LONDON, Jan 9 (AFP) – The cup of tea, that staple of everyday English life for centuries, officially became a national icon Monday as the British government launched a new project to celebrate the country’s cultural heritage. The humble “cuppa” was named as one of 12 symbols that best represents England in an online initiative spearheaded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Others include football’s FA Cup, World War II fighter plane the Spitfire and the Routemaster, the red bus with its distinctive spiral staircase and open platform that until last year plied the streets of London.
The collection is designed to spur greater interest in England’s heritage and prompt more people to visit galleries and museums.
More popular icons will be added in the months to come from nominations made by people logging on to a special website, www.icons.org.uk.
Among the nominations received so far are the London black taxi cab, the original Mini car, the red telephone box, fish and chips and the pub.
Culture minister David Lammy said: “Who hasn’t ached for a proper cup of tea when they’ve been on an overseas holiday or yearned for their team to pick up the FA Cup at the end of the season?
“The website helps us to explore how our response to icons has shaped our understanding of personal and national identity.”
But the project, which could eventually be extended to Wales, Scotland and Ireland, has already come under fire, with one of the country’s best-known historians describing the list as “quaint and banal”.
David Starkey told The Sun newspaper: “It seems like a desperate attempt to invent something that’s not there.
“Unlike Scotland, Wales and Ireland, whose nationalism is based on their culture, England’s is not. Historically, English nationalism has more to do with being best and first.”
Another historian, Roger Scruton, told The Sun: “(King) Henry VIII was more Welsh than English, Holbein was born in Germany. Tea? That came from India.”
The full list is:
— Stonehenge: the neolithic stone circle monument in southwest England.
— Punch and Judy: the traditional seaside puppet show.
— The SS Empire Windrush: brought the first wave of Caribbean immigrants to Britain.
— Holbein’s portrait of King Henry VIII
— A cup of tea
— The FA Cup
— “Alice in Wonderland”: Lewis Carroll’s renowned children’s book.
— The Routemaster.
— The King James Bible: published in 1611, the most famous English translation of the Scriptures.
— The Angel of the North: Antony Gormley’s famous winged statue in northeast England.
— The Spitfire.
— “Jerusalem”: based on a poem by William Blake. Revitalised by England cricket fans during last year’s Ashes series against Australia.