Humble Cup of Tea Served Up with the Magna Carta as Britain's Cultural Icons
Marie Woolf Chief Political Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
FRANCE HAS the Mona Lisa. Italians are rightly proud of Michelangelo's beautiful Sistine Chapel. Britons, on the other hand, are being handed a cup of tea as the country's cultural icon.
The humble cuppa will join the Magna Carta, Hadrian's Wall and the Routemaster bus on a government website aimed at defining the country's most important cultural symbols.
Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, has approved the pounds 1m project designed to define what makes UK culture great.
The website, called Icons, will list and celebrate the UK's most important artistic symbols "from the gallery to the street".
Prosaic items such as the policeman's helmet and the Morris Minor car will be considered, alongside masterpieces such as Constable's Haywain and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "It will take us from the Rosetta Stone to the Routemaster bus. It's a debate about what culture is and what it means to be English. The cup of tea is in itself an icon. It has a lot of cultural associations."
But the inclusion of tea is likely to infuriate traditionalists, who may accuse the Government of sidelining artistic geniuses such as Turner in favour of vernacular objects.
The public will be allowed to vote on whether symbols such as the red telephone box, the Aston Martin car or the Morris Traveller will qualify.
The website is certain to include the Mappa Mundi, the 13th- century map of the world which is in Hereford Cathedral, Stonehenge and the cup of tea, which officials believe "represents far more than a hot drink". …