Why Britannia Is Still Cool - At Least Until Thursday

21/06/2016 11:01 | Updated 21 June 2016

I first visited London in 1998, at the age of 14. I remember walking up the rainy Oxford Street, with a new pair of checked trousers from Topshop and '(What's the Story) Morning Glory' CD in my bag, feeling the inexplicable energy running straight through my veins. I swore to myself that one day, I'd return.

And I did return. Nearly nine years ago.

I'm still here.

No, it's got nothing to do with pleasant weather or affordable, quality housing. It's definitely got something to do with an amazing job, great friends and an easy immigration process. It's got everything do with this:


I'm only half-joking. The fact that you're choking on your crumpet at this notion proves my point. British people never think they're cool (apart from the Gallaghers and your former Prime Minister). Which already makes you inherently cooler than your self-celebratory cousin across the Atlantic or the slightly snobbish Scandinavian trendielands (as a native of one I can say this).

You've always mastered the art of being cool, without stating so: from the swinging 60s to Madchester, from the trilby-clad Britpop heydays to Italian Vogue officially announcing Dalston as the coolest place on earth (then Harry Styles ventured down) - and to somehow making even the Olympics seem like a great house party with actually decent DJs, free drinks and stylish yet nice people.

You have truly been the global hub for creativity, music, fashion, design, advertising, restaurants, bookbinding, gin-distilling, clay pottery and whatnot, since the birth of pop culture.

Now, any godforsaken little town can nurture an army of hipsters, a burgeoning electronic music scene and a couple of new museums and be donned the trendiest destination on the planet. This is how travel industry works, and lonelyplanets get sold.

New Orleans hipsters (photo: The Richest)

But Britain, led by London, has remained, throughout decades, as the place to be.

How? Because there's more to your cool than fashion students and a lively pottery-making scene.

The secret that keeps you forever interesting is the fact that you've managed to combine an enviable cultural identity with an incredible openness and appreciation of other cultures - unlike any other country in the world.

You love your BBC and PG Tips, Sir David Attenborough, pound shops and gritty pubs, unbeatable independent music scene as well as #IndieAmnesty. You embrace the famous upper lip and extreme politeness, endless self-deprecation and bitingly sarcastic remarks from which no one is safe, fashion that puts cool before beautiful, plastic pints of Pimm's at a rainy village fete and humour which is, inarguably, the best in the world.


At the same time, you beg for and thrive on ideas and people from anywhere else than here. You are the most open, adaptable and welcoming place. (Ok, not welcoming in a smiley mi-casa-es-su-casa way, but in a deeper and more meaningful manner - a slow-burner. A grower.)

You're awkwardly proud of your cultural heritage but painfully aware of your country's shortcomings. You bloody love some things British and you bloody hate some. You're the most and least British country in the world.

Also, excuse me for saying this, but you're all a little bit weird. In the best possible way. You're a nation of charming oddball outsiders who have huge hearts and curious minds. You know we all come from somewhere, be it Preston or Pakistan.

And when everyone is from somewhere, everyone feels at home. When people feel at home, they participate and contribute.

It's because of this symbiosis Britain has (b)remained alive, kicking and oh-so-cool. You have the most energetic, vibrant culture in the world because you ask and let it be cherished by so many people - regardless of where they come from.

That's why Britannia kept its Cool although your Prime Minister made it official. That's why it survived the deaths of Amy Winehouse and David Bowie, the birth of Made In Chelsea and the several resurrections of Stone Roses (I do love you, Ian Brown, but...). That's why it has survived certain sad obscenities masked as humour.

(Sorry for bringing that up.)

And that's why it has survived the rise of BNP, UKIP, Britain First and the like:


To me, these tweets represent the survival of true Britishness, the real Cool Britannia, more than any nationalist rallying cry or a monochrome clay pot ever could.

But will it survive the masses of 'Britons' who are, as we speak, chanting for Brexit while covering the French soil with their lager-infused urine? Will it survive the small-minded donaldtrumps of the UK and their bickering colleagues who use this referendum as a means to achieve their political agendas? Will it survive this Thursday?

Will it survive, if you choose to close doors to Europe and thus to the idea that Britain has always been Cool because it welcomes the oddballs from the rest of the world to drink Pimm's and eat crumpets in the rain - and share a tiny bit of Britishness?

I doubt it will.

For once, Nigel Farage seems to be right. It really is a breaking point.