What does it mean to be British now?
What is ‘Britishness’?
What makes Britain, Britain?
‘Is This Britain 2012?’ was an installation/workshop run by Lior Smith, Olivia Clemence and Henrietta Jadin at Designersblock 2012 at Southbank, during the London Design Festival. We wanted to capture the spirit of Britain following the Olympics and recent events with the royal family.
The kinetic installation developed over the four days of the exhibition. Inspired by the aesthetic characteristic of windmills, once a key feature of the Southbank pre-industrial economy, we helped participants to craft and write on their own paper windmills. Collectively all the windmills formed a large union jack, forming a three-dimensional ideas board of what visitors thought makes Britain, Britain.
Our presence at Designersblock contributed to making the environment a friendly and welcoming place. The windmills took about four minutes to make for beginners, so it was an accessible craft to employ for the workshop. However, many of the participants sat at our table for over 40 minutes, making a few origami windmills, and we talked at length about British culture and identity. Despite about 50% of participants not being British, everyone had something to say; the result was a widely spanning insight into our culture. Towards the end the focus was more on what people had already written. Once the installation was completed, the Southbank centre was keen to keep it for display.