Even in a normal year, this would be a busy time for the Queen: the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, Garter Day and Royal Ascot fill her diary every May and June. But this year (and you’d have to be living in a cave not to know this already) is far from normal. It is Diamond Jubilee year, and in the weeks leading up to the Jubilee celebrations at the start of June, the Queen has been travelling around the country. By the end of the summer only the Olympic Torch will have reached more corners of the British Isles than she has.
With such a demanding schedule it’s important to get enough rest. So I hope she isn’t being woken up these mornings by the workmen right outside her bedroom window. And when she opens the curtains to see where the noise is coming from, this is what she sees:
It’s a 20,000-seat stadium erected for the Diamond Jubilee Concert on the 4th June. Free tickets have been allocated by ballot and the performers cover several generations, from tweeny X-factor finalists JLS to alleged Prince Philip favourite, veteran Welsh chanteuse Shirley Bassey. Four singing knights will revisit the Palace: Sirs Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney and Elton John.
But in her 60 years on the throne, Her Majesty has seen most things, including concerts in her front garden. It will take something spectacular to beat the highlight of the Golden Jubilee Concert ten years ago: Brian May of Queen, with his Restoration courtier’s hairstyle, standing on the roof of Buckingham Palace playing the national anthem on his Red Special.
See a full list of performers here. They represent an enormous range of ages and styles and it’s fun to speculate which member of the Royal Family requested which act. And why…
A sports event in which none of the supremely fit competitors is paid, despite attracting 250,000 spectators and a television audience of millions, is unusual in itself. But the University Boat Race has a significance which goes beyond its 180-year history.
For the British, particularly those interested in sport, it heralds the start of springtime, and with it a domestic season whose highlights are welcomed for their familiarity: the Grand National, Royal Ascot, the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon, the Open Golf Championships. This year will, of course, be dominated by the foreign intrusion of the Olympic Games, but soon things will settle back into comforting domesticity.
The start, it has to be said, has been ominous. Instead of the usual intense but well mannered contest between Oxford and Cambridge’s finest rowers, we had something of a fiasco. A few minutes into the 20-minute event, the race was stopped to avoid serious injury to a swimmer who suddenly appeared in the river between the two boats. After the re-start, the boats got too close together, oars clashed violently, and an Oxford crew member was left “rowing” with splintered pole for the remainder of the race, which Cambridge won easily. To finish things off, the Oxford bow man passed out shortly after the finish and was taken to hospital. Cambridge’s 81st victory (to Oxford’s 76) proved a hollow one.
Picking through the entrails, the doom merchants quickly shifted up a gear, predicting all kinds of calamities for the summer. There is, however, little similarity between the Boat Race and the $14 Billion rocket-fuelled global mega-blast that is the Olympic Games. One key difference being that the Boat Race is still, wonderfully, an event for amateurs. Keep calm and carry on.
Ask anyone under 25 to list five things they associate with Great Britain and a sizable majority will say “Harry Potter”. At $7.7 billion, the eight films are the highest grossing series of all time. The books and movies have enchanted a generation of fans, all of whom are eager to see any sights associated with the books and movies.
Fortunately there are many places in the country immediately recognizable as Harry Potter film locations. London and Oxford between them can offer more than enough to fill a day. And now there is a powerful new attraction in the Potter universe.
On March 31st, Warner Brothers will unveil “Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter”. Based at their studios in Leavesden, where all eight films were actually made, it is a huge collection of authentic sets, costumes, models and props which will have Potter devotees captivated. Walk through Dumbledore’s office, the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room, the Weasley kitchen and more. Green Screen technology will allow you to compete in a game of Quidditch, after which you can quench your thirst with a tankard of Butterbeer.
What strikes you most about Studio Tour London is just how much effort has gone into creating this world of wizardry and magic. Every last detail, from the triple-decker Knight Bus to Dumbledore’s Deluminator, is vividly realised and presented. You begin to understand just how much talent and work is required for even a few seconds of film.
As studio attractions go, this is one of the best I’ve seen. Don’t expect a theme park full of white-knuckle rides and simulators. Warner Bros: Studio Tour London is aimed at the real Potter connoisseur and it is true to the world created by the books and the movies. It is not cheap: at £28 for an adult it ranks with Madame Tussauds on price. But it far exceeds Tussauds in quality.
Please note that you cannot buy tickets at the entrance. All visits must be pre-booked and you should allow three hours for a full tour. Be sure to visit www.wbstudiotour.co.uk before you do anything. After that, just enjoy!
Posted in Arts, Entertainment, How British!, Popular culture
Tagged film, Harry Potter, Hermione, Hogwarts, magic, Voldemort, Weazley, wizardry
Horseracing is the Sport of Kings, and Ascot its most exclusive venue in Great Britain. Its June meeting, known as “Royal Ascot”, boasts the classiest field in European flat racing and attracts 300,000 spectators, among them the Queen, who attends every day of the 5-day event. Royal Ascot is perhaps best known for its dress code: morning suits and top hats for men, hats and dresses of specific design (and coverage) for ladies.
With racing generally trying to attract a larger audience, you might think that changing the dress code would help. Last week, Ascot changed it: they made it even stricter! In response, they say, to “customer feedback”, they now insist that at all meetings (not just Royal Ascot), in the Premier Enclosure men must wear neckties, and ladies dresses of minimum length and with covered shoulders. Incidentally, to enter the Premier Enclosure, and thus submit to the newly strengthened regulations, is a privilege costing an extra £28!
Lest they spring this change of policy on their exclusive clientele too suddenly, the Ascot authorities decided not to enforce it at last weekend’s meeting. Instead, guests whose dress would fail the new code were stopped on the way in, admonished for their failures, and asked to improve their appearance before their next visit.
But here’s the best part. So that they didn’t get pestered repeatedly all day by over-zealous members of the dress police, every defaulter was obliged to wear a large orange sticker to indicate that they had already had their sartorial inadequacies pointed out to them. A badge of shame in the most select enclosure of the most exclusive racecourse in the country! And these were the upper crust of those who attend Ascot in January: the core enthusiasts rather than the once-a-year party-goers who show up in their questionable finery every June (at whom the new rules are principally aimed).
However there is a happy ending. To their credit, the Ascot authorities realised their mistake, issued a fulsome apology and refunded the Premier Enclosure entrance fee to all those singled out for the Orange Spot of Shame.