The founder of an LGBT choir network said it is a “wonderful privilege” to have been invited to the Queen’s state funeral – as he hailed her ability to “bring diverse groups of people together”.
Dr Hsien Chew, who was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June, is among nearly 200 people from the list who have been invited to the funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday, which a total of 2,000 people including world leaders and foreign royals will attend.
The 49-year-old, who founded Proud Voices, a network of choirs in the UK and Ireland, was honoured for voluntary and charitable services to the LGBTQ+ community but has yet to attend an investiture ceremony to receive his MBE.
Dr Hsien, from Westminster, central London, said he was “taken aback” to receive the call from a Cabinet Office official to invite him to the funeral, but added: “Obviously it’s an incredible privilege and I am really flattered to be a part of this and to be able to experience what is a really unique period in history.
“This is one of those moments in time which you know you are going to remember forever and often you have to think back to other important moments that took place in Westminster Abbey and where you were at the time when that happened, and most of these I’ve only ever watched on TV or heard described whereas I am actually going to be there for the first time, which I think is a wonderful privilege.”
He said he has visited The Mall and Green Park in recent days, where thousands of people have been paying their respects to the Queen, and has been struck by just how diverse the legions of mourners are.
He added: “The thing about the Queen is that she has been so much a part of people’s lives for such a long time that you’re not always conscious that she is there, it’s almost like she’s part of the furniture.
“She’s that thread that has wound its way through your life and sometimes it’s more visible and sometimes it’s not so visible but then everyone in the UK has had that thread passing through them as well.
“And so when that thread goes I think it is very noticeable for everyone and that sense of loss is accompanied by a desire for connection and going down to Green Park and seeing all the tributes has been very moving because of that.
“As someone who works in diversity and representation, I think what’s most striking to me is there’s a huge diversity of people down there, down on The Mall and down on Green Park.
“She touched a wide swathe of humanity, a wide swathe of people who live in the UK, and there’s a diversity of ages and ethnicities.
“I think that really speaks to the universality of the Queen when it comes to that level of connection.
“It’s very rare to find anyone, especially in the UK, who can bring such diverse groups of people together and I think that’s very admirable.”