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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Jubilee tour diary: A date with the Beatles
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the 15th in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Thursday 25 July

It's the first day of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and tonight the Queen is due to attend the opening ceremony.

But first she has a few things to do in Manchester's neighbour, Liverpool.

Most of them have something to do with the Beatles, who dominate recent Liverpool history and popular culture and did so much to give the city a sense of itself during the 1960s and 70s.

Sir Paul McCartney's paintings aren't to everyone's taste. One critic called them "a dog's dinner of dreadful daubs defying description".

Anti-establishment gesture

But the former Beatle has produced about 600 in the past 30 years, and Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery has about 70 of them temporarily on show.

The Queen has come to pay the exhibition a visit and to meet the artist and his new wife, the former Heather Mills.

Yoko Ono and the Queen in Liverpool
Warm welcome: Yoko Ono and the Queen
Before that she has an appointment at Liverpool's airport, recently renamed John Lennon.

She's come to open the airport's new terminal building, which is graced by a seven foot high statue of McCartney's former partner - and Lennon's widow Yoko Ono is on hand to greet her.

Quite what the Queen thinks of the Beatles or their music is not recorded - she probably prefers Glenn Miller, as a member of the last generation to reach adulthood before the rock 'n' roll revolution.

But she has evidently forgiven (or quite possibly forgotten) Lennon's anti-establishment gesture back in 1969, when alone among the Beatles he returned his MBE, first awarded in 1965, in a letter addressed to the Queen and signed "with love".


Nervous? Why should we be nervous? Not at all. She's great. A lovely lady. Jubilee year. Rockin'


Sir Paul McCartney on meeting the Queen
At the Walker there is a living Beatle to greet, wearing a smart grey suit and a pair of trainers (as a good vegetarian he refuses to wear leather shoes).

Asked when he arrives if he's feeling nervous at the prospect of meeting the Queen Sir Paul says not, with more vehemence than eloquence.

"Nervous? Why should we be nervous? Not at all. She's great. A lovely lady. Jubilee year. Rockin'."

Inside the Queen diplomatically tells him she thinks his paintings are "colourful". They certainly are.

'Ordinary' people

One or two are also rude - like the series featuring a male figure with an erect penis. Heather says she thinks the Queen, who's had four children, "has probably seen one of those before".

The Walker's guest list features several other well-known Liverpudlian showbiz stars, like Tom O'Connor, Ken Dodd and Rita Tushingham.

Buckingham Palace, which knows a thing or two about celebrity itself, has never been averse to co-opting the famous to add lustre to royal events - although this Jubilee tour of the UK has been marked more by opportunities to meet "ordinary" people than the rich or celebrated.

The ordinary people get their chance a little later when the Queen goes walkabout along Castle Street in the city centre, en route to Liverpool Town Hall.

The Queen complimented Sir Paul on his "colourful" paintings
The city council, enthusiastically (although probably inaccurately) reckon 10,000 have turned out to see her.

It is a good crowd - not vast, but certainly far bigger than those that have greeted her in some cities, notably Glasgow.

This warm Scouse welcome includes a short carnival parade along Castle Street, which the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh watch from the Town Hall balcony before lunch.

Yoko Ono is also there, but Sir Paul and Lady McCartney aren't. Although invited (and although their names appear on the list of those attending issued yesterday) they apparently have a prior engagement in London.

A snub? No - rumour has it that Macca didn't want to upstage Her Majesty.

God knows, the Queen is a hard woman to upstage; but if anyone can do it anywhere, it's probably Paul McCartney in Liverpool.


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25 Jul 02 | England
25 Jul 02 | Entertainment
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