Introduction: ‘Merrie England’, cultural memory and the writing of English musical history
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In January 1993, Founders’ Day at Bournemouth School for Girls was marked by the performance – by all 800 girls and accompanied by a band of wandering instrumentalists – of the medieval English song ‘Sumer is icumen in’, filling the Bournemouth Winter Gardens with sounds of the distant past. It was a performance that, shunning authenticity, evoked the Merrie England familiar to the pupils, such as me, who had watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) – a Hollywood blockbuster and medieval fantasy whose commercial success was based on a combination of lead actor Kevin Costner’s appeal and Bryan Adams’s ubiquitous ballad ‘(Everything I do) I do it for you’.