A great day for heritage crafts – the first national honour was awarded today, and what a day that was!
We had been advised to get there early, and so we were, and queuing with Brian Rea, from Northern Ireland Policing, and his family, at one of the wonderful Buckingham Palace gates.
Fortunately it was a fantastic day. Last night there were gale force winds and horizontal heavy rain. If this is the weather tomorrow, I thought, my hat will be flying off my head and be completely ruined!
Once we had had our tickets and passports checked, we were led through the central archway of Buckingham Palace and into the building itself. Then we were directed to the cloakroom and loos – the latter quite extraordinary. Vast wooden seats covered a rather ancient loo, with a wooden ‘stirrup’ pull up handle instead of a chain or lever.
Then up an amazing gilded staircase, where guests/family went one way and recipients the other. We were led into the picture gallery, and once our names were checked, a hook was pinned to our jackets. This meant that when the medal was awarded, it was simply looped on to the hook.
The picture gallery was stunning – if only we could have just looked at the wonderful art – but there were so many interesting people to meet and find out why they were being awarded honours. They ranged from Pamela Goldberg who got hers for the Breast Cancer Campaign, Wing Commander Teresa Griffiths, who is doing sterling work at Birmingham Hospital with those who have been injured in conflicts, Christine Edwards for Higher Education, and our celebrity Adele (Adkins), the singer.
The awarding procedure was then explained to us – not too complicated – and we were then told to wait until our names were called. We were taken out in batches, through some wonderful rooms, and then led across the back of the huge ball room to a parallel corridor and were checked yet again at the entrance to the ballroom. One by one our names and awards were announced. Forwards, stop, curtsey/bow, forwards to The Prince of Wales, medal awarded, chat and then go. (picture on right is of the Duke of Cambridge presenting awards earlier this year). It was a thrilling moment, not least because, coincidentally, In Paradisum, from Fauré’s Requiem, one of my favourite pieces of music, was played by the orchestra just as I went forwards for my award.
The Prince of Wales, President of the Heritage Crafts Association, was charming, as indeed he was to everyone I spoke to afterwards. He was interested in what we were doing and very supportive. Once out of the ballroom, I did give a little jump of celebration, but then remembered that there were video cameras everywhere (you could buy a film of your own presentation) and hoped they didn’t catch that rather non-MBE behaviour! The hanging pin was removed for us, and the medal was put into a smart box, then we were shown to the back of the ballroom to watch the remaining people being awarded.
When everyone had received their awards, The Prince of Wales left after the National Anthem, escorted by ghurkhas, and the Yeoman of the Guard marched out.
I met up with my family in the Ballroom, and took my medal out of its box straightaway and pinned it on. As I said to the people as we walked out at Buckingham Palace – if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Then it was out into the courtyard for our photos.
This is the first time heritage crafts have been nationally recognised like this, and the first time for calligraphy for about forty years. The Heritage Crafts Association is working hard to nominate deserving traditional craftpeople for honours and we hope to see many more makers in future New Year and Queen’s Birthday lists.
And the singer Adele? Well apart from standing next to her and her smiling back in the picture gallery, and spotting her a few rows in front in the ballroom, we didn’t see her again. Speaking to the photographers they said that celebrities and VIPs are usually fast tracked through afterwards.
What a fantastic experience!