Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jubilee: from royal barge to little ships, it's the taking part that counts

Barges arrive at South Quay, London, where many of the boats taking part in the diamond jubilee pageant are moored. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images (click on the photo for a graphic depicting the pageant route)
Joseph Bennett, the designer of the royal barge, was casting a positive aesthetic spin on the grey skies, light drizzle and gathering winds on the Thames on Saturday morning.
"Maybe we will have that classic drab 1930s look to the day tomorrow, very regal," he suggested brightly. Even so, when we spoke he had just been out to his car to get a few last-minute tubes of silicone mastic, to make sure his refitted royal vessel was properly watertight.
"We really want to avoid drips," he said, of the barge, which he hopes will have the feel of a "floating palace balcony, quite informal".
While earlier in the week Bennett's chief anxiety looked likely to be protecting the head of the head of state from too much sun, now the priority was keeping Her Majesty dry. Canaletto's sparkling Venetian canalscapes had been one inspiration for his design, but looking at the weather forecast Turner might appear a more useful artistic guide. "We are prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best," he said. "Whatever, though, it will be great fun."
Down at St Katharine Docks it was impossible to dispute that prediction. It was the inspired idea of royal pageant master Adrian Evans, enthusiastically endorsed by the mayor and the palace, to add water to today's proceedings, and as any student of Jeux Sans Frontières will recall, nothing else quite guarantees joyful unpredictability.

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