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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Cool Britannia
Tony Blair on 2 May 1997
Remember 2 May 1997?
The Magazine is compiling a people's history of modern Britain - featuring your written memories and photos. We've done the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. To finish, it's time for the 90s.

It was the decade of the Gulf War, the dotcom boom, New Labour and the death of Princess Diana.

But for many of you, it is the period when Britain became a different place - or it felt like it did, at least.

Not only was there a new wave of homegrown music midway through the decade, symbolised by Blur, Oasis and Pulp, but this was followed by Euro 96 and the New Labour landslide of 1997, which stoked a feeling of euphoria and optimism.

Even though many people feel a sense of disappointment now, the emotion felt for this "new dawn" sticks in the minds of many. Here is a selection of your comments.


Eddie Tyrell in 1999
Growing up in the 90s was fantastic, it seemed anything was possible, Britain was cool again, we had our own music, our own art, our own identity. Who'd have thought a few years down the line there would be debate on whether Britain even had an identity?
Eddie Tyrell in 2007
In the 90s we did, and it was cool, working class kids were leaving school with optimism, the world seemed open to them, music was good, life was good, for once their seemed to be a government in charge that was making things positive. How did it all go wrong?
Eddie Tyrell (right, in 1999 and 2007), Liverpool

I was in the UK on the day Labour won the election in 1997. It was a wonderful, exciting and optimistic day. I felt the relief of the people that the dreaded Conservatives were finally gone. Then the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest within days - clearly a sign that Europe was also happy the veto-crazy, argumentative Conservatives were gone! Tony Blair was, and still is, a breath of fresh air for British politics. I will miss him and I think the UK will miss him once he's gone. As Joni Mitchell once sang "you don't know what you've got till it's gone".
Glenn Lennox, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Daniel Kings as DJ in 1998 and (inset) today
My overriding memories of the 90s are caught up in the boom of club culture. Riding on the wave of Blair's 'Cool Britannia' things really could only get better. It was a time when anything seemed possible, a new world order had arrived and the soundtrack was house, techno and drum and bass!
Daniel Kings (right, in 1998 DJing in Birmingham, and in 2006), Worcester, UK

Suddenly the London press seemed to realise Wales existed, thanks to some great music and films coming from here. The press invented something called "Cool Cymru" which had been around for ages before they looked beyond the M25! I utilized my first political vote ever in voting "Yes" to devolution, and then ashamedly for the Labour Party when Tony was elected....if I'd known then...
Mandi, Cardiff

Stuart Bell
It briefly seemed like such a hopeful time to be living in. Unfortunately the opening of the doors to a more liberal, easy going stance has turned us into a nation of whinging, apathetic wimps who now in the face of having our country, freedom and identity taken away from us, simply don't know what to do.
Stuart Bell, Shetland, UK

It was an exciting time with many possibilities, enthusiasm and global village atmosphere in the air... it's a shame the corrupt politicians and money men hijacked it for their power games... an opportunity was lost and the world is not a better place.... we are heading back into darker times now.... sometime more like the turbulent 70s and 80s is on the horizon now......
Richard, London

I'm now 24. I was born in the 80s, but grew up in the 90s. For some reason everything before 1997 is a blur, with only random events coming to mind. From 1997 onwards, the world seems more vibrant, energetic and colourful in my mind.
Joseph, Hereford, England
The best bit of the 90s was Britpop and its legacy for the rock music of today. Blair filled the 20-somethings full of hope for a bright future in the 21st Century. Sadly, we 30-somethings are still waiting for the dreams to become reality.
Poshmoggy, Halifax, West Yorkshire

I was born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s. Probably not the best time to be at school - constant budget cuts from an incompetent Tory government have made sure I'm Labour 'till I die. Nevertheless, in other ways, the 90s were good years. The Cold War was over, and the War on Terrorism hadn't really begun. New Labour offered hope (probably more than they could possibly have delivered), and personal computers were just beginning to show real promise. It was a very optimistic way to end the millennium.
Andrew, Stroud, UK

Britain did seem to change - there was a complete shift in attitude, particularly symbolised with the election of Labour. We realised we were more liberal and Britain suddenly seemed modern and at the cutting edge of things. One thing though - some other respondents will probably mention British music - some people may consider it a successful period, but the 90s was the decade of grunge and alternative, not Oasis and Britpop.
Nick, Brighton, UK

The 1990s were great! We even managed to win the Eurovision! There was a sort of optimism in the 1990s that there isn't today. People felt good. As a politics student I put it down to 'The Bill Clinton Factor' Perhaps that feeling will return of Hillary makes it to the White House?
Frank Hardee, Oxford University, UK

Coming of age in the late 90s was really exciting. It felt as if we had our own 60s movement. Blur, Oasis and the whole celebration of British music after a dirge of US grunge gave us our own English identity and pride. The Blur v Oasis saga was so newsworthy it made the One O'Clock news and at the time it felt as if it really mattered. Of course it didn't, and like New Labour the optimism soon faded but I will always remember that period of British musical ascendancy fondly. Live Forever!
Dan Holliday, Merseyside
Mostly I remember thinking that things were beginning to be shaken up, that the 90s might be one of those decades that people looked back on as significant. I stayed up all night watching the 1997 General Election, although I was too young to vote in it. Britpop was derided by 20-somethings we knew as being fake and commercialised but it was the only scene we knew. We used to wear baggy jeans, converse All Stars and vintage adidas tracksuit tops, we'd spend all Saturdays in charity shop and second hand shops looking for them.
K Walker, Runcorn, UK

MORE 90s MEMORIES
I remember the 90s as this was the time I decided to 'come out of the closet' as they say! People were more accepting of this lifestyle in that decade, although I did get beaten up once... but that was liking the Pet Shop Boys and not 'proper music' or something like that. The music was great in the 90s!!! I remember listening to Suede amongst others and just feeling, 'this is what music is all about! Who needs moving lyrics and all that jazz! This is where it's at!' Video games were great also, Super Mario Bros always comes to mind. I remember going out to new gay clubs that were springing up over night it seemed. I felt like I really belonged for once. Oh the memories the 90s bring me. Wish I was back there now.
Craig Bright, Southampton

Since I was from the North East of England, I remember the 90s as the decade of mass unemployment. I remember the politicians telling us one thing and then getting old waiting for something to happen. It never did. I remember standing in the dole queue with two degrees, bachelors in engineering and a master in computers, trying to get a job. I remember applying for over 1500 jobs and getting just 1 interview. It was cancelled or was it because I was too old, 26 years old. This was the time of Tony Blair's Labour. My only prospect was doing another degree, which I did, little choice really. The result, I joined the brain drain and left the UK.
Andrew, San Francisco, USA

The 1990s were when I realised that I couldn't live in the UK anymore. I left in 1993 and have not looked back since, Thank God I got out when I did, I've been making money out of everyone who realised the fact that 'Cool Britannia' was not cool anymore and subsequently left too late ever since.
Michael, Hungary
Britpop showed how British groups still ruled the music scene in the 90s. Pulp's "Different Class" in particular was the very essence of what Cool Britannia meant to the 'Common People' like me. This I believe is THE definitive album of 90's Britain.
Charles Finch-Noyse

For me the 90s didn't really start until the summer of 1995, the Oasis v Blur battle. I bought the Oasis single, the first single I had ever bought, I remember the press at the time really hyping it up, it became a class battle between a bunch of working class lads from Manchester and a middle class group from the south.
Damon Albarn and Jarvis Cocker
Albarn and Cocker were at the forefront of Britpop
I was gutted when Oasis lost but from there I bought 'Definitely Maybe' and was hooked. I remember some of my mates calling Oasis a boyband but within months they all had What's the story? (morning glory) when it was released. From there I got into 'Britpop' (although if you were cool you never called it that) bands like Pulp, Cast, Supergrass, the Verve and Birmingham's Ocean Colour Scene. Along with Euro 96 a year later and then Blair's election there was a real pride and feeling in the country, 'cool Britannia' with Noel Gallagher's Union Jack Guitar and that Geri Halliwell dress! It all seemed to go down hill from there, Oasis released Be Here Now, which was a big disappointment for me, Beckham got sent off in 1998, returning my pessimism for the England national team and Tony Blair, well....what happened to him?
Stuart Roper, Birmingham

For me it was a decade of transition into adolescence and then maturity. Aged only nine at the beginning of the 90s and ending it at 19 proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride. It is the emergence of Brit pop/indie music which sticks in my mind with the likes of Blur, Pulp, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene hitting the big time. Mobile phones and the internet were just in their infancy...look at us now! :)
Angela Clark, Edinburgh

The explosion of Britpop, Blur vs Oasis, sitting with my cousin in a holiday park caravan in Cornwall, straining to hear the Top 10 on a small portable radio, hearing Blur get to number one with Country House!! Music for me never being the same again!
Emma, Basingstoke, Hampshire

The one thing I remember vividly was that the music was AWFUL until about 1996 then all of a sudden it was wicked...
Adam Smith, London

Born in 1979 I had never known any government other than Conservative. Now, in the middle of my 'A' levels and about to leave home, and at the first election that I was eligible to vote, everyone was predicting a Labour victory. Having never seen one, I couldn't believe it, and stayed up all night to watch the results come in. It was increasingly surreal, and to top it all off, as Tony Blair made his first speech as PM, a bright red dawn began to shine through the curtains. It felt very much like the beginning of a new age, for me and for the country.
Nathan Francis, Llantwit Major, Wales

The 90s were an amazing decade, I went to uni in Brighton in 94, a child of the grunge era. I had long hair and a "Smells like teen Spirit" attitude, sounds of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Veddar of Pearl Jam ringing in my ears. The Madchester scene was starting to fade but Britpop was emerging. We drank, we smoked weed and hardly ever went to lectures but we didn't hurt anyone, we just loved the music and rebelled in our own way, thinking we were different. I find myself telling my daughter that the 90s were the greatest years of my life, the best music, the best drugs and no worries. It was a changing time, there seemed like there was a new hope and that things were changing for the better. Although I am not sure if they have or not, we seem more concerned about everything these days, for me the 90s was a time when I didn't really care about anything and summers lasted forever, a good night was 1 a pint night in the Hungry Years in Brighton or getting stoned listening to The Levellers, Inspirals or Nirvana.
Gareth Wynn, Brighton

As a teenager though the 90s my main memories were the 'Lad' culture that developed out of Loaded magazine, FHM, Oasis, Blur and Cool Britannia. I remember the anticipation of a New Labour and the removal of the Conservatives, who'd become stagnated . Funny really the way we are today harks back to the 80s and early 90s of rising house prices, big City bonuses and another stagnant government. Just goes to show things never really change.
Michael Cocjksedge, Romford, Essex
A teenager of the 90s, I remember voting for the first time in the 1997 General Election (having turned 18 a few weeks previous) and feeling quite excited in taking part in the democratic process for the first time. Other things of the 90s- films like Trainspotting, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Titanic; the Britpop explosion with the fight for Number 1 between Oasis and Blur. There was an optimism, a sense of excitement that things were going to be different: after all, didn't they say 'Things Could Only Get Better'?
T, Cardiff, Wales

England fan at Euro 96
England came alive for Euro 96
I left school in '93 aged 16 and began going out, working, and gigging in my band. To me, a kid who always felt they belonged in the 60s (and had studied that decade closely) I saw many similarities between the two. The music scene of the mid-90s was truly exceptional and for a brief moment English music was everywhere. We also so, so nearly won Euro 96 - A time when the whole nation united. That was indeed a glorious summer! When I recall that 95-96 period, I can only remember late nights, my first decent car, girlfriends, mates' houses, crashing on sofas, fantastic music, gigging, recording demos and basically just having a total blast. Then Southgate went and missed that kick.....
Paul Conium, Exeter, Devon

Like many people the beginning of the 90s decade was pretty unremarkable if you happened not to be a yuppie on the tail end of the 80s corporate boom.
Richard Bevan in 1994
Like many students and people on low incomes there was little evidence of wealth trickling down to the less fortunate. Most of my friends including myself did not have our noses in the 'load of money' gravy train. But interestingly nearly everyone I know who had it tough in the 80s and through to the early 90s had seen their circumstances improve by the late 90s. For all its faults the latter part of the decade did reinvigorate many lives and offered opportunities and inspiration. Labour has to be given credit for this. Out of all those I knew who were on the dole in the 1980s, particularly in the North, they are now mostly house owners in work or with their own businesses.
Richard Bevan (right, in 1994), London

It's never darker than just before the dawn, they say. Well I remember watching the 1992 General Election results coming in and having a conversation with a friend about the need to take up armed struggle as the only way to get rid of the Tories! However, within months would come the humbling crash out of the ERM, the mine closure programme that amazingly (and briefly!) made a public hero of Arthur Scargill, and the election of Bill Clinton in America. It took five more years before the Major government was finally put out of its misery, but for me the 1990s will always be the beginning of the great times to come. Macmillan WAS right, but about 40 years too soon; you've never had it so good!
Andrew Whiteside, London

My memories of 1990s Britain are one of hope. Particularly in Scotland the grim Thatcher years ended and it was a new start with New Labour. To a certain extent this became true; we had devolution and Tony Blair certainly tried and to a certain extent succeeded in levelling the playing field between the haves and the have-nots. But as always we got tired and needed something new.
Lynda Wallace, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

Euro 96 will stick in the memory for me. I was only young at the time - certainly too young to remember football being associated with violence - and that tournament was the real curtain raiser to my addiction to the game. The country uniting in a true festival of sport (we had Bulgarians and Romanians up here in Newcastle), singing 'Three Lions' and all ending in the oh-so-customary tears. For a couple of glorious summer weeks, England was back in the footballing spotlight, and certainly made the most of it for all the right reasons.
Roger Payne, Newcastle, UK
I remember the Labour government storming to victory in 1997. As a 17-year-old at the time I had known only Tory rule. I distinctly remember feeling a sense of trepidation that my way of life might change irrevocably - that the gulf between Conservative and New Labour could be as large as that been Tsarist and Bolshevik Russia. No such excitement however. Once the wave of optimism had subsided we all realised we were in for more of the same rot. And yes, the interceding years have made me a lot more cynical!
Tom Sugden, Brighouse, West Yorkshire

I started the 1990s aged 20 as a 'raver' clubbing all weekend every weekend, the tail end of the clubbing generation - a fantastically free and easy time as a young adult. I was at college, had my own car, lived with my parents, had enough income to support my social life. By the end of 1990 I was pregnant. I decided to keep my baby (she has just left school)I left home, rented a house and brought my daughter up with the help of income support until 1997 when I went into work and bought my own house. My memories of the 90s are of creating a happy secure home for my daughter and I, of learning to prove that the stigma associated with single parenting can be overcome. It was an interesting decade, I grew and matured as a person, I think the country matured somewhat as well, from the money grabbing 80s.
Kath Rimmer, Billington, Clitheroe, UK

The 1990s started with a massive reaction against the excesses and hedonism of the 1980s. The early part of the decade was a reality check. Long hair came back in and guitar was preferred to synthesizer (arrival of grunge). With rising unemployment men started to feel insecure and were being encouraged to accentuate their feminine instincts (new man). As the economy recovered there was a renewed 1960s style working-class inspired optimism driven by the Cool Britannia movement (Oasis, Blur, Spice Girls + New Labour). New man was out and replaced by obnoxious loaded-man (Liam Gallagher etc). IT became cool - so much so that thousands of deluded investors lost millions as the dot com bubble finally burst at the end of the decade. This is my take on the 1990s.
Ibrahim, Bedford

It was a decade of optimism and hope - possibly partly due to me being in my 20s throughout. It was the new 60s - we adopted the flower power and permissiveness of that decade at the start of ours.
I believe the 90s will one day be viewed as important to British culture and the forging of the national identity as are the 60s
We grew our hair (in curtains) and danced in fields at illegal raves, bedecked in riotous colours while (unwisely, admittedly) taking buckets of mind-altering substances. We eschewed the greed of the 80s, and embraced the world. We began to take more notice of the environment, becoming more spiritual, embracing natural remedies and wearing crystals. Football violence disappeared and we loved each other.
Jeremy Austin
I even remember my girlfriend at the time noting that we made (slightly stoned) love not war on the night the first Gulf War started. It felt like we ruled the world again - the best bands, the most influential artists, world-challenging football teams - they were all British. We had taken that drive for success that fuelled the 80s and given it a social conscience. New Labour surfed on a wave of this optimism - they seemed young, open, full of hope like us and even hang out with the icons of our generation. It is that energy and optimism that has continued to power us into our 30s and through the noughties. I believe the 90s will one day be viewed as important to British culture and the forging of the national identity as are the 60s. Wonderful, wonderful times.
Jeremy, London, UK






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