Fictional and legendary figures, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood are being honoured as Icons of England, rubbing shoulders with the English Bobby, The Archers and the Monty Python team in a new line-up voted for by the public and selected by a panel of experts. Their iconic status is confirmed today (1 August) as ICONS – A Portrait of England announces its latest round of national icons.
The project, which launched in January, has certainly caught the public imagination. Funded by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, ICONS has attracted more than 350,000 votes for the nation’s favourite icons and more than half a million people have visited the site.
In all, 20 new Icons of England are unveiled in today’s list as the ICONS collection grows ever bigger and richer in content. The latest announcement brings the total number of Icons of England to 53 - all given star treatment with themed in-depth features, quizzes, video clips and interviews on the site. In addition, there are now approximately 600 icons nominations, which continue to attract votes and comments from the public. Nominations are growing all the time.
The complete list of 20 new icons in this wave include: Fish and Chips, the Tower of London, The Bobby, White Cliffs of Dover, Sherlock Holmes, the OED, the Oak Tree, Rugby, the Magna Carta, Foxhunting and the Ban, The Archers, Lake District, the Bowler Hat, ‘Oxbridge’, Robin Hood, Hedges, the Pint, Monty Python, the Parish Church and the Mini motor car.
Four waves of new icons are being announced in all during 2006 as the ICONS – A Portrait of England collection grows in size and depth. It is being assembled jigsaw-fashion, bit by bit, at www.icons.org.uk. The ICONS project encourages people to explore, enjoy and celebrate the country’s cultural treasures online and also in the real world.
“ICONS has huge potential. Usually only huge sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics generate this kind of passion,” said Jerry Doyle, Managing Director of ICONS. “Choosing the things that most represent England has really got the nation’s creative juices going. People get very fired up and inspired. Judging by the debate on the site, everyone is very keen to argue for their nominations too.
“People love ICONS because it is populist as well as ‘posh’. Where else would you see nominations like Betty’s Tea Room in Harrogate, Blackpool trams and the stiff upper lip, jostling for position alongside the Teletubbies, Durham Cathedral, the Carry On films and the Tate Modern? We get lots of positive feedback from teachers, too, who say it provides a great spark for learning.”
Here’s what they’re saying about some of the Icons announced today:
"The Archers has an amazingly loyal following and it's gratifying to hear that its place on the broadcasting landscape has been officially recognised in the Icons of England list. We are absolutely delighted. The Archers has always represented the values and concerns of rural England, from our stories on the farm to the gossip in the village shop. I'm sure the Archers and the Grundys will raise a glass in Ambridge tonight. For many, Ambridge is the quintessential English village,” said Vanessa Whitburn, Editor of The Archers.
"The Bobby stands for the timeless qualities of courage, commitment and concern and remains at the heart of every successful neighbourhood,” said Matt Baggott, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Leicestershire Constabulary).
World Cup winning hero, Jason Leonard OBE, 37, said he was delighted that rugby had been selected as an Icon of England. "Playing rugby is a great way for youngsters to learn discipline and respect. You learn to respect your team-mates, the opposition and the referee. I remember the immense pride I felt pulling on the England jersey and singing the national anthem with gusto. We had a victory parade back in London. When we pulled into Oxford Street it was just a sea of flags with St George crosses. About 750,000 people were there. The whole experience took my breath away. Even now it seems like a dream. We saw the Queen for tea and went to number 10 Downing Street."
Francis Baron, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football Union today said, "This is great news for England rugby fans everywhere, and fantastic recognition for our sport. Rugby continues to grow and thrive all over England and I am proud that rugby has joined the likes of the pub, the FA Cup and the Routemaster bus as one of the symbols of our nation.”
"What better way to celebrate this tremendous accolade than by everyone raising a pint and saying - cheers to beer! The nation's brewers are proud and delighted that the pint has been chosen as an Icon of England. Beer is our national drink of choice and Britain's rich brewing heritage means we should be as proud of our beers as the French are of their wines. Every year more than 2,000 different beers are crafted by brewers." - Mark Hastings, British Beer & Pub Association
Fish and Chips
Gourmets may sneer, but love ‘em or hate ‘em, Fish and Chips is indisputably a national dish and it’s here to stay. The iconic status of England’s favourite take-away supper is also confirmed in today’s announcement.
“What could possibly be more romantic than fish and chips? Going to a movie, where you cuddle close to each other and then buying your paper-wrapped piece of cod or haddock, and sitting side by side on a park bench to eat it— there are myriad couples around this country who will remember their young days and the delectable taste of fish and chips when it was the most delicious food in the world,” said Agony Aunt and Journalist, Claire Rayner, who nominated Fish and Chips as an Icon of England.
The Parish Church
The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Richard Chartres described parish churches as ‘a jewel in the nation’s architectural heritage’, saying: “ It is only right that parish churches should join the King James Bible, Jerusalem and York Minster among the chosen Icons of England. As well as being centres of worship and community, the 16,200 parish churches in England, have shaped our environment, are a quintessential part of our landscape and the focal point of our cities, towns and countryside. They are part of the historic narrative of our national identity and 86% of the population have visited a church for some purpose in the last 12 months.”
The Lake District
On the Lake District, Eric Robson, of Radio 4’s Gardener's Question Time and chairman of Cumbria Tourist Board, said: "We are delighted that the Lake District has been selected for the ICON award. It demonstrates the fondness with which the British public hold this area - not just because of its spectacular mountains and lakes but also because of its food, its country house hotels, its literary heritage and its lovely walks. It already attracts around 16 million visitors each year. It is a very special place and we hope it remains an English icon for years to come."
The Tower of London
Beefeater, John Keohane, Chief Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, himself something of an icon, said: "The Tower of London is most definitely an Icon of England. Built on the order of William the Conqueror in 1078, it is one of the world's most famous fortresses and one of Britain's most visited historic sites. Despite a grim reputation as a place of torture and death, visitors to the Tower find there are many more stories to be discovered."
The Bowler Hat
“‘We are delighted that the bowler hat has been chosen as one of the ICONS of England. Before the mid-twentieth century everyone wore a hat. They were not considered accessories, but essential items of clothing. It is fantastic that amongst such things as Fish and Chips and Oxbridge, the bowler hat is considered to be an ICON of similar stature. After all, a famous iconic image of the Second World War is Winston Churchill in his bowler hat,” said Helen Castle, Hat Works Museum, Stockport.
"It's about time Sherlock Holmes was recognised as an Icon of England, because he has been under-estimated by people in England till now. The first Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1887, but really it has been people overseas who have seen him as an icon, people in America, Japan and China, in particular. They have read about him in books and seen him on TV. Sherlock Holmes is part of our English literary heritage and represents all that is great in this country. He epitomizes the English gentleman,” said Jennifer Riley, Director of the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
“We are thrilled that Robin Hood has been chosen as an official Icon of England. He deserves nothing less. We’re just surprised it took so long! Nottingham is proud of Robin Hood and his legendary exploits have made him not just an English icon, but a worldwide legend. We’ve still got our very own Sheriff, Nottingham Castle is the city’s most popular visitor attraction and we celebrate Robin Hood every year with a medieval Pageant that attracts fans from far and wide. Robin Hood always has been, and always will be, cherished by the people of Nottingham,” said Cllr Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council.
Visit the Icons site and have your say.