President of the English village festival committee of Bidford-on-Avon, Suze Meredith almost loses sleep as the celebrations of the 70 years of reign of Elizabeth II approach.
“For three months, it’s been full time,” she told AFP.
This morning, the firefighters came with their large ladder to hang garlands of tricolor pennants in the main street. In a few hours, it’s the dress rehearsal of a group of traditional dances.
Everything must be perfect for this great bank holiday weekend from June 2 to 5, which will celebrate throughout the United Kingdom and sometimes beyond, the 70 years of reign (platinum jubilee) of a still extremely popular 96-year-old sovereign.
The Jubilee Festival Committee of Bidford, a pretty village with a 15th century stone bridge, was created last summer.
Its program for the four days of the Jubilee is impressive: garden and costume competitions for children, torch race, cricket, tennis, football and bowling for all, special concert by the local choir, exhibitions, conferences…
The village of 6,000 people, located 180 km northwest of London, also has its cake competition, and a Jubilee garden has been created, where several time capsules are to be buried, including one for 50 years, telling life in 2022.
The celebrations will end there on Sunday with a big party with orchestra, dancers, children’s games and festive catering.
In the streets of the neighboring village of Alcester, the streets are also decked out with tricolor pennants and large portraits of the Queen against a background of British flags.
The windows of the charity shops – which resell donations for good causes – are a succession of tributes to Elizabeth II, with cups and old tableware bearing her effigy, books, photos, teaspoons from a princely wedding in 1981, and even two little porcelain corgis (Elizabeth II’s favorite dogs).
“A lot of people think we shouldn’t have a monarchy anymore, but we grew up with it, it’s part of our tradition, our identity, our culture,” says Tabitha Gibson, mother of two young boys.
She tells how her grandmother listened to the Queen’s Christmas speech every year and felt very close to it. “She’s the figurehead of the country, and she’s also the head of the Church, that’s important,” she said.
“She is a remarkable woman, a major asset for the country”, also believes Philomena Hodgetts, 73, hailing an “imperturbable” monarch no matter what. “He’s someone you can look up to.”
– Touched memories –
In the fever of the preparations for the jubilee, emotional memories resurface.
Phyllis Losh, whose son was a soldier during the Gulf War, says she was invited to meet the monarch on a military base.
“I’m small, she was the same height as me. And she has beautiful blue eyes,” she says, before recounting, laughing, how she had to “curtsy that day, with a cup of tea and her saucer” in her hand, in addition to her handbag.
“She’s an absolutely wonderful woman,” she adds, “she does everything with so much dignity.”
Steve Jackson, a retiree who prepared the Jubilee concert with some sixty singers, also underlines the evolution of the monarchy during his reign.
“Before we didn’t see them much, they lived very privately at Buckingham Palace. Now they are much more open,” he said, referring to Prince Charles, 73, heir to the throne, but especially his son. William, 39, second in line.
No one believes that the Queen, who has much fewer appearances due to mobility issues, can abdicate or that the throne can pass directly to her grandson William.
“I don’t think she will abdicate. She sees it as her duty”, explains Steve Jackson. “And Charles will follow, because it’s tradition.”