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In so doing, they come close to aligning British popular music with an essential folk identity. ” Hodgkinson had thought only of “exploring the geography of this island we happened to live on. ” 7 For others, however, such considerations are essential to any discussion of Britishness. A similar aficionado of folk music, Billy Bragg has made it a dominant project of his music, writing, and public appearances to underline the apparent reality of a Britain that is “not a proper country”8 but an artificial union.

24 That revolution is epitomized by the Industrial Revolution (“an outburst of invention and innovation unparalleled in the history of the world”), 25 by a similar outburst of invention in 1960s popular culture, and by the British invention of the World Wide Web (“the dream of universal communication”). ” It also represented suffragettes, miners, and the Jarrow marchers, enforcing a link between the birth of the cities, newspapers, and a legacy of necessary social activism. The event proceeded to suggest that any destruction or pain from the Industrial Revolution has been tempered by the social and cultural riches that emerged from that moment and that now define contemporary Britain.

These differing receptions only enforce the broader contradictions within the opening ceremony itself and within the rhetoric that emerged to acclaim the success of the Olympics overall. According to Boyle, the ceremony acknowledged that the Games had been “awarded not to a country but a city”: as such, it would focus on a more local definition of identity and pride through its celebration of the Great Ormond Street hospital and through its engagement with the social and cultural life of London’s East End.

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