it’s good to be the queen

72634611June 2 1953, Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London. Six decades on, England is celebrating her 60-year reign with a range of events across the country, from river pageants and big lunches to concerts and a royal appearance by a miniature monarch. As if I needed another excuse to visit the UK, here are just a few of the celebrations fit for a Queen. The Coronation Festival, Buckingham Palace, July 11 – 14: This one-off event in the gardens at Buckingham Palace will see over 200 companies with the prestigious Royal Warrant of Appointment exhibiting. By day, visitors will be able to explore the Buckingham Palace Gardens, which will feature four areas showcasing the very best of Food & Drink, Design & Technology, Homes & Gardens and Style, Pursuits & Pastimes. By night, visitors will be taken on a musical tour of the Queen’s 60-year reign, with performances by the National Youth orchestra, the English National Ballet, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Katie Melua, Laura Wright and The Feeling. Rowing Regatta, Windsor, June 15 – 16: Her Majesty The Queen has given permission for a unique regatta to take place on the River Thames at Windsor Castle to celebrate the Coronation anniversary. Rowing crews will race side-by-side over a distance of 1,000 meters between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria bridges, and spectators will be granted entry into the normally private grounds of the castle to watch the race. This special event will be the first regatta on the Thames at Windsor for 44 years.

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Mini Me, Windsor and Manchester, May 25 – 27, Windsor; May 31 – June 2, Manchester: The Queen of Miniland will put on her real crown jewels in Windsor before taking a carriage north for a guest appearance in Manchester. Visitors can watch the tiny 10 cm high LEGO model of Her Majesty The Queen, complete with a 48 tiny cut diamond encrusted crown, twinkle as she waves from the balcony of her miniature Buckingham Palace, alongside minute figures of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Coronation!, Westminster Abbey, May 1 – September 30: A new exhibition of archive pictures of the 1953 Coronation is now on display at Westminster Abbey through the end of September. The Abbey has partnered with Getty Images to include some of the best black and white news pictures of the time alongside some never-seen-before pictures illustrating the pomp and magnificence of the joyous celebrations that swept the nation. Coronation River Pageant, Henley, June 2: To mark the 60th anniversary, the Coronation River Pageant will showcase 130 classic and traditional boats on the River Thames at Henley. The boats will be moored at Marsh Meadows and will travel upstream to Phyllis Court Club before making the journey back. Boats will be dressed for fun with plenty of bling, colorful characters and historic look-a-likes. Gloriana, the Royal Opera House, June 20 – July 6: Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana was commissioned by the Royal Opera House to mark the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. This year marks the centenary of this great composer and to mark the occasion, Richard Jones is directing a new staging of the opera, which explores tensions between affairs of the state and of the heart.

Ox roast Brierley Hill 1927

Ledbury Ox Roast, June 1 – 2: In June 1953, the townspeople of Ledbury in Herefordshire rallied together to hold a huge Ox Roast to celebrate the coronation. Now, 60 years on, the community has come together again to recreate this special event. And you don’t have to be local to attend: everyone is welcome. The Big Lunch, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, June 2: Dust off your bunting and start packing your picnic as Broad Street in Chipping Sodbury prepares to welcome one and all for The Big Lunch. The market town also plays host to a three-day jazz festival from May 31 – June 2 to keep everyone in celebratory Coronation spirits.

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the people have spoken

carnival kit

I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from readers wondering why, despite the volume of fanciful Carnival pictures posted, I’ve neglected to document my own festive gear. In spite of my tendency to remain in the background – at least visually – the people have spoken, what can I say? Witness then my first (and likely last) personal appearance on this site. Oh and just to be clear, I’m on the right.

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live blog: saint’s day

As luck would have it, I arrived in Olympos a week after the name day of Mary. (In the Greek Orthodox church each day of the year is dedicated to a saint. As most children are named for one of their grandparents, who in turn have been named after a saint, name days are cause for a multi-generational celebration in a way that birthdays are not.)  At the highest point of the village the small 16th century church of Panagia –  literally the “All Holy;” meaning Mary, mother of Jesus – was still bedecked with Greek and Byzantine flags from the recent festivities surrounding the Virgin. Doors open, I poked inside and found a small chapel saturated with centuries of rich iconography – along with the village papas, or priest, who more than happily took time out for a photo.

 

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the luck of the irish

When the Irish monk Gallus came to Switzerland in 612BC, he stumbled among the wild vegetation of the Mülenenschlucht gorge and promptly fell into a thorn bush. While extricating himself from the nettles he came nose-to-nose with an angry bear none too pleased to have its midday nap interrupted. Soon thereafter Gallus fell ill and almost died. Being Irish, he took this series of unfortunate events as a sign that he had found a new home. “This is where I will stay,” he is said to have uttered upon regaining consciousness. And apparently heaven didn’t steer him wrong: Gallus built himself a monk’s cell and spent the remainder of his life as a hermit wandering the forests surrounding Lake Constance. A hundred years later a monastery was set up in the same place. It would go on to become one of the most important medieval schools of learning in the Western world, and the Canton of St. Gallen grew up around it. This spring marks the 1,400th anniversary of Gallus’s arrival. Under the quirky banner of Gallusjubiläum, the UNESCO world heritage city will be honoring their patron saint through to the  end of Autumn. Even the taciturn Swiss, it turns out, owe a bit of their pluck – and luck – to the Irish.

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jerk & juice

Jerk is Jamaica’s claim to culinary fame. A fiery spice blend of allspice, cloves, garlic, and Scotch bonnet peppers, jerk spice, as it’s commonly called, is dry-rubbed into various meats before smoking over a slow-burning mix of hardwood and charcoal. Jamaicans boast of being able to jerk anything – yes, the ubiquity of jerk means it can function as both noun and verb – from pork and tofu to shellfish and sausage, each augmented in its own particular way by a healthy rub of jerk. Yet for me, nothing quite measures up to how the spice permeates - and in the process tenderizes – the meat of a chicken. The capsicum in the pepper breaks down the muscle fibers, turning even the toughest old bird into something sublime and juicy – with a satisfying spice kick, too.  Makeshift jerk shacks are found all over the country, but along an empty stretch of road between Ocho Rios and Port Antonio I came upon Buccaneers Jerk & Juice, a substantially less provisional establishment with both a garden and bar. Half a succulent chicken with a side of festival, lightly sweetened fried dumplings that are tailor-made for mopping up the addictive mix of drippings and hot sauce which puddles on the plate, set me back all of eight bucks. That’s what I call finger-lickin’ good.

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don’t get saucy with me, bolognese

Atlanta’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival celebrates some of the South’s best chefs, farmers and mixologists. Created by Top Tomato Ford Fry, the one-day event now in its third year is held at Fry’s West Midtown restaurant JCT Kitchen & Bar, which readers might remember I took quite a shine to back in November. Benefiting Georgia Organics – a non-profit organization working to integrate sustainable and locally grown foods into daily diets – a roster of noted area chefs like Canoe’s Carvel Gould (whom I also featured back in November) and Top Chef-winner Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill will pair up with local farmers to create unique tomato dishes for festivalgoers to sample, while the featured mixologists will stir up signature tomato-based cocktails. A couple of highlights from last year included Pimiento cheese profiteroles with tomato jam by West Egg Café‘s Patric Bell and a Tomato Mai Tai from Stuart White of Miller Union. High profile judges from Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, and CNN sample it all then cherry-pick their favorites, bestowing awards for best tasting dish, most creative dish, best booth and best beverage. Attendees get to vote for their favorite dishes, too – then everyone waves goodbye as nearly 1,000 pounds of compostable matter gets shipped off to begin the cycle again (as worm food) courtesy of Greenco Environmental. The Attack is back July 17 – it’s as good a reason as any to ditch The Big Apple for a visit to The Hot Tomato.

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is that all there is?

Edinburgh has been a whirlwind:  as both traveler, producer, and artist.  Is it possible to be both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time?  Absolutely.  I’m glad it’s over and I can’t wait to do it all over again.  Do I contradict myself?  Well …. to paraphrase Whitman:  I contain multitudes and I am too tired to argue.  Ciao for now, Edinburgh.

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another opening of not just another show (part deux)

Lines around the block for The Screams of Kitty Genovese in Edinburgh. (And sweet relief in the gut of two hard-working producers, too!) A little factoid about the 2010 Edinburgh Festival:  it features 40,254 performances of 2,452 shows in 259 venues across the city.  The average audience for a Festival show is 6.  That’s right:  6.  The show has surpassed expectations here – and gotten some great notices to boot:  The Guardian said, “it is simply the best musical theater work on show at the fringe and festival.  One not to be missed.”  What’s On Stage gave it Four Stars, calling it “a darkly hypnotic rock opera.”

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video: along the royal mile

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the main artery of the original city, connecting Holyrood Palace with Edinburgh Castle.  During festival season it’s positively mental: bursting at the seams with crowds of festivalgoers, buskers, and thousands of people trying to promote their shows via both formal and impromptu high street stunts. The Screams of Kitty Genovese had a stunt the other day during a downpour, yet somehow this talented group of performers found a way to soldier on and gather a crowd.

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the play’s the thing

And we’re off!  To London and Edinburgh that is, with a bold and daring new musical drama: The Screams of Kitty Genovese.  Watch this space for live blogging from the London premiere at the Tete a Tete Festival to the madness that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.  If you’re a social media darling, you can follow Kitty as she tweets her way across the UK @ScreamsofKittyG.  She’ll be on Facebook by the time you read this, too.  And for the old-fashioned among you there’s always Kitty’s website, which now seems about as high-tech as an abacus.  It will be updated with photos and news along the way.  Bonne chance, Kitty!

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