London’s celebrations of St George’s Day, put on by the mayor, are gentle affairs and a routine part of the Trafalgar Square calendar. But there has been a mild undercurrent of culture war about them from time to time.
In 2009, the first St George’s event held under Boris Johnson was preceded by indignant spluttering from the future Brexit poster boy about the knightly symbol of English patriotism being ignored under his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.
It wasn’t true. The national day of the legendary dragon slayer – a Roman of Greek origin, apparently – had been marked and funded by “Red Ken” since 2004, along with all the other cultural festivals Johnson continued to support during his time as mayor.
St George continues to be honoured under Sadiq Khan, whose press office announced that he was taking the lead in “London’s biggest-ever St George’s Day celebrations,” including by putting on an exhibition and raising the cross of St George outside City Hall.
“For me, St George’s Day is about the phenomenal history of this country, but also celebrating our modern diversity and the many different ways we can feel proud to be English,” Khan said. In so doing he delivered a subtle poke in the eye to those remaining pinheads who think the Muslim mayor is an Islamist fifth columnist bent on imposing sharia law.
I spent some time in Trafalgar Square this afternoon. Here’s my photo of the scene taken from in front of the National Gallery. Busker of the Year Clarissa Mae is on the stage.
It being a day of feasting, I felt it was my duty to make a purchase from the stall of Harold’s Hog Roast. The staff there seemed happy in their work.
Also live on stage, the Belles Of London City. Urban Morris dancers. Female. Cool.
Harry Potter got in on the act.
And the sun came out for a while.
All very English. All very London too.