My review of the exhibition of Flag of Covenience by David Dunnico



Flag of Convenience David Dunnico

Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery   25 May-28 June 2019


THE Union Jack has never been just a flag. In this new exhibition Manchester documentary photographer David Dunnico takes us on a trip around the world and through time to explain why it is has meant different things to different people.  Using film, photographs, postcards and ephemera he unpicks this complex and powerful symbol. Patriotism, nationalism and corporatism are sewn into the image of the Union Jack,  giving people an important focus for their view of themselves and their national  identity.

dunnico 1

David became interested in flags when artists such as Andy Warhol used the Stars and Stripes in their work. In the exhibition he has a copy of the Adbusters take on the flag in which  they replaced the stars and stripes with logos of American corporations.


For lefties the Union Jack has represented everything wrong with British society particularly in the 1970s when the Far Right embraced it. The Sex Pistols stole the image back and rewrote the imagery on their single” God Save the Queen” while the 1990s saw it being rehabilitated by Tony Blair as part of the Cool Britannia and Brit Pop era.  Looking back it sums up the right wing Labour government trying to portray itself as a forward thinking, youthful authority,  when the reverse was nearer the truth.

The 1990s saw the George Flag succeed the Union Jack on the back of the growth of football fever.The Cross of St. George is still a toxic image for leftwingers,  although it has now become the symbol at mant  football matches. Dunnico’s images of poor terrace houses festooned in England flags sit uncomfortably with the poverty of people’s lives.

Recently he spent his honeymoon following Farrage’s  Brexit Party around Doncaster  documenting how the Union Jack is once again the favourite image for those people who are looking for a sense of hope and pride in their country – however anarchonistic this may seem to the rest of us.


More depressing are his images from North of Ireland,  although one was tinged with irony,  showing  the front door of a Loyalist office with the usual Union jack and  a disability scooter parked outside. Brexit has shown to the rest of the UK that it is in the North of Ireland that the Protestant Community see themselves as the real owners of the Union Jack with all its connotations of empire –and loss.

Peoples Army

Dunnico’s exhibition is timely. It provides a space amongst the Brexit ballyhoo to reflect on ideas of community, symbols and history. It is funny, informative and challenges you about one of the most iconic images of this country – the Union Jack.

About lipstick socialist

I am an activist and writer. My interests include women, class, culture and history. From an Irish in Britain background I am a republican and socialist. All my life I have been involved in community and trade union politics and I believe it is only through grass roots politics that we will get a better society. This is reflected in my writing, in my book Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women and my involvement in the Mary Quaile Club. .If you want to contact me please use my gmail which is lipsticksocialist636
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4 Responses to My review of the exhibition of Flag of Covenience by David Dunnico

  1. Sandy Rose says:

    Anochronistic darlin. Not quite true re club football we wave our club flags. True of England games but not everyone has a Union flag and how many actually get to those games. Too expensive and Wembley is never full.
    Having said all that I am ashamed to say when I got on that tram to meet you and all the people were singing Utd songs I then discovered they were all going they were going to support Tommy Robinson picketting at the BBc Panorama programme him for “misrepresenting” him. But there were no flags that I saw!

    • daviddunnico says:

      Thanks for the review.

      I think Sandy’s right about the England Flag and football. I’m not a fan, though I live with a City season ticket holder who goes to a lot of away and European games.

      I’ve only ever been to one football match, which was England v Scotland on Remembrance Sunday, which I went to when I was doing a bit of research about ‘compulsory’ wearing of poppies.

      Anyway, back to the England flag and football – one idea I’ve been toying with is that if a club is going to be sucessful in the Premier League, it will have to have foreign and black players in their team. I’m told, if the England team, even with their black English players, were in the Premier League, they would be at best a middling side (and the Scottish team would probably be relegated). Even racist fans might notice the irony in wanting their club to do well and wanting to abuse some of their own best players. So, a lot of the England Flag waving racists are supporters of crap clubs such as Millwall.

      Just an idea.

      Something else was how at one time England fans would wave the Union Jack (I’m thinking of footage of the 1966 World Cup Final) – The St. George’s Cross seems to have come along in the 1970s – One person’s suggested to me that this coinicded with Scotland getting into international tournaments and a rise in Scottish and Welsh nationalism and self awareness.

      • sandy rose says:

        Thanks David. Always nice to have some one agree with you for a change and you so right about ethnic minority players. I once had a woman sit next to me at utd who said “its a shame we have so many black players”. I wanted to slap her but I just pointed out that we might not be in the premier league without having had Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke and she shut up. You right re the national teams though Raheem has raised their level.

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