Plans for Platinum Jubilee revealed: 500 horses, 1,000 dancers, and hopefully no 'Biblical rain'

·4-min read
Queen Elizabeth visits the set of the long running television series Coronation Street, in Manchester - Scott Heppell/AP Photo
Queen Elizabeth visits the set of the long running television series Coronation Street, in Manchester - Scott Heppell/AP Photo

When it comes to pomp and ceremony, the Royal family famously love nothing more than when things go ever so slightly wrong.

And when it comes to next year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, it seems, there could be plenty of opportunities to look forward to.

A meticulously-planned four-day celebration of the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, held in May in the grounds of Windsor Castle, will see more than 500 horses, 1,000 dancers and musicians, and an A-List cast of actors take a “gallop through history” from Elizabeth I to the second great Elizabethan Age.

With representations from around the world, it is designed to honour the Queen and lift the nation’s spirits after the troubles of coronavirus.

At a launch at Buckingham Palace’s Royal Mews on Tuesday, Simon Brooks-Ward, the event’s producer and director, shared plans for the event, as well as his light-hearted memories of previous celebrations including the Diamond Jubilee and Queen’s 90th birthday.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York - Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York - Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

'Biblical rain'

“Over nearly 20 years, we’ve seen some sights at Windsor,” he said. “They don’t always go right.”

In 2002, he said, the Earl and Countess of Wessex were at risk of a soaking as the canopy they were sitting under filled with torrential rain, rescued only by quick-thinking crew members who used a vacuum pipe from the outdoor lavatories.

Relaying the “Biblical rain” that had beset the outdoor event risking “complete disaster”, he said: “Unfortunately they were sitting under a clear perspex canopy, and we were sitting above them in our control box.

Simon Brooks-Ward - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Simon Brooks-Ward - Yui Mok/PA Wire

“And as the performance went on, what was a trickle ended up...more like a swimming pool on top and I could see the whole deluge going straight over the Royal Box.

“So our operations team, in their shorts and t-shirts, came up with the answer and suddenly over our desks was what can only be described as the poo and pee sucker from the outside loos.

“It made its way down on top of the perspex canopy to suck out the water, completed after about 15 minutes of gurgling and pungent smells by a large thwack as the canopy tried to disappear up the sucker machine.”

A band with no instruments

On another occasion, a Polynesian army band turned up to Windsor without their instruments, having them confiscated at airport customs after stuffing them with fruits from home.

“We got them back, but it took a week,” he said. “The first time we saw them live was the first night of the event."

Members of the Household Cavalry in the courtyard of the Royal Mews - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Members of the Household Cavalry in the courtyard of the Royal Mews - Yui Mok/PA Wire

In a third comic moment, a vaulting athlete who “landed with a splat” mid-performance and was rushed to the medical centre heavily winded caused deep concern among the audience.

“Members of the public came in and said ‘you’re pulling the wool over our eyes, that man was dead’,” Mr Brooks-Ward said.

“We had to tell the public that were very concerned about this man, that in fact this man, after about 30 seconds of being in the medical centre, while the performance was still happening, was found in the concessionary unit helping himself to a double [Big] Mac and chips”.

He added: “We’ve seen it all. We’ve had some fun over the years.”

Dame Helen Mirren and Stephen Fry

The 2022 celebration, he said, will be “very theatrical”, with respectfully “joyful, humorous, fun” elements alongside the reverential.

An acting troupe of “Queen’s Players” will appear, in a nod to Shakespeare, along with the Household Cavalry and King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, and “box office artists”.

Dame Helen Mirren and Stephen Fry have already helped to launch the event, which will raise money for charities including those supporting the NHS and key workers.

The Queen is being kept informed by organisers of their plans, and her ponies and horses are expected to feature in the event, along with members of the Royal family.

'Big Bollywood number'

Designed to reflect the “UK, the Union and the diversity within it” the event will feature performers from Oman, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, France, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Caribbean and India with a “big Bollywood number” as well as an “abundance of bunting”.

Sir Mike Rake, the chairman of the Platinum Jubilee's advisory board, said at the launch event: "After 70 years on the throne and particularly poignantly after the dark and troubling times in the last 18 months, Her Majesty's leadership, steadiness and unwavering devotion during her reign deserve recognition and celebration."

He added: "In 2022, Her Majesty the Queen will have guided the nation through several decades of change, growth and advancement, like none before them, in times of triumph and also in times of trouble.

"In an age of advancement and adversary, the Queen has remained a constant, committed and courageous presence, therefore we have worthwhile and timely celebration."

Tickets will be on sale from Wednesday from £55.

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