Letter: Britannia in soundbites

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The Independent Online
AS I was wandering around the powerhouse::uk exhibition, the Department of Trade and Industry's export showcase (previewed in "Britain's export showcase is hot air", 27 March), I could not help but notice that the tourists all seemed to be on the other side of Horse Guards Arch photographing soldiers on horseback.

I applaud Nigel Coates's refreshingly innovative building, set like a jewel on Horse Guards Parade. But it is let down badly by both the childish pomposity of the displays, which hide amongst them some first-class products and designs, and by our national inability to treat customers or visitors properly.

This latest manifestation of Cool Britannia was killed by the person who insisted that powerhouse::uk be surrounded by cheap galvanised fencing, Portakabins and parked contractors' vehicles. Such ignorance is so often allowed to spoil our best efforts.

An even greater worry is that we are in danger of polarising the national debate between Cool Britannia and what could be called traditional Britain. If this happens there will no longer be any talk of quality, and it is quality at which we excel. Quality in the performing arts, music, fashion, industrial design, engineering, architecture and also traditional ceremonial is where we lead the world.

Sadly, where we trail many other countries is in engendering a culture which admits all this, and allows it to be celebrated equally. To have all that we have, and to throw part of it away for the sake of a fleeting polemic is to sell our souls.

I care passionately about Britannia, both cool and otherwise. I do not particularly care what we do, but whatever it is, let us do it well. And let us not edit our national heritage for the sake of a soundbite. Because when it is gone, it is gone forever and whatever is left is all that is left, and it had better be worth having.

DOMINIC REID

Pageantmaster

The Lord Mayor's Show

Hertford

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