Let's celebrate our national day - for St George!

Richard ParrBy George - it's a day we should all be celebrating but just how many people are aware, or even care, about our English national figure? RICHARD PARR looks at whether the tide is turning in favour of the dragon-slaying saint.Richard Parr

Let's hear it for England and St George on our national day - but are we hearing it loud and clear enough and why don't we make more of today when we should be celebrating all that is best about England?

While the Irish go to town and party big time for St Patrick, the Welsh get vocal in the Valleys over St David and the Scots shout out for St Andrew, the English apathy has long reigned over its saint's day.

But there appears to be a growing mood of change in favour of savouring our saint and promoting St George to a higher level with a growing number of celebratory events being staged today and over the weekend across region.

It is right that we should promote St George in a much greater way because, as London mayor Boris Johnson has said, England has given so much to the world, politically, socially and artistically.

"St George's Day is a time to celebrate the very best of everything English and the cross of St George will proudly fly outside City Hall today," he said.

Today people may be sporting a red rose in their lapels in recognition of the day, but for millions of people it will be another ordinary working day, no firework celebrations and no street parties.

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Interestingly, contrast this lacklustre attitude with our friends across the pond for whom Independence Day on July 4 is a wonderful time of celebration.

We can show our patriotic side, however. Look at how we go to town when our national team competes in the World Cup or there is a royal wedding - the crowds turn out in their thousands, wearing patriotic favours and Union flag-coloured hats.

In Dereham, a pub landlord has nailed his patriotic colours to the mast by painting the exterior of his pub in white and red to form the St George's Cross.

Graham Cook, landlord of The Cock Inn on Norwich Street, believes we all should pull out the stops and really celebrate our national day.

"The Irish show us how to celebrate when they honour St Patrick and the Welsh are not far behind, so I think its time we all got behind St George and have a party. I think April 23 should be created a bank holiday," said Mr Cook.

His view is shared at the highest level by a shadow minister who has placed a �100 bet on April 23 becoming an official bank holiday next year. But the Conservative party distanced itself from shadow home affairs minister Andrew Rosindell's bet, claiming it isn't policy to make the day a bank holiday.

Mr Rosindell said: "I think there is a strong mood among MPs of all parties to make St George's Day a public celebration and national holiday. Other countries such as Scotland, Ireland, America and Australia have days to celebrate their history, yet we have no official celebration to mark it - let alone a public holiday."

Today Mid-Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate, George Freeman, will be going the extra mile and flying the red and white flag from his cycle as he pedals along the A47.

"St George's Day is a day for English people to celebrate our great country and the part our county has played in our island's story. Norfolk gave England the first prime minister, the agricultural revolution and Admiral Nelson.

Mr Freeman added: "We are in danger of letting our national flag become associated with extremists and I want to show the people of Norfolk a positive vision of being a proud patriot."

As an indication that in Norfolk at least we are at last becoming more active in honouring St George, there is a raft of events being staged across the county.

These include ringing of village church bells across Norfolk this evening, a traditional evening of pub games and entertainment at the Railway Tavern on Yaxham Road at Dereham from 4pm; and a 1940s tea dance at Hindolveston village hall tomorrow, 2.30pm.

Among other events organised are a festival of St George at St Mary's Church, Hellesdon, tonight, 7.30pm; a dinner in honour of St George at the Canary and Linnet pub in Little Fransham; a St George's Day celebration on the village green at Heydon on Sunday; a St George's Day Fair in the Market Place at Diss tomorrow, between 11am and 3pm; a St George's Day dance at Downham Market Town Hall tonight at 8pm (bring own drinks); a concert tonight by the Bridgham and Harling Band in the Carnegie Rooms at Thetford, 7.30pm; and a concert tonight by the Coastline Singers at St Benedict's Church, Gunton, 7.30pm.

This morning there will be a civic parade through the town centre at King's Lynn as the mayor, David Pitcher, hands out red roses and flags to shoppers.

Sunday will also see scout and guide groups all over the region attending church services and parades in honour of St George, the movement's patron saint.