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The Connor Brothers: 'It's time to put away the bunting and get a new flag'

The Connor Brothers believe there are lots of things that Brits can be patriotic about, from activists to musicians. But old and exploitative traditions should not be put in the same category.

When The Big Issue invited us to be a part of their 30th anniversary celebrations we accepted on one condition: no bunting.

We hate bunting. Really, we do. Can’t stand it. It reminds us of a version of Britain we don’t feel part of. One of cream teas, damp church halls, patriotic street parties and that rich old lady who wears a weird crown thing on her head.

It makes us think of Jeremy Clarkson getting a bunk on Piers Morgan’s bicycle on their way to share a pint at a quaint ye-olde-worlde village pub with Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Mike Ashley.

We imagine the five of them sitting around setting the world to rights; bemoaning the fact that refugees escaping famine and persecution are given £39.63 a week by the state, while failing to mention we pay the aforementioned rich-old-crowned lady and her weirdo family £63m a year to cut ribbons and one of them to holiday with a paedophile.

Later, a bit pissed, Farage starts singing Jerusalem, while Morgan drunkenly bangs on about the breakdown of family values and how kids these days are always stabbing each other. At some point Mike Ashley persuades Boris to lower the minimum wage, before puking on himself and falling asleep.

At closing time, they group hug, agreeing that a great night was had by all, and then they’re chauffeured home on Clarkson’s tractor to their respective mansions. Fucking bunting.

The worst kind of bunting is made up of hundreds of little Union Jacks or St George Cross flags. The kind Boris decorated Downing Street with to celebrate England not doing as badly as usual at the Euros.

The Euros united our nation. We backed our boys. Boris referred to the players as heroes. We loved them right up until they didn’t win, then we took to Twitter to shower them with racist abuse.

We like football as much as the next person who doesn’t like football, but calling Harry Kane a hero is a bit of a stretch, particularly if you’ve just denied NHS nurses a pay rise that’s in line with inflation. Harry Kane gets paid two hundred grand a week for playing what is basically his hobby. The average NHS nurse’s starter salary is £23,553. It would take 433 years for a nurse on that salary to earn as much as Harry Kane earns in a single year.

We did do some clapping for them though, so we guess it evens out in the end. But we digress.

Patriotic bunting is our least favourite bunting (followed closely by gingham) because we cannot look at a Union Jack or St George Cross flag without feeling a little ashamed, and not just because patriotism itself feels a bit of a troublesome concept.

We can’t see Union Jack bunting without Tommy Robinson invading our heads, dressed as a dishevelled medieval knight, ranting nonsensically about reclaiming Britain from whatever minority is currently threatening to tear down our bunting.

It’s important here to qualify that it’s not that we hate flags per se – we’re not any kind of flag-burning extremists.

When we see a rainbow flag it invariably makes us smile, and not only because we love rainbows.

We hate the Union Jack and St George Cross because they remind us of the parts of our nation’s past that we don’t feel we should celebrate, and the parts of our present that we should be fighting to change.

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t hate our nation. We just think it’s time we put away the bunting and got ourselves a new flag – one that represents the contemporary United Kingdom and celebrates the nation many of us want to become.

It’d be easy to become disillusioned by who we are as a nation. But behind the scenes we believe there is a transformation under way

Truth is, we think there’s lots we can be proud of. British music has never been in a better place, with unique new voices like Slowthai and Greentea Peng leading the way, supported by platforms created by innovative young entrepreneurs like Jamal Edwards.

Jamal Edwards 1478
Jamal Edwards. Image: The Connor Brothers

It’s young activists like Amika George and Noga Levy-Rapoport who are heading the fight against climate change and spearheading campaigns for social justice. Its creatives like Ryan Lanji who are transforming Britain’s cultural landscape, and figures like Professor Green who are leading the conversation about mental health.

And then there’s sportspeople like Andy Murray. Who doesn’t love Andy Murray? Not being proud of Andy Murray should be a crime punishable by losing your citizenship.

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We’re not young anymore and that fucking sucks, but even when we were, we were nothing like the current generation of young people.

Amika George
Amika George. Image: The Connor Brothers

We weren’t changing the world, or inspiring others with our creative output. We just sat around smoking bongs and listening to Oasis. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the narrative presented by the mainstream media, and it’s a narrative about Britain that’s largely disheartening.

It’d be easy to become disillusioned by who we are as a nation. But behind the scenes we believe there is a transformation under way, aided in part by social media and our ability to communicate en masse, without relying on the traditional cultural gatekeepers.

There is a subtle power shift happening, from Bunting Britain to a younger group of people, one more representative of the country we actually live in, and one which is attempting to create a fairer society for all, not just for those of us who are white, and middle-aged, and middle-class, and men.

Ryan Lanji 1578
Ryan Lanji. Image: The Connor Brothers

When we asked the group of people highlighted in this anniversary edition of The Big Issue to be a part of it, they all, without hesitation, agreed.

That’s because The Big Issue has been speaking about issues young people care about, before many of them were even born.

More than 70,000 households have been made homeless in the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and, sadly, The Big Issue has never been more needed than it is now, in its 30th year.

Along with the people celebrated in this edition, The Big Issue is at the forefront of trying to create meaningful and sustainable change and it is a publication we’re very proud to be involved with.

The exclusive Connor Brothers takeover of The Big Issue is out now. Get your copy from vendors around the UK. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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