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Byline: Kat Baldwyn

FORGET St George - we may end up celebrating St Georgina's Day instead, if a group led by a Birmingham professor gets its way.

A bunch of poets led by Professor Ewan Fernie, from the University of Birmingham's Shakespeare Institute, are attempting to rede-fine Englishness, claiming St George could now be represented as black or a woman.

Prof Fernie said: "What we are doing is trying to redefine Englishness.

"We are seeking new English identities by thinking about what St George and Englishness might mean today, which could be that he is black or a woman.

"We want to make it so it is suitable to today's mu ticultural, plural society."

Prof Fernie is spearheading The Faerie Queene Now: Remaking Religious Poetry for Today's World project.

As part of the project a new poetic liturgy, Redcrosse, has been written with former poet laureate Andrew Motion and award winning poets Michael Symmons Roberts and Jo Shapcott all contributing works which attempt to redefine St George and reclaim the idea of being English back from far-Right groups such as the BNP.

Events are set to be held across the UK to promote the group's new idea of Englishness including at St George's Chapel Windsor, as part of the Windsor Spring Festival, where Redcrosse will be premiered, and at Manchester Cathedral where a black figure of St George will be included in a procession.

There are also talks with the Royal Shakespeare Company about a project for the Olympics and an event in the West Midlands is also in the pipeline.

Prof Fernie said: "We have been working on the project for about a year with it culminating in the Windsor and Manchester events. After that we are thinking about bringing something to the West Midlands.

"It's pleasing people are taking an interest in the project and hope it will encourage them to think about what Englishness needs today.

"Englishness is an embarrassed thing in all sorts of ways. But a bold, imaginative reclamation is necessary, particularly in the face of the far right appropriation of symbols of Englishness."

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Proud: St George in a parade. Inset: Professor Ewan Fernie.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 26, 2011
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