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How I read Britain: image that define the country

Former Guardian picture editor Eamonn McCabes TV series Britain in Focus has been mapping its own history of photography in the UK. Here, Irvine Welsh, Sadiq Khan, Jeanette Winterson, Nadav Kander and others pick the shoots that sum up Britishness for them

A stunning miner, Orgreave, 1984

Luke Wright, poet

This rich, beautiful photo by Don McPhee proves impressing miner( Impressing? Hes perfectly splendid !) George Geordie Brealey( claim) and policeman Paul Castle( far left) at Orgreave on 18 June 1984. What followed, known as the Battle of Orgreave, was one of the most violent crashes in recent British civil record, as 6,000 police officer and 5,000 miners faced off at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire.

Brealey was said to have form for joking and comic with police officer on the picket line. Wearing a childs bobbies helmet, he would pretend to inspect the lines. Here is one husband, sarcastically incognito, facing an infinite militarised police force. Brealey is at once brave, good-humoured and anti-establishment a British hero.

I was two in 1984, so this event is beyond my living recollection, but it seems increasingly relevant to the departments of contemporary Britain. Orgreave distinguished a turning point in the 1984 -8 5 miners impres, and for labour relations in the UK. Zero-hours contracts, the left-behind, the splits of Brexit they part back to a moment like this.

The Boy With the Flag, 1970 Image: Vanley Burke

The Boy With the Flag, 1970

David Lammy, Labour MP

Vanley Burkes image conveys the promise of second-generation immigrants born in Britain after their parents had property on our shores on the Windrush in 1948. My parents were part of the Windrush generation, so this photo has a particular poignancy for me. Long before Linford Christie or Jessica Ennis prevailed gold medals for Britain and wrap themselves in the British flag, these young men and women began to identify with the two countries that was their alone home.

Of course, this was the beginning of a bittersweet age for ethnic minorities in Britain: Enoch Powell, unfriendly police sus rules, flunking schools and the emerging quarrel of inner-city life for immigrant communities. But the committee is also captivates the birth of multicultural Britain and convey a spirit of hope and opening. This generation of ethnic minorities would go on to shape substantial myriad contributions to Britain, from the rebirth of the NHS to the transformation of the Premier League. Nothing would be quite the same again.

Didcot power station, 27 July 2014

Didcot power plant, Oxfordshire, UK, 27 July 2014. Photograph: ajsissues/ Alamy Stock Photo

Joan Bakewell, broadcaster

I affection these cooling towers at Didcot in Oxfordshire[ which were swallowed in July 2014] they were things of real beautiful. Whenever I passed on the teach, I would put down my book to experience them. They had great sweeping curves and in all climates turned a different face to the world. We retain windmills and steam teaches, so why not these?

There is something poignant about the deaths among structures: industrial ones signal the be removed from one age of these new technologies to another. Their shattering observes the enact of day, of one way of looking and being into another that we cant hitherto imagine. The instant when they fall to the sand observes a moment in biography started for ever. No wonder people gaze in shock when that happens.

Soldiers from the Womens Royal Army Corps in their services vehicle, driving through Trafalgar Square during the course of its VE Day revelries in London. Photo: RJ Salmon/ Getty Images

VE revelries, 8 May 1945

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

This photograph captivates the joy of one of the largest moments of the 20 th century the win over dictatorship in 1945. It too symbolises the enormous paces built for gender equality in the second world war. Dames participated previously all-male professions: without their campaign struggle, we might not have prevailed over nazism.

The second world war was Britain at its best. It was the peoples of the territories battle, where “citizens ” presented gallantry and relinquish beyond our modern imageries. It had confirmed that position intervention and a socialised economy can work.

Privilege and profiteering were regarded humiliating. The common good came first. Beings of all world-class, hastens and nations united to protect Britain against the Nazis. We welcomed refugees and allied with subjugated Europeans. The need for a fairer, more equal civilization was the social consensus.

The wartime Common Wealth defendant was the equivalent of the anti-Tory alliance we need today: it united socialists, radicals and independents. Well to the left of Jeremy Corbyn, it formed revolutionary plans popular and won wartime byelections.

Social justice had mass appeal in the second world war. The parties challenged, and later achieved, public ownership of major industries and the creation of the NHS and social security. They won social justice in 1945. Why cant we prevail it now?

British politician Nigel Farage satisfies President Elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, NYC, on 12 November 2016.
Photograph: Wigmore/ Finn/ Splash News

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, 12 November 2016

Irvine Welsh, writer

This picture of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage says so much about our new period of politics: an American millionaires tax-dodging son and an English investment banker celebrate the realisation of their dreamings. The American gets to run the world. The Englishman get nothing but the pathetic atonement of playing courtroom fool to the American, in this new world order he has undeniably helped bring about. The dispirited and beaten former aristocrats of labour in the post-industrial American and UK wastelands, their unions smashed, their wages lowered, subdued by 30 years of neoliberalism, get two wealthy humen posing outside a golden raise. And the potent one has a team scheming 24/7 about how to reduce them to farther penury and serfdom. The Thatcher-Reagan era was the predominance of the 1 %. This picture represents the official coronation of the brand-new toytown sovereigns and their hapless puppets, and the rubber-stamping of medieval, despotic politics in a hi-tech world-wide.

Miner at his evening dinner, 1937. Photograph: Bill Brandt

Northumbrian coalminer and his wife, 1937

Eamonn McCabe, photographer

In 1937, German-born Bill Brandt travelled to the north of England where he would be the first to compound forms from art and photojournalism. As a foreigner, he introduced a disinterested, outsiders perspective, claiming that he wasnt making a political point, but his situations have become the defining portraits of the Great Depression.

Brandt too wanted to making his highly stylised approaching to photograph uncompromising photographs of the people who lived and laboured in these industrial parishes like this shot Brandts most celebrated photograph from his northern expedition take place within 1937, of a Northumbrian miner ingesting his tea, watched over by his wife.

Although for me there is a sense that Brandt has carefully posed this video, guiding the specific characteristics and arranging the make, does this detract from the superpower of the likenes? Brandts northern wreak never obligated him coin and was published only later. But what he had achieved with these depicts was an extraordinary grouped together of styles to create a stark and vivid perception of Britain never seen before.

Brandt never stopped pushing the border of his art and he is rightly considered one of the most important photographers to have worked in Britain. He would also go on to work on a groundbreaking new publication that photographed every aspect of British life. On 1 October 1938, the Picture Post was launched, a weekly magazine fitted with photograph on every sheet, its mission affirmation to make a visual record of British people at home, at work and at participate.

David Weir, Paralympic Games, 2012

London 2012 Paralympic Games. David Weir of GB celebrates acquiring the three men T54 800 m final . . Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Melanie C, vocalist

This shot is incredible. David Weir with his mark moan is on the way in his succes constitute, forearms spread wide-ranging and his contestants blurred in the background. We have celebrated Olympic contestants for a very long time, but genuinely the people who are achieving incredible things against the odds are our Paralympians, who for so long were overlooked.

When it came to people with disabilities, I used to feel ambiguous about the etiquette, but the most difficult thing that we gained from 2012 s Paralympics was the way it changed stances in general. It was a really special era and it shifted peoples positions for ever. Weir retained designations. He won the marathon. He prevailed four golds in 2012.

Britain has a reputation for being a bit negative, a bit bleak. But that summer we established the world how to do it. Everyone pulled together and it was a positive time to be in London. This image, together with so many others, reminds me of a year in which I felt very lucky to live in the capital. It was a wonderful time, and, for me, this image imparts so much superpower, persuasivenes, resolution everything that the Paralympics was. ( As told to Harriet Gibsone )

Battle of Cable Street, Aldgate, London, 5 October 1936. An anti-fascist crowd, some of them carrying rockets, run from a roadblock they have made near Aldgate. The police are accusing on the far side of the barricade, which has been reinforced with paving stones. Photograph: Patrimony Images/ Getty Images

Battle of Cable Street, 5 October 1936

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London

More than 80 years ago in October 1936 millions of brave and intrepid soldiers, women and children gathered to oppose fascism in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street.

That day, Mosleys totalitarians were forced into a humiliating retreat something achieved only through the supremacy of people and communities coming together. A alliance was formed of Jewish East Enders, Irish dockworkers, trade unionists, Labour party members and many more coming together in solidarity to reject fascism and everything associated with it.

This was a historic important turning point, a win that had lasting repercussions because it demonstrating that fascism could be balk through communities combining something that should continue to inspire us.

Last October, the 80 th commemoration of Cable Street, I was proud to join another alliance of politicians, the Jewish community, trade union activities, anti-racist organisations, Bangladeshi associations and many others , not only to honour and recollect the brave people who fought against dictatorship in 1936, but to show our commitment and resolve to continue that contend. To say: when we check things that are contentious, go against our British appraises and are just basically wrong, we must call them out; well never give autocracy, racism or racism prevail. These are importances that ring true in London, more than anywhere in the world.

Womens March, London, 21 January 2017

Womens March, London, 21 January 2017. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images

Kate Nash, singer

Whats so cool about this depict is that you have an iconic British bronze alongside a theme on gender equality. There were a onus of signals at the womens march in London its become really popular to get creative with them.

There has been a predisposition within history in general for women to be small, to cross their legs and touch their hair. Even in the music industry, husbands have tried to quieten me down and package me differently. Now maidens want to express themselves and be a part of things. Its about grouped together to stand up for justifications we believe in, and being intersectional in our feminism. This posting has such a powerful word its unapologetic, its fierce. Its not going to be tamed by anybody. Nobodys going to tell a lion to shut away theyd be feed!

It gazes as if someone has left this sign there at the end of the rally. It is a piece of art it prevents on telling a tale even when youve got on the Tube and gone home. ( As told to Leah Harper )

A Line Obliged by Walking, 1967 Photo: Richard Long. All Right Reserved, DACS 2017

A Line Attained By Walking, 1967

Nadav Kander, photographer

I could really envisage having this photo in my home and it representing different things to me at different times in my life. Its a representation thats so mature. Before you understand what it illustrates, its such a nurture, simple portrait. Then, when “youre reading” that this was a line that Richard Long developed himself, by marching up and down, up and down theres something so figurative and subtle about it.

I love photography in which the master can be seen in the epitome. Long has recorded his own pressing on the planet and the direction he occupies his encloses with this photograph. That number of making art is beautiful to me; it ever obligates me improbably happy.

I first saw this image when I was a photographers auxiliary in the West End of London. I used to visit Adrian Ensor, the printer in Fitzrovia who used to reproduce Richards work. For me, this image is like a Matisse drawing of a face, where the charcoal-grey hasnt been lifted from the working papers and hitherto you feel as if you might know the girl illustrated. Its that kind of elegance and prowess that I love.

Sometimes, when an creator intervenes in their skill, I find it fantastically heavy-handed its so obvious, like an interior design publication. But with Longs work is featherlight and nuanced. The being behind the likenes always interests me just as much as the picture itself and I like to see their fingerprint in their work. ( As told to Leah Harper )

David Cameron, June 2015

David Cameron at the European heads of state and of government and governments top at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels. The Financial Hour exploited this photo following the end of Brexit. Photograph: Wiktor Dabkowski/ eyevine

Jeanette Winterson, scribe

This photograph though take place within 2015 was on the front handle of the Financial Times immediately after Brexit. Theres David Cameron, the legalised adventurer, gambling Britain on the roulette wheel, confident the dance would spin calmly back to pitch-black. Instead, the financial austerity measures that drove the UK deeper and deeper into the blood-red made certain that the gamble itself would end on crimson. Red alert. Red faces. The reptilian mentality of the Tory party gratified they had been allowed to bet the country on a deluded dream of an island empire. And those cheap impostors, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, stimulating to an outcome that would work in the services offered of their personal ambition.

That nauseating nighttime, as the roulette wheel retarded, the count was in, and the UK was out of Europe. Cameron and George Osborne never believed it could happen. Arrogant classy boys out of contact with the miseries their policies had operated. No plan for what would happen next. Cameron resigned. I expect he thought that was noble. He should have been forced to clean up his own mess. Not walk away to form millions.

But he hadnt lost his fund, or his house, or his future. He saved that for the little people. The beings his government had been gambling with all along. Unexpectedly there was a chance for the little beings to spin the pedal. No one told them that once again they could only lose.

The final escapade of Britain in Focus: A Photographic History is on BBC4 on Monday 20 March at 9pm. <a

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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