In 2012, Queen Elizabeth celebrates her Diamond Jubilee - an occasion marking her sixty years on the English Throne. No other monarch, except Queen Victoria, has ever enjoyed such a long period of service and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations are set to a massive festival of all things British.
Diamond Jubilee Weekend
Though there are Diamond Jubilee events and royal visits around the country throughout 2012, the centerpiece of the party is Diamond Jubilee Weekend, June 2 to June 5. An extra bank holiday has been declared and the second May Bank Holiday has been delayed a week in order to create a four day public holiday.
On Saturday, June 2, the Queen will attend the Epsom Derby, a somewhat low-key start. But after that, it's a people's party all the way - and it's set to be a big one. Here's what to expect:
- Sunday June 3
- The Big Jubilee Lunch - People are being encouraged to join their neighbours in traditional street parties, picnics and smaller groups. It's part of an initiative by The Eden Project to involve people all over the country in the party spirit. Find out more about The Big Jubilee Lunch.
- The Thames Jubilee Pageant From high tide on Sunday afternoon, Londoners, visitors and an audience of hundreds of millions from around the world will see a rather special flotilla of 1,000 boats on the Thames between Putney Bridge and Tower Bridge. More details about this below.
- Diamond Jubilee Festival Battersea Park The park, on the south side of the Thames, opposite Chelsea Embankment, will be turned into a destination for Jubilee Pageant goers from mid-day, before the Pageant arrives, until 7p.m. It will provide an excellent place for viewing the river pageant and lots more. More details about this below as well.
- Monday, June 4
- BBC Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace The concert in the Queen's garden, behind the palace, is being organized by the BBC and will feature British and Commonwealth musicians. Tickets will be for UK residents, by public ballot, with details to come. (Watch this space. I'll update with details as they are available.)
- The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Beacons - A network of 2,012 beacons will be lit all over the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth. As in 2002, when she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, the Queen will light the national beacon. Find out more about the Diamond Jubilee Beacons.
- Tuesday, June 5 The festivities will finish with a service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral and a carriage procession by the Queen.
The Thames Jubilee Pageant
Imagine a flotilla of boats seven miles long that will take 90 minutes to pass any given viewing point on the river. The Thames Jubilee Pageant is set to be the largest public event ever held in Britain. It's organizers were inspired by Canaletto's paintings of the river, crowded with boats, during a royal celebration in the 17th century.
But this won't be a 17th century event. It will be a reflection of the six decades of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Boats will be divided into ten sections, separated and announced by music herald barges. New work has been commissioned for the barges and includes a song with lyrics by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, music inspired by Handel's Water Music and composed by ten British film composers and a final music herald barge carrying The London Philharmonic Orchestra, playing works by British composers.
Between the barges, the flotilla's sections will include:
- Rowing boats - led by Gloriana, a handbuilt,88-foot gilded rowbarge being built for the occasion. British six-time Olympic Medallist, Sir Steve Redgrave, will be among the rowers. Among the other rowed and paddled vessels, Watermen's cutters, kayaks and dragon boats, British adventurer and television personality Ben Fogel will row the boat in which he crossed the Atlantic.
- Boats with flags of the Commonwealth nations, "Realms, Territories and Dependencies"
- The Royal Section - the Queen will travel on a specially decorated Royal barge and followed by a guard of honor.
- Next come the Dunkirk Little Ships
- Then, historic vessels
- Working boats, including steamboats, tugs and fireboats will follow
- Leisure boats and yachts to have applied to be among the 1,000 are in the seventh section
- Section eight will be narrowboats and Dutch barges
- Finally, in the last two sections will be excursion boats carrying members of the public.
In all about 30,000 people are expected to partipate on the river with at least a million lining the riverbanks.
The Diamond Jubilee Festival, Battersea ParkSome of the spectators will be watching from the pay long party in Battersea Park. For the event, the park will be divided into zones, each reflecting a period of the Queen's reign. These will include:
- a 1952 bandstand tea dance with live music, bars and food reflecting the Coronation year.
- a main stage with live music and artists from all six decades
- a tea-garden including an attempt to make the world's tallest cake, a portrait of the Queen in cakes (one for each week of her reign and cakes from members of the public.
- vintage hair and make-up area with a best dressed catwalks
- a performance art alternative take on a traditional village fete.
- a themed festival market with traditional British and Commonweath food and drink