“British”, a poem about Team GB and national pride at London 2012

I wrote and performed this poem for the BBC World Service Weekend programme, and it was broadcast on the last Saturday of the Olympic Games.  I thought I would post the text here.

This is
What it means to be British –
To take part in a race,
Hoping to win –
But expecting a last-place finish.
Yes, this is British –
To make it all the way to a tie-break
And then brick it.
We are the world’s biggest optimists
Hidden inside the most hostile of cynics.
The glass in our crystal balls
Is overcast.

But maybe this has changed.
Maybe British now means –
British is

Bradley Wiggins!
Hoy, Rutherford and Farah –
Jones, Murray, Ennis, Adams!
Maybe British is beating anyone – everyone –
Et cetera!…
Maybe –
We should calm down.
With the exception of these two weeks,
It’s not every day that we’ll win a world crown.
But I hope that this next image will always be British –
We throw that house party that anyone can visit,
With guests from far and wide
Bringing any number of different dishes:
And when we’ve eaten, we stand awkwardly against the wall,
Until our guests tug us, smiling, into the middle of the floor.


  1. Noor says:

    Quite so. Britishness is unbending hope, it is getting up again to give it your all no matter how many times you have fallen; Britishness is patience throughout disruptive rain breaks, it is taking last-minute injuries and hairline penalty misses on the chin. Britishness is Kipling-esque: being magnanimous in both triumph and disaster; it is acknowledging and congratulating your rival’s achievement in the true spirit of fair play. Britishness is Ainsley and Redgrave and Hoy; it is enjoying a drink at the pub with long-time mates, with 6, 5, 4 Olympic medals sitting in the cupboards at home. Above all, Britishness is accepting that “Britishness” is not a race or a religion or a creed, or even a nationality, but a state of belonging, of home, of self.

  2. Joe says:

    Nice! Can we have a soundcloud version please? 🙂

    • admin says:

      Haha, good point – I should have uploaded a Soundcloud version of this the same day, a missed opportunity…I won’t be missing that again.

  3. Dan says:

    Wheres the like button ? 🙂

    Well done.

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