Icons of England
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New Labour and “Cool Britannia”, quidditch and the Millennium Dome

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01 Jan 1990: Mr Bean's first appearance

Rowan Atkinson plays Mr Bean, the most popular English comedy export since Benny Hill. The slapstick comedy and sight gags are inspired by silent movie heroes such as Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton.

31 Mar 1990: Poll tax riot

Major public disturbances in many English cities were caused by the introduction of a "poll tax", a fixed tax for individuals regardless of income payable to local councils. Ironically, the poll tax was one of the causes of the Peasant's Revolt in 1385. The unrest was also a factor in the downfall of PM Margaret Thatcher, who was ousted in November this year.

15 May 1990: Ban on British beef

BSE scare begins with a ban on British beef and questions continue to be raised until March 20, 1996, when the government announces the link of the disease BSE to CJD, which is fatal for humans, and a full health scare alert hits the nation.

Jan 1991: Start of the Gulf War

The war began because of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. A coalition of 30 countries, including the US and Britain, were mandated to take action by the UN. The war was over relatively quickly with victory for the coalition. Howeve,r the underlying problems – most especially Saddam Hussein's control of a country in such a vital oil-producing area – remained. See 2003.

16 Sep 1992: Black Wednesday

Britain forced to withdraw from ERM (European Exchange Rate Mechanism). The debate over how far Britain wants to be part of Europe continues, not only on a financial level but also politically and culturally.

11 Nov 1992: Women priests for Church of England

Hugely controversially, the Church of England votes by a narrow margin to allow women to be ordained as Anglican priests.

12 Nov 1992: Ab Fab hits our TV screens

Patsy and Edina are Absolutely Fabulous for the first time, sweetie.

1993: First prime-time lesbian kiss on TV

Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence enjoy a kiss on pre-watershed Brookside

1993: Dyson vacuum cleaners go on sale

James Dyson opens a factory to make vacuum cleaners in Wiltshire. The Dyson vacuum is a major English design success story although he came under attack for moving production away from England in order to cut costs.

1993: Lloyd's of London declares losses

Lloyd's of London declares losses of £2.3 billion for the 1990 year of account. Although the financial problems came to light over a number of years, the effective collapse of this venerable and trusted institution was a huge shock to the City. Many individuals, as well as companies, lost a great deal of money.

1993: Emmerdale plane crash

The plane crash wrecks the Woolpack, kills off major characters and puts this soap opera back on the must-watch list.

26 Apr 1993: Stephen Lawrence is murdered

In common with the murder of Kelso Cochrane in 1959, Stephen's murder and the incompetence of the police investigation cause public outrage and put the focus on problems of institutionalised racism.

1994: Clockwork radio invented

Production commences on Trevor Bayliss' clockwork radio. This important invention is particularly useful in Third World countries, where electricity supplies and batteries are not reliable. Crucial for communication.

1994: SMS text messaging introduced

How did we live without it?

1994: Gormley wins the Turner Prize

Antony Gormley, sculptor of the Angel of the Nort, wins the Turner Prize with Field For The British Isles.

The Angel of the North

1994: Blur release Parklife

This album was described by frontman Damon Albarn as "a nocturnal travelogue of London" - and it would be hard to find a cheekier, catchier or more honest depiction of English life and characters than this classic album, Blur's third.

06 May 1994: Eurostar goes direct to Paris

Is Britain no longer an island? After much political to and fro-ing, financial hold-ups and technical difficulties, the Channel Tunnel is complete and Eurostar runs a direct train from Waterloo to Paris and Brussels.

1995: Fermat's last theorem proved

British mathematician Andrew Wiles publishes a proof of Fermat's last theorem, which has puzzled people since the 1800s.

1995: Damien Hirst wins the Turner Prize

Mother And Child Divided, the work which won the prize, was a cow and calf sawn in half in a glass case preserved in formaldehyde.

1995: Club Anokha opens

Talvin Singh founded this nightclub to promote South Asian Underground dance music, mixing South Asian punk bands with drum 'n' bass DJs in ground-breaking live shows.

1995: Swaminarayan Temple opens

The Swaminarayan Temple opens in Neasden and is the largest in Europe. A spectacular building, it reflects the pride of the large West London Hindu community.

Feb 1995: Barings Bank collapses

Rogue trader Nick Leeson single-handedly brings about the collapse of England's oldest bank, Barings. The financial world is rocked.

June 1995: Rylance appointed at Globe

Actor Mark Rylance is appointed as the first artistic director of the Globe. The first workshop season in the substantially completed theatre arouses much controversy among academics and theatre practitioners.

19 Jul 1995: No Beast on Bodmin!

A government report officially denies the existence of the Beast of Bodmin, one week before a schoolboy discovers the skull of a big cat on the moor.

24 Sep 1995: Colin Firth plays Mr Darcy

Andrew Davies' ever-so-slightly raunchy rendition of Pride And Prejudice for the BBC spawns Darcy mania for the following six weeks.

02 Oct 1995: (What's The Story) Morning Glory?

The release of Oasis' first album features mega-hits such as Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger.

1996: Term Cool Britannia first appears

Coined as a play on the song title "Rule Britannia", the phrase first appears in newspapers this year. Britain seems to be having a resurgence on the cultural scene in music, art and fashion. Tony Blair is quick to affiliate himself with the movers and shakers in his election campaign the following year.

1996: The Spice Girls arrive!

The Spice Girls' first single, Wannabe, goes straight to no. 1. This phenomenally successful girl band is famous less for its music than its sassy attitude - girl power!

1996: Brassed Off released

This hugely popular film about a brass band carrying on after a pit is faced with closure has the unexpected spin-off of giving the Grimethorpe Colliery Band a bestselling album. Brassed Off has also been made into a stage play which performed in Sheffield and at the Royal National Theatre.

1996: Record Yorkshire Pud!

World's largest Yorkshire Pudding made in Skipton (46.46m square)

Oct 1996: McQueen is Best British Designer

Alexander McQueen is named Best British Designer of the Year, only five years after graduating from Central St Martins. Known as the "Bad Boy of Fashion", McQueen in one of the few genuinely international names in English fashion. His outrageous imagination combines with superb tailoring skills to create innovative and eye-catching designs.

1997: Audiences exposed to The Full Monty

This screenplay about six unemployed steel workers from Sheffield who form a male strip act captured the world's imagination. A musical based on it, transposed to Buffalo, New York, was also a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

01 May 1997: Labour landslide

At 43, Tony Blair becomes the youngest Prime Minister since 1812. Labour is finally back in power after 18 years.

June 1997: The Harry Potter legend begins

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone is the first in what will be a series of seven books, telling the story of Harry Potter in each year of school at Hogwarts. The story is a publishing sensation, capturing the imaginations of children and adults alike all over the world. They books are also made into very successful films. Stephen Fry read the whole of this book, unabridged, on Boxing Day 2000 on BBC Radio 4, taking up most of the day's programming!

12 Jun 1997: Triumphes And Mirth at the Globe

A specially commissioned masque celebrates the official opening of the Globe Theatre, attended by the Queen and Prince Philip.

06 Sep 1997: Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

Three million mourners are in London to pay tribute. Millions more worldwide watch the event on television.

1998: First year of Baishakhi Mela

The Baishaki Mela is the biggest Bengali celebration outside of Bangladesh, held annually in Brick Lane (or Banglatown). It celebrates the Bangla New Year in May and features processions, food, music and dancing.

1998: Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

This film, directed by "Mr Madonna" Guy Ritchie, revitalises the English gangster flick

1998: Shakespeare In Love released

Tom Stoppard had a hand in this screenplay, which tells the "real" story behind the writing of Romeo And Juliet. It won an Oscar for Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I, who reportedly kept the replica Rose Theatre in her back garden after shooting finished.

1998: Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Public hearings begin to examine the conduct of the case. The suspects are vilified and 70 recommendations emerge to combat institutionalised racism. See 1993.

16 Feb 1998: Angel of the North on site

The Angel of the North sculpture by Anthony Gormley arrives just outside Gateshead. Later this year, enthusiastic football fans drape the Angel in a huge replica of Alan Shearer's no. 9 shirt before the appearance of Newcastle United in the FA Cup Final.

The Angel of the North

10 Apr 1998: Good Friday agreement

In theory this brought an end to 30 years of the Troubles (disagreement and violence over the fate of Northern Ireland). Although we are not yet at the end of the story, the agreement was a breakthrough in relations between the various factions.

1999: Greatest FA Cup Goal vote

The Nationwide Building Society conducts a poll to choose the Greatest Ever Goal in an FA Cup Match. The winner is Ryan Giggs' outstanding solo effort for Manchester United in extra time in a semi-final replay against Arsenal. The goal is a mazy run from the halfway line that ends with a sharply angled, thumping finish - the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.

The FA Cup

1999: Emin fails to win the Turner Prize

Tracey Emin is nominated for the Turner Prize. Her piece My Bed, consisting of her actual unmade bed made the headlines but did not win the prize.