Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Putting St George Back in Spotlight; It's St George's Day. If You Aren't Excited, John Sutton and a Knight in Shining Armour Will Try to Put That Right

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Putting St George Back in Spotlight; It's St George's Day. If You Aren't Excited, John Sutton and a Knight in Shining Armour Will Try to Put That Right

Article excerpt

Byline: John Sutton

HE was the inspiration for the oldest order of chivalry in Europe. His banner filled timid hearts in far off lands with courage for battle.

Oh, and he had a sideline in dragon-slaying.

Yes, you might have spotted that today is St George's Day. If you did, help yourself to a tankard of the finest mead.

But if you didn't, then get back to scrubbing the baron's gussets, although you won't be alone in the laundry room. According to a survey by English Heritage, 20% of people in the North East don't know April 23 is St George's Day.

They hope to change this by hosting special family events at Belsay Hall and Lindisfarne Priory this weekend.

Alan Larsen, a specialist in the cavalry of days of yore, will be donning his armour and mounting his trusty steed for the occasion.

New Zealander Alan, who was photographed at Warkworth Castle, is a historical adviser and part-time medieval knight.

He said: "There are some great family days out planned to celebrate St George's Day. We'll be having lots of fun doing dragon-slaying displays, but that's not all. We'll be on hand to answer questions from those who want to dig deeper into the myth of St George."

The stories surrounding him are numerous and confusing. He was a Roman soldier and probably Middle Eastern. The dragon slaying myth bears striking similarity to the Greek tale of Perseus and Andromeda, and by the time he was canonised in 494, nearly 200 years after his death, the legend had already taken firm hold.

Family fun provides an innocent focus for marking St George's Day, which has been tainted in the past by associations with national chauvinism.

Because of this, the country is still divided on the issue of marking St George's Day, officially or unofficially.

Last year, Tory MP Andrew Rosindell tabled an Early Day Motion for St George's Day to be marked as a national holiday. This year, Tory leader David Cameron has called it a cause for celebration and said his party would discuss putting their weight behind the suggestion.

As ever these days, the internet offers the widest forum for discussion. A quick search on Google throws up thousands of St George's Day sites.

But should the focus of a national day really be on St George today?

In medieval times, the crusaders took his banner as their own. This relationship perhaps sits a little uneasily in the modern climate of the war on terror.

However, the right-wing extremists have had the flag poached from them in recent years by football fans.

But (sniff) last November, the roar of the lions turned into the miaow of pussycats England football team failed to qualify for the European Championships.

The flag won't be flying out of every car window or pinned to the optics in every pub this summer, so St George's Day could be the only chance to celebrate England and Englishness. …

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