Ben Fogle’s frustration with ‘celebrating Englishness’ being ‘seen as snub’ or ‘insult’

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The TV presenter, who had a Canadian father and Scottish grandfather, explained the difficulty people can have in choosing to be “defined” as English. He felt it was “very sad” that “English patriotism” was “often mistaken for xenophobia, racism or intolerance”. In a rallying call to celebrate the nation’s identity, he urged the public to mark St George’s Day with extra vigour this Friday.

Fogle told Express.co.uk that being English isn’t “solely about heritage” but “a mindset” shared throughout the country.

He said: “I like to queue, I love to talk about the weather, I enjoy tea, I love marmite, and I play cricket.” 

The TV star, whose show Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild is available on My5, fears there is a certain sense of shame around celebrating being English. 

He claimed English people had “become accustomed to denigrating our ‘Englishness’ in favour of our ‘Britishness’” in order to not offend.

Fogle noted St Andrew’s Day in Scotland, St David’s Day in Wales and St Patrick’s Day in Ireland were all embraced but not in England.

He told Express.co.uk: “Each one celebrated with huge national pride but England’s St George’s day often passes largely unceremoniously.

“A couple of Morris dancers and the odd patriot in a pub dressed in chainmail but it can be something more. It should be something more.”

Fogle felt it was important to celebrate English culture despite it being “seen by many as a snub, even an insult, against the other nations in our Union”.

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He isn’t alone, a 2019 Daily Express poll found 92 percent of readers were in favour of making St George’s Day a bank holiday. 

Only eight percent argued against giving workers the day off to mark the patron saint.

In the survey, Daily Express readers revealed their annoyance with St George’s Day “usually passing with little comment”.

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They felt this was unfair due to Wales, Scotland and Ireland feeling able to “celebrate to the full”.

One reader believed it was “time we started doing the same in England” and would ”instil some pride back in our great country”.

In the past, English patriotism has been seen in a negative light due to far-right groups embracing the flag.

Fogle told Express.co.uk: “The St George’s cross has been hijacked by politics and football. 

“To fly the flag is a political statement akin to supporting Nigel Farage or Nick Griffin – but it’s our flag, it dates back to 1190. 

“It would be lovely to reclaim the flag from the far-right.”

The TV traveller feels it is all the more important to celebrate St George’s Day in the wake of leaving the European Union.

Fogle, who voted Remain, told Express.co.uk: “In this post-Brexit world, we should be looking to define our unique distinctions on an international stage.

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“That’s not to say we shouldn’t be proud of our place within the collective union of nations.

“But we should also celebrate those unique quirks of Englishness and celebrate St George’s Day without embarrassment.”

Fogle believed some English people feel uncomfortable with embracing national pride and St George’s Day because of the British Empire.

He noted that celebrating Englishness is wrongly “interpreted as dislike or even blind hatred of multiculturalism and internationalism”.

Fogle told Express.co.uk: “This is not true. I love the rich multiculturalism of England and we should be proud of the distinction that differs from our union of nations.”

The TV star made a final plea to encourage the nation to mark this year’s St George’s Day, on April 23. 

Fogle said: “We should collectively lift our cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches to the rainy sky and raise them to England, our England, my England. 

“A nation whose Green and pleasant land has been shaped by her weather.”

Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild airs at 10pm tonight on 5Select and is available to stream on My5.

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