A Festival of Britain: ‘What Makes Our Country Great Today’?

View of the Transept and Crystal Fountain', The Great Exhibition of 1851. Credit Wellcome Collection, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced a festival of British culture, sport and innovation to take place in 2022, inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851. S&C can now exclusively reveal an anonymously leaked transcript of a private meeting between senior Conservative ministers. Portsmouth writer and satirist Richard Salsbury reports.

THERESA MAY:          The festival should be impressive and patriotric. There should be fun and games for all the family. You know – the sort of thing that impresses the commoners. So, we need some ideas about what to include. Boris? Jacob?

BORIS JOHNSON:      Marvellous! Fun and games – I’m all up for that.

JACOB REES-MOGG: We could have a chimney sweeping competition.

BORIS:                        Phwoar! Not half! I know this young filly who desperately needs her chimney swept.

REES-MOGG:            I didn’t mean it as a euphemism, Boris.

BORIS:                        Oh … right. Not interested, then. How about we kill two birds with one stone and have a gigantic country-wide fruit picking contest?

THERESA:                 I think they might see through that, Boris.

REES-MOGG:            We could play that game I used to so enjoy with Nanny. What was it called? Ah, yes – pin the blame on the foreigner.

THERESA:                 [Sighs] All right, gentlemen. As far as the entertainment goes, I think we’ll stick to my original idea.

BORIS:                        Which is?

THERESA:                 A guaranteed crowdpleaser. A chance for the great British public to let their hair down. I call it the Wheatfield Olympics. Now, how about something that showcases British innovation?

REES-MOGG:            Hmm … A demonstration of a steam engine, perhaps?

BORIS:                        Oh, Moggers. Do try to drag yourself into the 21st century.

REES-MOGG:            Good grief. Is it that late already?

THERESA:                 So, what have you got Boris? Something to do with medicine, technology, engineering?

BORIS:                        Yes. Well … err, yes. Umm … quite.

THERESA:                 Anything at all?

BORIS:                        Well, we ahh … we do things in a very … British way, don’t we? That’s innovative. No-one else in the world does things quite as Britishly as we do.

REES-MOGG:            So, nothing then.

BORIS:                        Dickens! We could have readings of Dickens.

REES-MOGG:            Dickens? A terrible idea. This is the man who campaigned for better working conditions for the under sevens. He was quite clearly a communist.

BORIS:                        Ha! Too recent for you, is he, Moggers?

REES-MOGG:            Anything later than Chaucer is modern poppycock. I won’t stand for it.

BORIS:                        It’s not bloody well fair, PM! He’s always shooting down my ideas.

REES-MOGG:            Perhaps that’s because half of your ideas involve the relocation of your genitals into women other than your wife.

BORIS:                        How dare you! The whereabouts of my willy is nobody’s concern but my own.

REES-MOGG:            I think the press might disagree.

BORIS:                        I ought to take you outside and – and – and box your ears!

REES-MOGG:            A duel, is it, Boris? Very well. Butler, fetch my flintlocks.

THERESA:                 [Quietly] Will nobody in this party ever agree on ANYTHING?


Featured image of the 1851 Great Exhibition, reproduced under Creative Commons [CC BY 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons.