Peter Jukes (co-founder and editor for Byline Times) writes a nice piece on what it means to be English. He includes a photograph of his family (a mix of heritages) that included his adopted grandfather Sidney, who died soon after the picture was taken. He was ‘English’ but rather than todays’ ‘versions of bigotry or white Etonian dream of exclusion and superiority’ – his grandfateher took in wartime refugees (and adopted the daughter of an Armenian asylum seeker) and was an early supporter of the Beveridge reforms for social welfare’.
- Who Owns England? is a super book looking at who owns the country we live in. An inspiring manifesto to open up our countryside, it shows how a few of England’s elite own most of the land, and this translates into political decisions like allowing pheasant shoots on land that causes floods for the rest of the population. Now with digital mapping and the Freedom of Information Act, Guy Shrubhole trespasses through tightly-guarded country estates, ecologically ravaged grouser moors and empty Mayfair mansions, to create the most clear map of land ownership in England, that has ever been made public. Melding history and politics, he vividly demonstrates how taking control of land ownership is key to tackling everything from housing crisis to climate change, to halting the erosion of democracy.
- Real England: The Battle Against the Bland is a very interesting book by writer Paul Kingsnorth, who 10 years ago travelled across Britain, writing a chapter on each aspect in danger of falling to corporate England: orchards, pubs, canals etc. He meets those who are at the sharp end of trying to save indie shops and pubs, and it’s a real rallying call to give power to those who are being crushed by the big supermarkets and capitalist politics.
- English Pastoral: An Inheritance is by James Rebanks, whose grandfather taught him how to work the land the old way, on their family farm in the Lake District. A patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. Yet when he inherited the farm, the people had vanished from the fields, the old stone barns had crumblelivestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.
- Coming to England is a children’s book by TV presenter Floella Benjamin to teach children the true story of the Windrush generation. This is the inspirational story of her journey from Trinidad to London, gloriously illustrated throughout for readers age 9 and over. Just a young girl when she and her siblings arrived in England in 1960 with her parents, who she had not seen for 15 months. Part of a generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain to rebuild the country after the war, she was at first overwhelmed by the cold weather, noise and dirt from traffic. But also shocked and distressed at some rejection she experienced. An inspirational tale of courage over adversity.