‘Festival of Brexit’ to go ahead in 2022

Boss vows to bring ‘joy, hope and happiness’ to divided nation

An anti-Brexit protester and pro-Brexit protester argue outside the Houses of Parliament
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The man tasked with delivering the so-called “Festival of Brexit” in 2022 has said he will prove the cynics wrong and bring the nation together.

Martin Green has used his first interview since being appointed to role before Christmas to promise the £120m nationwide celebration will showcase British creativity and bring some “joy, hope and happiness”.

Green previously oversaw the 2012 London Olympic ceremonies, as well as being chief executive of Hull’s year as City of Culture.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

First mooted by Theresa May in 2018 and given the green light by Boris Johnson last year, critics have “mocked and pilloried” the idea says The Guardian, labelling it a “Festival of Brexit”. “What precisely the festival will be remains to be seen”, says the paper.

May was inspired by the 1951 Festival of Britain, “but that was arguably a more graspable idea in that it had a centrepiece location on the South Bank in London. Festival 2022 will not”, the paper notes.

“The government had hoped that the celebrations would lead to a repeat of the boost the country gained from the 2012 London Olympics through construction, tourism and trade,” the New European reports. “But there has been muted reaction from the culture sector”, it adds, with many fearing the event could alienate Remain voters.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Putting aside the fact that “it would be hard to find many artists, writers and musicians who were positive about leaving the European Union”, Anthony Clavane in the Yorkshire Post says, “the main reason it would fall flat is that we are increasingly becoming a festival-sceptic nation”.

“Among the many problems associated with the festival is one of timing” says Tom Morton in art magazine Frieze. 2022 also marks the Queen’s platinum jubilee, the BBC’s centenary, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the 75th Edinburgh international festival.

Another “big challenge will be winning over scepticism in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales” says The Guardian, made harder by the fact 2022 also marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Irish civil war and 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

“If any more evidence were needed of the Conservative Party’s insensitivities to Northern Ireland’s nationalist community, then surely this is it,” says Morton.

“Likewise, it’s hard to see the ‘Festival of Brexit’ receiving an unequivocally warm welcome in Scotland, where 62% of voters backed remaining in the European Union, and where calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence grow ever louder,” he adds.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.