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Is it time for us to design a new Isle of Wight flag?

Left, John Graney, Isle of Wight Flag design winner 2009, and right, some of other shortlisted entries. <i>(Image: IWCP)</i>
Left, John Graney, Isle of Wight Flag design winner 2009, and right, some of other shortlisted entries. (Image: IWCP)

I’ll start with a spoiler - no, it is not time for a new Isle of Wight flag. But I wish it was and I’ll tell you why.

Prior to 2009, there was no official Isle of Wight flag. For ceremonial purposes the Isle of Wight County Council’s old flag was often used - even after that body ceased to exist.

But people who like flags are sticklers for procedure, and using the flag of a defunct local authority was apparently not good enough for some of us.

That brings us to 2007, when an Isle of Wight Flag committee was formed, perhaps inspired by the success of the striking green, black and white Devon flag.

Isle of Wight County Press: The four shortlisted designs in the 2009 Isle of Wight Flag competition.
Isle of Wight County Press: The four shortlisted designs in the 2009 Isle of Wight Flag competition.

The four shortlisted designs in the 2009 Isle of Wight Flag competition. (Image: Contributed)

This West Country design is not an ancient emblem. It is in fact tourist-friendly branding that launched in 2003.

Just the sort of thing the Isle of Wight might emulate. So in 2009, with the support of the Isle of Wight County Press and the Isle of Wight Council, the committee announced a competition. Public submissions were invited for a new flag to represent the county of the Isle of Wight. 350 entries were received.

It says something for the collective skills of us Island folk that the four shortlisted entries proved to be unanimously dull.

Goodness knows what the other 346 must have been like, because to my eyes, the four that went to the public vote were uncomfortably literal and over-complicated.

All included the diamond shape of the Isle of Wight, two even had the Medina ‘notch’ and one showed the mainland and The Solent in a kind of stylised map.

In the end, the least dismal of the four was selected by a public vote, and we officially adopted the insipid blue and white design that now adorns public buildings and sandcastles alike.

A flag should be striking and simple - like the flag of Devon or, even better, the blunt black-and-white cross of Cornwall.

Good flags engender sentiment, a sense of identity and maybe even loyalty and passion. Ours does none of these.

I cannot ever imagine myself taking up arms and following the High Sheriff to battle under the banner memorably described by Paul Sturgess as “a fillet of plaice out of water”.

Admittedly, it would probably take more than an inspiring flag to achieve that, but you’ll appreciate the sentiment.

I would love to go back in time and campaign more vigorously for a more exciting, dynamic, flag. But I didn’t at the time, and I had my chance.

So in all honesty, I’ve got to put this one in the same category as Boaty McBoatface, Brexit, and the Azerbaijani victory in Eurovision 2011.

Sometimes if you’re rash enough to ask for public votes on an issue, you’ve just got to smile and take the pain afterwards.

We chose this flag, so I shall put up with it and do something quite atypical for our Island: stop moaning.