Cool Britannia

Cool Britannia was a period of increased pride in the culture of the United Kingdom throughout most of the 1990s, inspired by 1960s pop culture. The success of Britpop and musical acts such as Spice Girls, Blur and Oasis led to a renewed feeling of optimism in the United Kingdom following the tumultuous years of the 1970s and 1980s.[1] The name is a pun on the title of the British patriotic song "Rule, Britannia!".

Geri Halliwell in concert cropped
Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell performing in a Union Jack dress in 2009, a remake of the dress she wore at the 1997 Brit Awards.

Origins of the term

The phrase "Cool Britannia" was first used in 1967 as a song title by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.[2] The phrase "Cool Britannia" reappeared in early 1996 as a registered trade mark for one of Ben & Jerry's ice-creams, and as used by the media and in advertising, it seemed to capture the cultural renaissance of London at the time (as celebrated in a 1996 Newsweek magazine cover headlined "London Rules").[1][3] The election of Tony Blair's Labour government in 1997, seen by some as young, cool and very appealing, was a main driving force in giving Britain a feeling of euphoria and optimism.[4][5]

The use of this term was similar to that of "Swinging London" for the boom in art, fashion and popular music during the early years of Harold Wilson's Labour government. Such a parallel was apt as, like Blair, Wilson was considered a relatively young Prime Minister, his administration ended an extended period of Conservative governments (tarnished in the latter period by scandal), and his early tenure coincided with a period of economic prosperity. Many of the creative industries labelled as Cool Britannia were avowedly inspired by the music, fashion and art of the 1960s.

1990s culture

Time described "Cool Britannia" as the mid-1990s celebration of youth culture in the UK.[6] To the extent that it had any real meaning, "Cool Britannia" referred to the transient fashionable London house scene: clubs included the Ministry of Sound and the underground Megatripolis at Heaven,[7] 1990s bands such as Blur and Oasis, fashion designers, the Young British Artists and magazines. Cool Britannia also summed up the mood in Britain during the mid-1990s Britpop movement, when there was a resurgence of distinctive British rock and pop music from groups such as Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede, Supergrass and Elastica, as well as Spice Girls.[8] The renewal in British pride (reinforced by the strong and uninterrupted growth of the British economy from 1993), was symbolised in iconic imagery such as Noel Gallagher's Union Flag guitar and Geri Halliwell's skimpy Union Jack dress, worn at the 1997 Brit Awards.[9][10] The Euro 96 football tournament, hosted in England, is also considered an event that encouraged a resurgence of patriotism, particularly in England. John Major, who was prime minister at the time, famously took credit (November 1996).[11]

In March 1997 Vanity Fair published a special edition on Cool Britannia with Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit on the cover; the title read 'London Swings! Again!'.[8] Figures in the issues included Alexander McQueen, Damien Hirst, Graham Coxon and the editorial staff of Loaded. By 1998 The Economist was commenting that "many people are already sick of the phrase,"[12] and senior Labour politicians, such as Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, seemed embarrassed by its usage. By 2000 (after the decline of Britpop as a tangible genre) it was being used mainly in a mocking or ironic way.

Two highlight DVDs, Later... With Jools Holland: Cool Britannia 1 & 2, have appeared since 2004.[13] Similar terms have been used regionally for similar phenomena; in Wales and Scotland, "Cool Cymru" and "Cool Caledonia," respectively, have been used.[14][15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Stryker McGuire (2009-03-29). "This time I've come to bury Cool Britannia". The Observer. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  2. ^ J. Ayto, Movers and Shakers: a Chronology of Words that Shaped our Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), ISBN 0-19-861452-7, p. 233.
  3. ^ "London Rules".
  4. ^ "Cool Britannia". BBC News. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  5. ^ "Coalition recreates Cool Britannia 15 years on".
  6. ^ "An Important Lesson in British History From the Spice Girls". Time Magazine. 31 October 2016.
  7. ^ "London rules clubs".
  8. ^ a b "It's 20 years on from Cool Britannia, so how has the fashion landscape changed?". 19 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Geri revisits Spice Girls' heyday in Union Jack dress". Hello Magazine. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  10. ^ Alexander, Hilary (19 May 2010). "Online poll announces the top ten most iconic dresses of the past fifty years". Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  11. ^ Independent '96
  12. ^ Leaders: "Cool Britannia." The Economist, London: Mar 14, 1998. Vol. 346, Iss. 8059
  13. ^ "Later... With Jools Holland: Cool Britannia [DVD] [1992]". Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  14. ^ "Is it Cool Cymru - again? - Wales News - News". WalesOnline. 2006-05-25. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  15. ^ "Nova Scotia: In the heart of Cool Caledonia". The Daily Telegraph. 25 April 1998. Retrieved 21 January 2018.

External links

1990s in fashion

For most of the decade, 1990s fashion in Europe, Oceania, Asia, and America was defined by a return to minimalist fashion in contrast to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. One notable shift in the western world was the mainstream adoption of tattoos, body piercings aside from ear piercing and to a much lesser extent, other forms of body modification such as branding.

In the early 1990s, several late 1980s fashions remained very stylish among both sexes. However, the popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look to the mainstream by 1992. The anti-conformist approach to fashion led to the popularization of the casual chic look that included T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and sneakers, a trend which continued into the 2000s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Due to increased availability of the internet and satellite television outside the United States, plus the reduction of import tariffs under NAFTA, fashion became more globalized and homogeneous in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Abigail Fallis

Abigail Fallis (born 1968) is a British sculptor, known for her commentary about over-consumption and consumerism.

Fallis trained at Camberwell College of Art, London, in silversmithing and metalwork. She initially wanted to be a blacksmith but instead she chose to work with lighter, softer materials. Abigail Fallis focuses on the environment and consumer-led society, in other words her work revolves around modernity. Her art portrays her outlandish sense of humour and commentary on consumerism and the environment.Fallis's works first brought to public attention include a pair of framed hand stitched Union Jack underpants, entitled Cock-Eyed Jack, a comment on the Cool Britannia phenomenon. These were featured on the BBC documentary "New Brit". In 2009 a public sculpture by Fallis was installed in Central Square, Newcastle, entitled DNA DL90. A monumental 9 meter high double-helix of shopping trolleys, commenting on contemporary consumer culture. The sculpture opening was attended by James Watson, best known as one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin. Fallis took part in the "Women Make Sculpture" exhibition in 2011, at the Pangolin Gallery, London. She had previously been the gallery's first sculptor-in-residence, for a year from October 2008.Fallis is much concerned with environmental matters such as overfishing, as shown in her recent exhibition "Fallis in Wonderland". Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, wrote that Fallis in Wonderland was : “an exhibition of sculptures that are startling in their collision of qualities: for here is wit, beauty and protest; here is life and passion; here is playfulness and fun; here also is awe and wonder; and here is a commentary on an unsustainable way of living…Abigail Fallis’ work takes the fun, the wit and the radical political edge of Dada and combines it with beauty and gentleness and the result is a triumph.” Fallis is also a participant in the "Ghosts of Gone Birds" project, which will raise money and awareness for BirdLife International's Preventing Extinctions programme. Fallis's work is part of many public and private collections including Parabola Land Ltd and The Damien Hirst "Murderme" Collection.

Fallis uses various materials in her sculptures including bronze, paper and felt. Regarding her work Fallis has said " I'm a maker, I use my sculpture as a thinking tool. I'm naturally inquisitive and quite sceptical about the way information is relayed to consumers by the media. it is this that fires my imagination and inspires me to make.″ Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman, interview with Penny Smith for Women Make Sculpture".


Britannia () has been used in several different senses. The name is a Latinisation of the native Brittonic word for the island, Pretanī, which also produced the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally, in the fourth to the first centuries BC, designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Britain. In Modern Welsh the name remains Prydain. By the 1st century BC, Britannia came to be used for Great Britain specifically. After the Roman conquest in 43 AD, Britannia meant Roman Britain, a province covering the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland). When Roman Britain was divided into four provinces in 197 AD, two were called Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior. Britannia is the name given to the female personification of the island, and it is a term still used to refer to the whole island.

In the 2nd century, Roman Britannia came to be personified as a goddess, armed with a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet. The name Britannia long survived the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th century and yielded the name for the island in most European and various other languages, including the English Britain and the modern Welsh Prydain. After centuries of declining use, the Latin form was revived during the English Renaissance as a rhetorical evocation of a British national identity. Especially following the Acts of Union in 1707, which joined the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, the personification of the martial Britannia was used as an emblem of British maritime power and unity, most notably in "Rule, Britannia!".

A British cultural icon, she was featured on all modern British coinage series until the redesign in 2008, and still appears annually on the gold and silver "Britannia" bullion coin series. In 2015 a new definitive £2 coin was issued, with a new image of Britannia. She is also depicted in the Brit Awards statuette, the British Phonographic Industry's annual music awards.


Britpop was a UK-based music and culture movement in the mid-1990s which emphasised "Britishness", and produced brighter, catchier alternative rock, partly in reaction to the popularity of the darker lyrical themes of the US-led grunge music, an alternative rock genre, and to the UK's own shoegazing music scene. The most successful bands linked with the movement are Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp; those groups would come to be known as its "big four". The timespan of Britpop is generally considered to be 1993–1997, with 1994–1995, and a chart battle between Blur and Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop", being the epicentre of activity. While music was the main focus, fashion, art, and politics also got involved, with artists such as Damien Hirst being involved in creating videos for Blur, and being labelled as Britart or Britpop artists, and Tony Blair and New Labour aligning themselves with the movement.Though Britpop is viewed as a marketing tool, and more of a cultural moment than a musical style or genre, there are musical conventions and influences the bands grouped under the Britpop term have in common, such as showing elements from the British pop music of the Sixties, glam rock and punk rock of the Seventies, and indie pop of the Eighties in their music. Britpop was a media driven focus on bands which emerged from the independent music scene of the early 1990s—and was associated with the British popular cultural movement of Cool Britannia which evoked the Swinging Sixties and the British guitar pop music of that decade.In the wake of the musical invasion into the United Kingdom by American grunge bands, new British groups such as Blur and Suede launched the movement by positioning themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns. These bands were soon joined by others including Oasis, Pulp, the Verve, Supergrass, Cast, Sleeper and Elastica.

Britpop groups brought British alternative rock into the mainstream and formed the backbone of a larger British cultural movement called Cool Britannia. "The Battle of Britpop" brought Britpop to the forefront of the British press in 1995. By 1997, however, the movement began to slow down; many acts began to falter and break up. The popularity of the pop group the Spice Girls "snatched the spirit of the age from those responsible for Britpop". Although its more popular bands were able to spread their commercial success overseas, especially to the United States, the movement largely fell apart by the end of the decade.

Gorilla (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album)

Gorilla is the debut album by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, originally released by Liberty Records, LBL 83056, in 1967. In 2007, EMI reissued the album on CD with seven bonus tracks.

Grebo (music)

Grebo (or grebo rock) was a short-lived subgenre of alternative rock that incorporated influences from punk rock, electronic dance music, hip hop and psychedelia. The scene occupied the period in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the United Kingdom before the popularisation of Britpop and grunge.

List of The X Factor finalists (UK series 14)

The fourteenth UK series of The X Factor began on ITV on 2 September 2017. The live shows started on 28 October.

The sixteen chosen finalists were Sam Black, Lloyd Macey, Leon Mallet, Spencer Sutherland, Alisah Bonaobra, Grace Davies, Holly Tandy, Rai-Elle Williams, Talia Dean, Kevin Davy White, Tracyleanne Jefford, Matt Linnen, The Cutkelvins, Jack and Joel, Sean & Conor Price, and Rak-Su.

Louis Walsh mentored the boys (Sam, Lloyd, Leon, and Spencer), Sharon Osbourne mentored the girls (Alisah, Grace, Holly, and Rai-Elle), Nicole Scherzinger mentored the over 28s (Talia, Kevin, Tracyleanne, and Matt) and Simon Cowell mentored the groups (The Cutkelvins, Jack and Joel, Sean and Conor Price, and Rak-Su).

Music of the United Kingdom (1990s)

Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1990s continued to develop and diversify. While the singles charts were dominated by boy bands and girl groups, British soul and Indian-based music also enjoyed their greatest level of mainstream success to date, and the rise of World music helped revitalise the popularity of folk music. Electronic rock bands like The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers began to achieve a high profile. Alternative rock reached the mainstream, emerging from the Madchester scene to produce dream pop, shoegazing, post rock and indie pop, which led to the commercial success of Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis; followed by a stream of post-Britpop bands like Travis and Feeder.

Nation branding

Nation branding aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries (closely related to place branding). In the book Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices, the authors define nation branding as “the application of corporate marketing concepts and techniques to countries, in the interests of enhancing their reputation in international relations.” Many nations try to make brands in order to build relationships between different actors that are not restricted to nations. It extends to public and private sectors in a nation and helps with nationalism. States also want to participate in multilateral projects. Some approaches applied, such as an increasing importance on the symbolic value of products, have led countries to emphasise their distinctive characteristics. The branding and image of a nation-state "and the successful transference of this image to its exports - is just as important as what they actually produce and sell."This is also referred to as country-of-origin effect.

Nation branding is a developing field in which scholars continue their search for a unified theoretical framework. Many nations aim to improve their country's standing, as the image and reputation of a nation can dramatically influence its economic vitality. They seek to attract tourism and investment capital, increase exports, attract a talented and creative workforce, and enhance their cultural and political influence in the world.

Different ways that nation project their nation brand include export, foreign direct investment, and tourism. One example of exporting products is that the country Germany is known for their motor industry because famous car companies like Mercedes, Audi, and BMW are German companies. An example of foreign direct investments that help the nation brand are US companies building maquiladoras and other European countries having factories in different countries.

Oasis Leisure Centre

The Oasis Leisure Centre (commonly Swindon Oasis) is an entertainment and sports complex, situated outside Swindon town centre. It has many facilities available, such lagoon swimming pool, gym, bar and concert hall.

Over the last few years, the concert hall has become a major venue for touring acts and can hold approximately 3,000 people.

The Britpop band Oasis took their name after singer Liam Gallagher saw the name as a venue from an Inspiral Carpets tour poster. In 2011, twenty years later, he performed there for the first time with new band Beady Eye.


Parklife is the third studio album by the English rock band Blur, released in April 1994 on Food Records. After disappointing sales for their previous album Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife returned Blur to prominence in the UK, helped by its four hit singles: "Girls & Boys", "End of a Century", "Parklife" and "To the End".

Certified four times platinum in the United Kingdom, in the year following its release the album came to define the emerging Britpop scene, along with the album Definitely Maybe by future rivals Oasis. Britpop in turn would form the backbone of the broader Cool Britannia movement. Parklife therefore has attained a cultural significance above and beyond its considerable sales and critical acclaim, cementing its status as a landmark in British rock music. It has sold over five million copies worldwide.


Post-Britpop is an alternative rock subgenre and is the period following Britpop in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the media were identifying a "new generation" or "second wave" of guitar bands influenced by acts like Oasis and Blur, but with less overtly British concerns in their lyrics and making more use of American rock and indie influences, as well as experimental music. Bands in the post-Britpop era that had been established acts, but gained greater prominence after the decline of Britpop, such as Radiohead and the Verve, and new acts such as Travis, Stereophonics, Feeder and particularly Coldplay, achieved much wider international success than most of the Britpop groups that had preceded them, and were some of the most commercially successful acts of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Rule Britannia (disambiguation)

Rule Britannia may refer to:

Rule, Britannia!, a British patriotic song

Rule Britannia (novel), by Daphne du Maurier (1972)

Rule Britannia (TV series), a documentary series 2009–2015

Spice Girls

The Spice Girls are an English pop girl group formed in 1994. The group comprised Melanie Brown ("Scary Spice"), Melanie Chisholm ("Sporty Spice"), Emma Bunton ("Baby Spice"), Geri Halliwell ("Ginger Spice"), and Victoria Adams ("Posh Spice"; now Victoria Beckham). They were signed to Virgin Records and released their debut single "Wannabe" in 1996, which hit number one in 37 countries and established their global success. Their debut album Spice sold more than 31 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a female group in history. Their follow-up album, Spiceworld sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The Spice Girls have sold 85 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling female group of all time, one of the best-selling pop groups of all time, and the biggest British pop success since The Beatles. Among the highest profile acts in 1990s British popular culture, Time called them "arguably the most recognizable face" of Cool Britannia, the mid-1990s celebration of youth culture in the UK.Measures of their success include international record sales, a 2007–2008 reunion tour, merchandising, iconic symbolism such as Halliwell's Union Jack dress representing "girl power", and a film, Spice World. The group became one of the most successful marketing engines ever, earning up to $75 million per year, with their global gross income estimated at $500–800 million by May 1998. Under the guidance of their mentor and manager Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls embraced merchandising and became a regular feature of the British and global press. In 1996, Top of the Pops magazine gave each member of the group aliases, which were adopted by the group and media. According to Rolling Stone journalist and biographer David Sinclair, "Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty were the most widely recognised group of individuals since John, Paul, George, and Ringo". With the "girl power" label, the Spice Girls were popular cultural icons of the 1990s. They are cited as part of the 'second wave' 1990s British Invasion of the US.

Stryker McGuire

Stryker McGuire (born September 12, 1947) is a journalist working in London. McGuire is features editor at Bloomberg Markets, a bi-monthly publication of Bloomberg News. From October 2009 to March 2011, he was the editor of LSE Research, a magazine published by the London School of Economics and Political Science. Between 1978 and 2009, he was a correspondent, bureau chief, editor and contributing editor at Newsweek magazine. McGuire was also the founding editor of International Quarterly and an associate at Lombard Street Research, an economics consultancy in the City of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

The Beautiful Game (compilation album)

The Beautiful Game, subtitled The Official Album of Euro '96, is an album of music by various artists released in 1996 by RCA and BMG Records as the official companion album to the UEFA Euro 1996 football tournament in England. The album, a mix between a compilation album of previously released material and a studio album of new material, it features twenty-two different artists, most of them being English football or football-related songs. It reflected the then-current popularity of Britpop and Cool Britannia. The album was co-ordinated by the London-based Music & Media Partnership for the host body, the English Football Association. Music & Media's managing director Rick Blaskey, executive producer of music for Euro '96, says "its clear that two cultures of music and football have never been so close. Consequently, as this country has such a rich heritage in both, it seemed right, it seemed only right to use music to celebrate England hosting Euro '96".The album was released on 20 May 1996 in the UK by RCA and BMG and on 27 May in other European countries. RCA also revealed plans to release the album in Japan, declaring that it would "sell there purely on its content". It was a commercial success, peaking at number 10 in the UK Compilation Chart. Of the singles released from the album, the most successful was by far Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds' "Three Lions", the Official Song for the England Football Team for the tournament, which spent three weeks at number 1 in the UK Singles Chart and was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. Music writer John Harris recognizes that the album arrived at the peak of "beer'n'footy culture" that was "bolted on to Britpop", saying that the album captures how the build-up to UEFA Euro 1996 "caught the imagination of the UK's musicians."

Union Jack dress

The Union Jack dress was an item of clothing worn by singer Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls at the 1997 BRIT Awards. The mini dress featured a flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, on the front, and a white CND symbol emblazoned on the black-coloured back of the dress. The next day the images of the dress made the front page of various newspapers around the world, and is now remembered as one of the most iconic pop moments of the 1990s and Brit Awards history. The dress has become synonymous with the Spice Girls, Halliwell and the notions of Girl Power, and Cool Britannia.According to The Daily Telegraph, the dress came top in a 2010 online poll to find the 10 most iconic dresses of the past 50 years, beating other memorable garments such as Marilyn Monroe's white 'Seven Year Itch' halterneck and the wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2016, the dress was voted the "Most Inspiring British Fashion Moment" in an online poll conducted by British online retailer Very.In 2010, the performance in the Union Jack dress won Most Memorable Performance of 30 Years at the Brit Awards. The dress held the Guinness World Record for the most expensive piece of popstar clothing dealt at auction when it was sold for £41,320 in 1998.

Who Do You Think You Are (Spice Girls song)

"Who Do You Think You Are" is a song performed by British pop group Spice Girls. It was written by the group members with Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins—also known as Absolute—for the group's debut album Spice, released in November 1996. The song is heavily influenced by early 1990s Europop, and has a nu-disco-style beat that resembles the music of the late 1970s. Its lyrics are about the superstar life, and how someone can get trapped in the world of fame.

In February 1997, the group opened the BRIT Awards with "Who Do You Think You Are". The Union Jack dress that Geri Halliwell wore during the performance made the front page of various newspapers, and is now remembered as one of the most iconic symbols of Cool Britannia. "Who Do You Think You Are" became the official single of the 1997 Comic Relief, a video with the Sugar Lumps—a satirical version of the group—was released to help raise money for charitable causes and donated all the proceedings from the single.

"Who Do You Think You Are" was a commercial and critical success, with Melanie Chisholm's vocals receiving praise from pop music critics. Released with "Mama" as a double A-side single in March 1997, it became the group's fourth consecutive number-one single in the United Kingdom, making them the first act in UK chart history to have its first four singles reach number one. Additionally, it was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), and performed well internationally, reaching the top ten in many European countries and New Zealand, and the top twenty in Australia, France, and Norway.

Wrestle Poodles... And Win!

Wrestle Poodles... And Win! is a live double album by the reunited Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It was recorded at the London Astoria on 28 January 2006.

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