Cool Britannia and Multi-Ethnic Britain: Uncorking the Champagne Supernova attempts to move away from the melancholia of Cool Britannia and the discourse which often encases the period by repositioning this phenomenon through an ethnic minority perspective.
In March 1997, the front page of the magazine Vanity Fair announced ‘London Swings! Again!’ This headline was a direct reference to the swinging London of the 1960s – the English capital which became the era-defining epicentre of the world for its burgeoning rock and pop music scene, with its daring new youth culture, and the boutique fashion houses of Carnaby Street captured most indelibly by the Mods, Rockers, and psychedelic hippies of the time. In the 1990s this renewed interest in the swinging 60s seemed to reinvigorate popular culture, after a global period in the 1980s which would see the collapse of traditional communism and the ending of Cold War, while ushering in the beginnings of a new technological age spearheaded by Apple, Microsoft, and IBM. The dawn of the 1990s meant that peace and love would once again reign supreme, with Britannia being at the forefront of ‘cool’ again. Godfathers of the Mancunian Rock scene New Order would declare ‘Love had the world in motion’ and, for a fleeting period, Britain was about to encounter its second coming as the cultural epicentre of the world.
Although history proffers a period of utopia, inclusion, and cultural integration, the narrative alters considerably when exploring this euphoric period through a discriminatory and racialised lens. This book repositions the ethnic minority–lived experience during the 1990s from the societal and political margins to the centre. The lexicon explored here attempts to provide an altogether different discourse that allows us to reflect on seminal and racially discriminatory episodes during the 1990s that subsequently illuminated the systemic racism sustained by the state. The Cool Britannia years become a metaphoric reference point for presenting a Britain that was culturally splintered in many ways. This book utilises storytelling and auto-ethnography as an instrument to unpack the historical amnesia that ensues when unpacking the racialised plights of the time.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1. Love Spreads: The Impact of The Cool Britannia Years on Multi-Ethnic Britain; 2. Don’t Look Back in Anger: Bringing Institutional Racism into Public Focus during the Cool Britannia Years; 3. Bitter Sweet Symphony: Reflecting and Drawing Conclusions on the Cool Britannia years on Multi-Ethnic Britain.
Jason Arday is an Assistant Professor in Sociology in the Department of Sociology at Durham University.
"Arday’s Cool Britannia is both a brave cultural history and a deeply personal odyssey. Retrieving the 1990s from retro sentimentality, Arday reminds us that the decade of Brit pop and girl power was also an era of discriminatory policing, hostile immigration policy and the murder of Stephen Lawrence. A necessary corrective to the Brit nostalgia and historical amnesia that mark our present day."
Prof. Paul Warmington, University of Warwick
"A must-read for anybody seeking the truth of Britain’s uncomfortable relationship with race, as well as for those who are yet to wake up. Offering an unfiltered – and at times deeply confronting – reflection on British culture, Jason Arday’s Cool Britannia is a brave and powerful antidote to our collective amnesia."
Rt. Hon David Lammy MP, Member of Parliament for Tottenham
"Cool Britannia and Multi-Ethnic Britain: Uncorking the Champagne Supernova provides a striking and powerful counter-argument to the romanticised view of the '90s, currently imagined so fondly as the past we have lost to Brexit nationalism. As Arday shows, ‘diversity’ was cynically used as a slogan to distract from the reality of racism, oppression and broken-promises."
Prof. David Gillborn, Centre for Research in Race & Education (CRRE), University of Birmingham
"In this timely and engaging book, Jason Arday writes with the passion and purpose. He brings the perspectives of people of colour from margin to centre in order to offer an important counter-narrative to the melancholic historicization of ‘The Cool Britannia Years’. Touching on key historical moments in the popular imaginary, and weaving through his own personal experiences, Jason Arday encourages us to see the institutional racisms that society is too quick to forget."
Dr. Remi Joseph-Salisbury, University of Manchester
"The vivid soundtrack of Arday’s stylish youth comes alive in these pages. While you feel the beat of bands like Oasis and New Order signalling the euphoria and optimism of the Post-Thatcher New Labour era, Arday deftly reveals the ‘Other’ story of the underbelly of racial violence, fear and discrimination that marked the life of so many young black men, culminating in the death of Stephen Lawrence. If you grew up or lived through the 1990s you will not fail to be moved by this eloquent unwritten song of the myth of multicultural Britain."
Emeritus Prof. Heidi Safia Mirza, University of London
"In this insightful book, Jason Arday reflects upon a period in which he came of age. While the 1990s represented a welcome rupture from the torpor of the previous decade, the cheer leaders of 'Cool Britannia' overstated, it is argued, the inclusivity of the new era. Forensically examining the period through a minority lens, Jason convincingly demonstrates the prevalence of institutional racism and how minority ethnic groups continued to be marginalised."
Prof. Andrew Pilkington, University of Northampton