Speaking at the Change-How political festival

downloadWe have always tried to steer our message away from direct political discussion. My feeling was that to discuss our own politics or use our platform to influence specific party agendas would likely polarise our audience. So when I was asked to speak at the Change-How event today in Islington, North London,  I had to really think about whether or not this was something I wanted to take part in. Ultimately, I decided to go for it and after being involved today I am glad I did.

The Change-How conference is a billed as a political festival where activists, social reformers and prominent political influencers congregate to discuss their causes with nearly 1000 other people.  I am not sure I would call myself an activist but I decided to stand up and regale our message of celebrating British manufacturing and farming… and thankfully it seemed to be well received.

I was part of a two-way ‘accidental’ discussion with a writer and documentary maker, Michael Smith. Our loose theme was on what it means to be British. In 15 minutes were were unlikely to settle this question but I suppose our conclusion was that Britishness was likely to mean something different to most people. Britain is a mongrel nation that that has soaked up many external influences over the past 2000 years or more and perhaps it is this diversity of influence which differentiates us from other nations.

Of course the discussion eventually turned to politics and it is clear that I have a slightly more optimistic standpoint about future of Britain than my debating partner. Michael was somewhat more cynical and perhaps a little more gloomy about the Britain that our children face.  We continued the discussion at the bar after our time in the spotlight in a further attempt to set the world to rights. I am still not sure we uncovered an ultimately mutual consensus about that nature of Britishness. I am not sure it really mattered.

Over the course of the 4 hours I stayed at the Change-How conference I managed to catch a number of the other discussions going on. I was struck by the energy of some people to enact social change and came away greatly inspired by the passion with which everybody put forward their vision to make a difference. I only hope that I delivered a similar passion for our cause and inspired others consider their own communities by investing in their local British manufacturers and farmers.

– James

Michael Smith is the creator of the 2008 documentary exploring the subject of Britishness. Various clips can be found on YouTube, including this one:



  1. “Britain is a mongrel nation” and has benefitted throughout because of it. The recent rise in separatism worries me immensely as without the cornucopia of influences we would never be what we are today.

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  2. That must have been a really interesting festival. I wonder if Michael Smith had some comments about the best way to have a good governance structure for entities such as Made in Britain!
    BJD makes an astute point although I prefer to look at it from a biological perspective and think of it as “hybrid vigour”. Our language and culture have so many influences and continue to do so. I think our sense of Britishness is more fluid and dynamic than we realise but separatism and isolation will not benefit us in the long-term.
    Well done James on finding another platform to share your passion for British manufacturing and farming.

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    • ‘Hybrid Vigour’ – I love this statement. It is perhaps a more eloquent summary of Britishness than mine.

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  3. loraine says

    I’m not sure regarding terminology, obviously not as educated as you two. My idea of Britishness and Made In Britain is that as much as is physical and practical as possible we make, produce and manufacture and grow of course, as much as possible within the walls of great britain.
    It is a fact that as a nation we are made up of many different nationalities, religions, cultures, but the objective should be that we pool together with our various skills, expertise to produce, the best produce we can to support our great britain, so that we grow and support ourselves ‘in house’ and export to the best of our abilities to enable us to compete and sustain our lives in the global marketwithout being held to ransome by any other part of the world

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  4. loraine says

    I would also like to add that i think you and your family have worked extremely hard to promote (and live) ‘proud to be British’ thank you very much for all your enthusiasm, time and effort

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