Re–Establishing Britishness/Englishness: Representation Through Music in a non–Parliamentary Nation




Folk singers were once principal media sources by which news of national events was disseminated in what became the United Kingdom in 1707. Folk song has since been imbued with significance as a record of political events and socio/cultural change. This folk tradition still exists in the present with folk performers either singing critical narratives of historical events or criticising current politics. This paper discusses the question of national identity in the United Kingdom, particularly from the perspective of English identity. Interviews carried out with leading folk–orientated performers indicate that the question of Englishness is of lesser importance to politicians than the UK being a component of Europe. Moreover, Englishness does not enjoy the political representation experienced by other UK nations, yet it is key to English cultural arts and traditions, particularly in a number of  new folk styles that have lead to a third phase of revivalism.

Author Biography

Robert George Henry Burns, University of Otago

Dr. Robert Burns became a professional musician in 1972 and performed with visiting American soul artists. Following performances in the rock opera, Tommy, with composer Pete Townsend of The Who, he became a studio bassist and played on television and film soundtracks, such as Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean and Blackadder, and played live with David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and James Burton (Elvis Presley), among several other leading performers. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at Otago University. Burns’ research interests lie in national identity representations in folk and rock music in the UK and Germany.




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