Showing posts with label Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Corgis, snakes and ladders

It’s 20 years since I threw caution to the wind and swapped a steady (ish) job and salary for the precarious life of a freelance. But right at the start, I made a solemn promise – and it’s one I’ve never broken. I would not, I told myself, ever sneak out of my office to watch daytime TV. If I did it once, I knew I’d be doomed.

But daytime radio is a different matter – which is how I came to hear Jeremy Vine talking to Richard Bacon about his new book, It's All News to Me, on BBC Five Live yesterday.

I was glad I did because Vine (who’d just finished his lunchtime show on Radio 2) told Bacon of his firm belief that “there is still a place for the analogue newspaper.” He described how he'd spread that morning’s newspapers across the kitchen floor to show his eight-year-old daughter Martha their impressive coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. “It’s just not the same on a screen,” he told listeners.

I completely agree. The last year has been a shameful one for newspapers but their coverage of the four-day jubilee has shown them at their stupendous best. While the BBC was castigated for its inane reporting of the flotilla, newspapers rose to the challenge in admirable style. The pictures were stunning, the reporting extensive and knowledgeable and The Times cleverly hit on the idea of creating a new game called Corgis, Snakes and Ladders (above) to mark the event. I stuck it on the kitchen wall – with the result that my staunchly republican husband and son can now quote everything from the date the Queen’s first corgi, Susan, died (1959) to the year Prince Harry was born (1984).

PS. Never mind calling for Gary Barlow to be knighted, the people who should be honoured in double-quick time are the team who dreamed up the stunning montage beamed across Buckingham Palace on Monday night. As Madness belted out Our House from the roof (lead singer Suggs confessed later that he suffered from vertigo), the front of the palace was transformed into a row of terraced houses with a double-decker bus and taxi trundling past, a block of high-rise flats and much, much more. It was the best moment of the night.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Famous Five's Sapphire Jubilee

The Queen isn’t the only one celebrating a major anniversary this year. The Famous Five are too. Did you know that Enid Blyton’s classic stories of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and George’s mongrel Timmy have been entrancing generations of children for a magnificent 70 years?

I was one of them. I loved Enid Blyton books so much that every Saturday morning I’d spend the whole of my two shillings and sixpence a week pocket money on a new story. Some weeks I’d go for a Malory Towers or St Clare’s tale, but more often than not it would be the Famous Five.

The first story to be published was Five on a Treasure Island, which came out in 1942. It was one of my absolute favourites - so much so that I recently downloaded it as an audiobook to listen to in the car. And guess what? I was as captivated as ever. The story sounds ridiculously old-fashioned, with children who spend their days swimming at a Dorset cove, taking Timmy for long walks and solving the mystery of an ancient shipwreck, but it’s still completely gripping.

These days some critics knock Enid Blyton for her simplistic language, while others accuse her of being elitist, racist and sexist. I know prissy Anne and her fondness for party frocks and dolls are a bit hard to take but the best thing about Blyton was that she could spin a great yarn. The fact that her stories have sold a mega 600 million copies is proof of that.

What struck me as I listened to Five on a Treasure Island was the freedom children used to have. Julian, Dick, Anne and George are all aged between 11 and 13 but they leave the house after breakfast and don’t come back till tea-time. They’re allowed to row out to Kirrin Island by themselves and camp there alone for two whole days.    

To mark the 70th anniversary, Hodder Children's Books have reissued five Famous Five stories, complete with drawings by some of the best children’s illustrators around, like Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark. Not only that, from this month (June) you can download the Famous Five Adventure Trail, which takes you to some of the Dorset locations that feature in the Famous Five books. I’m half tempted to try it myself…

PS. Did you know that a 70th anniversary is a sapphire jubilee? No, me neither.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Giant image of the Queen beamed across Buckingham Palace

The best-read blog I’ve ever written was about Face Britain, a stunning initiative that challenged children and teenagers across the UK to help create a giant image of the Queen.

Well, I thought I’d better bring the story up to date. On Thursday night, the artworks – more than 200,000 photographs, paintings, 3D images, graphic designs, you name it – were put together and beamed right across the front of Buckingham Palace. They formed two pictures of the Queen and covered the whole of the front façade. How cool is that?

If you want to see the image for yourself, you can see it tonight (Saturday, April 21), but if you can’t nip along to Buckingham Palace, here it is in its full glory.

Face Britain was launched by The Prince’s Foundation for Children & The Arts, an educational charity established by Prince Charles. The aim of the project was to celebrate the achievements of children and young people in the lead-up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Oh, and in the process the organisers are hoping that the giant portrait will set a new world record for “the most artists working on the same art installation.”

Later on, the self portraits are going to be stored “in perpetuity for the nation” by the British Library. But as well as the children’s artwork, loads of well-known names (including Adele, Michael Morpurgo, Jamie Oliver and Fearne Cotton) have donated their own self portraits and these will be auctioned on eBay from May 3 in support of the work of The Prince’s Foundation for Children & The Arts.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

My favourite Emma Bridgewater mug

My son gazed at the kitchen shelves, silently counting the rows and rows of colourful mugs. “Do you know?” he said finally. “We could invite 100 people to tea and not have to borrow any cups.”

Most of the cups he’s talking about are from Emma Bridgewater, the eponymous potter whose china adorns kitchens the length and breadth of  the country. Manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent and sold all over the world, Emma’s china is decorated with everything from those famous multi-coloured spots to flowers, birds and Union Jacks. My own favourite, produced in the nineties, is a mug printed with purple houses, keys, hearts and stars (below). It’s been used so much that it’s got a hairline crack down the side but I can’t bear to throw it away. I’m so addicted that I can’t walk past the Bridgewater shop in Marylebone High Street, currently decked out in patriotic red, white and blue designs to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, without buying something.

I first interviewed Emma and her husband Matthew Rice back in the early days, when they lived in a house on the Fulham Road crammed with old china, architectural drawings and assorted animals – both live and stuffed. 

It’s a huge success story, which started in 1985 when Emma was looking for a cup and saucer as a birthday present for her mother but couldn’t find anything she liked. Even though she didn’t have any formal art training, she hit on the idea of producing her own designs.

“I knew before I started my business that it was going to take off,” Emma told me all those years ago. “If you’re going to do something successfully, you have to believe in it 100 per cent. It’s never an accident. You’ve got to wake up every morning with a powerful conviction of what’s going to happen today, what it is you’re trying to achieve.

“Mind you,” she added, “there were days when I got up with no conviction at all and went straight back to bed with a novel.”

Monday, 2 January 2012

Children's self portraits for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

It’s amazing to think that the Queen is celebrating 60 years on the throne. The year's celebrations will range from a Diamond Jubilee Pageant in the grounds of Windsor Castle in May to a magnificent flotilla of 1,000 boats sailing along the River Thames in June.

But I reckon one of the most imaginative and creative tributes of all is Face Britain. An initiative launched by the Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts, it's set to be the UK’s largest ever mass collaborative art project.

Open to children aged four to 16, Face Britain is challenging youngsters across the UK to create their own self portraits. The artwork - from photographs and paintings to 3D images and graphics - will then be combined to create a massive montage of the Queen and the result will be projected on to the front of Buckingham Palace in April.

As well as providing a spectacular snapshot of how the nation’s children see themselves it’s hoped that the portrait will set a new Guinness World Record for the artwork with the greatest number of individual contributing artists.

It all sounds huge fun and thousands of Face Britain registration packs have been sent to schools and youth clubs in the UK, with a letter about the project from former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo.

Best of all, Face Britain isn’t a competition so any child can take part, whatever their level of skill and whatever medium they use. Children must photograph their finished work and then upload it to the Face Britain website before March 31.

PS. At 17 my son’s too old to join in (shame) but the picture above is a self portrait he painted in his primary school days. I liked it so much that I kept it.
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