Fontaine’s Bar in Stoke Newington (pictured), an Art Deco Hollywood-style place with an atmosphere straight out of a movie.
William Welch, British cutlery designer at Studio William Cutlery
What makes Britain what it is? To name a few: island life, seasonal weather, queuing, politeness, creativity, great food, craft beers, beautiful beaches, green grass and trees, the Highlands, unity and belonging, honour, the Union Jack flag and God Save The Queen.
Where to go: The Cotswolds, where I live (pictured). Or Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.