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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Jubilee tour diary: London, Thames Valley
Nick Higham on the Queens Jubilee tour
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the third in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Thursday 9 May

The Jubilee caravan rolls on. If it's Thursday, it must be Walthamstow.

The Queen has come to east London, next stop in what is turning into a marathon for Her Majesty, the Duke of Edinburgh and the crew of press officers, security staff and journalists who travel in her wake.

In part at least the Jubilee tour is an exercise in public relations, and the palace has been praised - rightly - for its handling of it.

Before the tour began, palace officials were deliberately playing down expectations of the crowds the tour might attract. It has made the large numbers who have turned out to see her in the South West, the North East and now London all the more gratifying.

The crowds have been sizeable and enthusiastic, and east London is no exception. Outside Walthamstow town hall, a thousand invited guests, mainly schoolchildren, have come to see the Queen and a slick 10-minute show of 50 years of fashion put on by local students.

The London correspondent of Germany's Der Spiegel magazine has turned up as well. He is rather cynical about the way many of the crowds of schoolchildren have been bussed in.

Perhaps he has a point - but plenty of ordinary locals too have taken the trouble to come on their own initiative, to cheer and wave their flags.

Ethnic welcome

The crowds a few miles away in Newham's Green St are more impressive still. And, just as the Palace must have hoped, here and in Walthamstow they are drawn from every one of London's myriad ethnic minorities.

In Green Street the Queen is greeted by a near life-size mechanical elephant made of scrap, used locally to celebrate not only the Hindu Diwali but also the Christian and Jewish "festivals of light", Advent and Hanukah.

Queen in Newham
The Queen got a warm welcome in east London
There are Sikh drummers, carnival performers in colourful costumes and Newham's Sikh mayor, Councillor Sukdev Singh Marway.

The royal limousine edges its way past shops selling saris and shish kebabs - and the Duke of Edinburgh pub, which the real Duke politely declines to visit.

The day was meant as a celebration of diversity and of the multiculturalism of modern British society. It proves a triumphant success.


Friday 10 May

The National Sports Centre at Bisham Abbey resembles a page from one of the "Where's Wally?" children's books.

In the books, thousands of tiny, brightly-coloured figures fill the pages - groups of train travellers or athletes, marauding Vikings or medieval knights storming a castle - and the challenge is to pick out the equally tiny figure of Wally in his red and white striped jumper and bobble hat.

At Bisham, everywhere you look the playing fields and lawns are covered with groups of children in brightly-coloured tracksuits and uniforms and costumes. They are sailing dinghies and dancing, playing football and fencing, twirling batons and skirling bagpipes.

It is a visual jumble, constantly, restlessly changing. The challenge will be to pick out the Queen among the running, tumbling, jumping, skipping children.

This is Berkshire Golden Youth, a day-long jubilee celebration involving 1,000 children and almost as many adults, designed to give children an idea of the myriad healthy, beneficial things they could be doing with their leisure time.

But the photographers and the television satellite vans and radio reporters wandering through the grounds and adding to the chaos aren't here to immortalise the county's golden youth; they are here because the Queen is going to shake hands with Sven Goran Eriksson and some of his England footballers, the day after the announcement of his World Cup squad.

World cup wishes

It is even rumoured that David Beckham himself may turn up - although the organisers stoutly deny it.

In newsrooms up and down the land it is agreed that this royal seal of approval for the Swedish wizard and his England side is undoubtedly the story - and the picture - of the day.

The Queen arrives in style, borne upriver on a launch from her previous engagement, unveiling a statue of the Olympic rower Sir Steven Redgrave in his hometown of Marlow.

Ensuring she arrives in style are nine Royal Watermen in bright red Beefeater-style costumes, standing four on each side of the launch.

Queen with Olympic gold medallist Sir Steven Redgrave
Sharing a moment with Olympian Redgrave

The Queen is whisked off to a marquee to see a display of career opportunities for young people, from hairdressing and bricklaying to catering and fashion. Someone has thoughtfully removed the python and the tarantula on one of the stands, lest the royal sensibilities are disturbed.

The meeting with Sven and two of his players, Sol Campbell and Owen Hargreaves, is something of an anticlimax when it finally arrives.

But by then it hardly matters. Even before the Queen has stepped ashore the television trucks are packing up to leave. The news desks have lost interest.

There's been a serious train crash at Potters Bar. For once the Palace PR machine has been overtaken by events - yet another ghastly catastrophe on the railways.


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