DCMS blog

Something we’re rather good at

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John Penrose

John David Penrose is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Weston-super-Mare

So, how was that then? Rather good I thought. The weather could have been a bit brighter but, heavens above, no one who was there – whether at one of the big events or their own local street party – will ever forget it.

Madness rolling back the years on the roof of Buckingham Palace; a thousand boats struggling through the wind and sleet while a life-size puppet horse reared up on the roof of the National Theatre; the grinding sound of a Lancaster bomber as it emerged from the clouds coming down the Mall; and more communal cupcakes, Cava and crisps than have ever been gathered together in one country-wide celebration.

Pointing in the same direction

A sea of red, white and blue Union Flags line the bank at Battersea Park during the Queens Diamond Jubilee River PageantSomething for everyone, I think: even those who like nothing better than a good old moan.
As it happens, the DCMS was largely responsible for organising the ceremonial parade on Jubilee Tuesday. Not single-handedly, of course, but generally keeping all the agencies, ministries and public services pointing in the same direction, and doing what was needed to help it run along with all the outward appearance of something that had nothing whatsoever to do with the government*.

Damp but happy

And the civil servants in my department who had to work on the day report that the atmosphere in front of the Palace when Her Majesty the Queen came out onto the balcony, just as the rain set in and a quarter of a million damp–but-happy souls roared their approval, was pretty much as good as it gets.

News from New York . . .

Not that we in the UK were the only ones enjoying the Jubilee. I enjoyed reading a ‘Diplomatic Telegram’ from our Man in New York recently. A few days before the Jubilee weekend, he and his team organised an event for New Yorkers (not necessarily the easiest crowd to get on your side – the adjective ‘hard-boiled’ being one they revel in) which seems to have been a triumph of creative thinking and simple hard work.
As I understand it, they invited New Yorkers to celebrate the Jubilee by taking part in a six kilometre run (one for each decade of her reign – geddit?) which they had organised in Central Park. A thousand or so people took part in it with a Beatles tribute band** providing music and Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall firing the starting gun.

Queuing is GREAT

The whole thing was GREAT themed, with a ‘Queuing is GREAT’ poster in the registration area creating a surreal, albeit wonderfully British, backdrop for many competitors’ photos.
Bowler hats, fancy dress, Morgan Cars (who provided a three-wheel pace car), Play Rugby USA (who successfully promote the game to underprivileged communities in the States), British round-the-world sailors and general good humour helped to showcase our campaign messages and did so with humour and understatement. They also raised a bundle for charity*** and, along the way, swept up a huge amount of positive publicity for the UK on TV and in the newspapers.

. . . and News from New Delhi

No Beatles tribute band promoting Britain in India as far as I can see, though. But a Diplomatic Telegram from our Man in New Delhi reports that local media have gone for the Jubilee in a big way. The Indian market is a tough one to crack. As with many really large countries, India has a news focus that is mainly directed towards domestic issues. But they do, I understand, enjoy our pageantry and spectacle. And that, let’s face it, is something we do better than most.
And it’s extremely helpful from our point of view that Indian reporters and broadcasters have had plenty of opportunities to make connections for the audience back home in their coverage, by drawing on the enormous influence that the sub-continent exerts on our daily life here.

Proud and confident

Street parties in Asian communities, Indian musicians in the river pageant and Indian dignitaries all prominently positioned to portray us to this important market as a modern country proud of its past and confident of its future. We’re setting the bar high for the Olympics in seven weeks’ time, but that’s just where it should be.
*A DCMS veteran who worked on the arrangements for the Golden Jubilee, ten years ago, tells me that one of the true marks of success on that occasion was hearing a senior grandee from the House of Lords remark that it had been ‘a huge success – and thank goodness that the ruddy DCMS had nothing to do with organising it.’
** As remarked last time, Beatles tribute bands clearly go down a storm when it comes to promoting the UK overseas. If you’re any good at it, I suspect there’s a reasonable living to be had from having a bash. Next year sees the 50th anniversary of the group’s first UK No. 1, so expect even more then.
*** The whole thing was a fundraiser for two charities: the St. George’s Society, which supports British and Commonwealth people in need, and Disabled Sports USA.

Photo credit: Sgt Steven Hughes RLC © MOD / Crown Copyright

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