Very Official English Events
It might not be in the same league as a major football tournament (yet) but St George's Day is the perfect opportunity to dust off the red and white flags and bunting and get into London to celebrate. Listed below are some of the capital's patriotic celebrations guaranteed to ignite either your national pride or (for the non-English contingent) your curiosity in our strange traditions.
Patriotic celebrations take over the City for St George's Day on 23rd April in recognition of England's dragon-slaying patron saint but the official London event takes place in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 24th April. These festivities include free entertainment with live bands on the main stage, food stalls and street actors all putting on a very English display. The concert runs from 1pm to 6.30pm, starting with young musicians and school children as well as the winners of the 2009 'Busking Underground' competition - Jamie West, Christopher Read and duo Kieron Brunt and Patrick Milne - and special guests. The second half begins with a celebration of London's Music Hall heritage presented by performers from the Royal Academy of Music and the Player's Theatre. Very British songs like The Lambeth Walk, From Marble Arch to Leicester Square, and I live in Trafalgar Square will be belted out and song sheets provided to encourage the audience to sing along. Headlining the second half is Joe Brown - who grew up in London's East End - and his five piece band creating a rousing finale with their blend of rock, pop and roots music. Programme times (approx): 1pm-3pm - Schools performances; 3.10pm-3.40pm - Winners, 'Busking Underground'; 3.50pm-4.50pm - Music Hall; 5pm-6pm - Joe Brown and his Band.
St George's Day, Friday 23rd April 2010
St George, patron saint of England, will parade through the streets of the Square Mile, as an age-old English tradition is revived for the first time since 1585 - when Elizabeth 1 was on the throne. On Friday 23rd April 2010 the St George's Day Pageant will take to the streets of the City, starting at Armourers' Hall in Coleman Street at 11.45am, going via Gresham Street, St Martins-le-Grand, through Paternoster Square and Temple Bar and passing in front of St Paul's Cathedral at around noon. St George himself will be taking part, mounted on horseback and escorted by the Band of The Parachute Regiment, the Regimental Colour party, Pegasus the Regimental Mascot and soldiers and armoured combat vehicles. Characters dressed up as the King and his daughter, accompanied by a lamb led by a maiden, will also add to the colour and historic pagentry of the occasion. In true English style, there will be a clutch of pubs en route supporting the celebrations including The Globe at the start and finish of the parade route (on the corner of Moorgate and London Wall) and The Red Lion on Parliament Street.
Standing solemnly in the middle of Whitehall, the Cenotaph is a suitably sombre place for reflection and remembrance of England's patron saint. Following a short parade, a wreath-laying event organised by the Royal Society of St George is held here on Saturday 24th April, the day after St George's Day. Most famous as the focus of the national Remembrance Service (the closest Sunday to the 11th November), the Cenotaph is traditionally known as the place where the servicemen of the British Empire and Commonwealth who died in the two World Wars are remembered. The monument was originally built of wood and plaster for the first anniversary of the Armistice in 1919. The memorial you see today was designed by Edward Lutyens. Fashioned from Portland Stone it was unveiled one year later in 1920. The inscription simply reads "The Glorious Dead".
Wednesday 21st April 2010
Just two days before we celebrate St George's Day, another very English tradition takes place. The Queen's Birthday Gun Salutes take place on her actual birthday - 21st April. It's a smaller occasion than Trooping the Colour which marks her official birthday on 12th June. Still, this is a loud, spectacular and smoky display with a total of 41 rounds of cannon and gun shots fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Hyde Park at 12 noon. The King's Troop ride into Hyde Park from the north by Marble Arch along North Carriage Drive, line up abreast and gallop down the parade ground to roughly opposite the Dorchester Hotel. The Troop itself arrives at around 11.45am ready to fire the first round at midday. The guns are then unhooked and the salute is fired off. Duty performed, the horses gallop back up towards North Carriage Drive. The band arrives separately and can usually be seen from about 11.30am. It is a spectacular show of pomp and ceremony and it's also the only time when you will see horses legally at a full gallop in Hyde Park - with a ton and a half of cannon in tow! Happy Birthday Lizzy!
St George's Day, Friday 23rd April 2010
Far more English than St George himself, the nation's greatest writer - William Shakespeare - shares his birthday with England's patron saint. The exact date of the Bard's birthday is a mystery - we know he was baptised on the 26th - but the fact he died on the 23rd, 52 years later, means that day is taken to be his birthday. This year, Shakespeare's Birthday celebrations fall on the same day as the start of the new Globe season, Kings & Rogues, which begins with his bloody tragedy, Macbeth. The Globe's partially open-air roof, a reconstruction of an Elizabethan London theatre, is a treat in itself and a visit always presents an opportunity to gamble with that other very English obsession - the weather.
22nd - 25th April 2010
The St George in Southwark Festival gives visitors a well rounded overview of the English patron saint's connection to this south London borough. From theatrical performances to tours of St George's Cathedral, photography exhibitions and street musicians at Borough Market this festival offers a huge variety of very English ways to celebrate St George's feast day. At Southwark Cathedral, John Constable's The Southwark Mysteries (22nd, 23rd, 24th April 2010 at 7.15pm; doors open 6.45pm) are performed ten years after their first showing at Shakespeare's Globe, with a selection of bible-based medieval mystery plays being given a modern day makeover. On Friday 23rd April, St George's Day itself, you can enjoy a St George's lunch at Blackfriars Settlement followed by an open-air theatre performance in 12 musical minutes by the Lion's part, featuring our hero St George and a magnificent dragon. The following day the St George Festival Fun Day brings music, dance, food and gardening to St George the Martyr church on Borough High Street when children's drama group Damian and the Dragon are just part of the St George's Day themed entertainment.
Sunday 25th April 2010
Head to the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate St George's Day with a superb selection of patriotic music. Presented by that bastion of Englishness, John Sergeant, this Gala features the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society, with soprano Claire Moore and conducted by Anthony Inglis, perform music from both the intellectual and the sing-along sides of the British classical canon in remembrance of England's patron saint. Popular English classics include Rule, Britannia!, The Banks of Green Willow, The Dam Busters March, Hornpipe, White Cliffs of Dover, We'll Meet Again, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory. More highbrow offerings come from Adams (The Holy City), Walton (Crown Imperial), Elgar (Nimrod from Enigma Variations) and Handel (See The Conquering Hero Comes), while there are readings from Henry V and poetry from Wordsworth and Betjeman. If anything's going to get you geared up for the Proms season, this is it.
19th - 23rd April 2010
This year for St George's Day at Leadenhall Market is hosting a week-long celebration of British Food running from 19th to 23rd April. Built on Roman ruins Leadenhall Market has a 600-year history of selling British produce - and is espeically well known for its 19th century poultry market - and that tradition continues today. Every day during the St George's Day celebrations a carvery will serve up a different meat supplemented by a wide choice of other foods including English fruits and wines. There will also be free entertainment at lunchtimes (12 noon to 3pm) with traditional English folk music on the Thursday evening. Celebrations come to a rousing end on the Friday - St George's Day itself - with military bands creating a carnival atmosphere in the market at lunchtime.
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