Celebrating the arts during the Platinum Jubilee
Alaïa Lafleur discusses the importance of the arts in the context of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was overflowing with activity, notably the Jubilee Pageant on Sunday 5 June. This saw over 10,000 participants in a procession of music, costumes, puppets and dancing. It is no exaggeration to say that the arts performed a major role throughout the celebrations. Despite panic inducing scenes of post-covid crowds lining the streets, let us take a moment to appreciate the outpour of celebratory art in her majesty’s honour.
Museums and galleries procured special exhibitions, from portraits to memorabilia. Bakeries celebrated with mouthwatering limited edition decorated pastries. Cinema also saw a great contribution with the clip of the Queen starring alongside Paddington Bear. This resulted in artist Eleanor Tomlinson feeling “overwhelmed” at the number of requests for her watercolour print of the monarch hand in hand with one of Britain’s favourite bears . Even the Sex Pistols have reissued their iconic record “God Save the Queen”, originally released during the Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee. Despite the controversy which unravelled at the apparently treasonous rhyming of “queen” with “fascist regime”, front man John Lydon seems to have mellowed any anarchistic attitudes, admitting in a TalkTV interview with Piers Morgan; “I’m actually really, really proud of the Queen for surviving and doing so well. I applaud her for that and that’s a fantastic achievement. I’m not a curmudgeon about that”.
Museums and galleries procured special exhibitions, from portraits to memorabilia. Bakeries celebrated with mouthwatering limited edition decorated pastries
The second of June was also a significant date. It marked the lighting of the Jubilee beacons at Windsor Castle. A touch of the globe ignited a trail of lights to Buckingham Palace, illuminating the ‘Tree of Trees‘, a sculpture turned beacon designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Its steel frames held 350 saplings that were later distributed across community groups. This portrays how art can be used in the fight against climate change. The initiative is a reflection of the ‘Queen’s canopy’ calling for the public to “Plant a tree for the Jubilee”.
There has, however, been some criticism. Many of the sculpture’s sponsors, such as McDonalds and Coutts Bank, were accused of contributing to deforestation. Louisa Casson from Greenpeace expressed her disappointment: “Sadly, the number of trees that this scheme might help to plant is a tiny fraction of the number the scheme’s corporate sponsors have helped destroy”. “Ecological” art is sadly prone to stumbling once scrutiny goes beyond the superficial. It is, in my opinion, a good case study in the politics of art and its role in enhancing public image. This is exemplified not just in that of these sponsors, but of the crown itself. While the creative projects of the Jubilee are lively and can be unifying, they are rarely just “good old fun.”
Another key moment was the Platinum Party organised by the BBC on Saturday 4 June. This saw countless artists from Alicia Keys to Andrea Bocelli join in the open-air concert. A marvellous display of talent accompanied by magnificent light displays outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. Andrew Lloyd Webber also presented a lookback at 70 years of musicals. This included excerpts from old favourites like Phantom of the Opera, to newer hits like Six by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Joseph’s dream coat was perhaps the brightest star of the show. It billowed behind Jason Donovan with all the glory of an enormous pride flag.
Joseph’s dream coat was perhaps the brightest star of the show. It billowed behind Jason Donovan with all the glory of an enormous pride flag
Nevertheless, the Jubilee Pageant was perhaps the most ambitious creative display with hordes of fun-filled, and at times, surreal creations. “The Queen’s Favourites” were a definite stand-out. Featuring a series of costumes and puppets, from swans and boats to horses and corgis on wheels. Coventry-based company Imagineer created the puppets, famed for their enormous creations. The huge puppet of Lady Godiva from the 2012 Olympics returned, once again dressed in an actual gown. Indeed, the appearance of the corgis was sure to placate even the strongest anti-monarchists and republicans. The pack of 20 were fearlessly led by a model bearing a likeness to Susan, the Queen’s very first corgi. With tongues out and tails wagging, the handlers used the stick-like leads to steer them down the street.
At the pageant’s grand finale, over 200 dancers performed a multi-coloured Bollywood-themed wedding party. This included a 20 foot cake taking the spotlight in honour of the Queen’s 1947 wedding. The dancers were of diverse ages and backgrounds. Art Director, Simmy Gupta, told NDTV that performers were “everyday people” who weren’t previously encouraged to perform.
The pageant, and indeed the entire Jubilee, was a key opportunity for artists to showcase their work. Let us hope that this will help everyone grow to appreciate the importance of the arts in modern society.