SOUND the trumpet and light the candles – it’s time for the Festival of Blighty 2022 to begin.
The £15 million budget couldn’t quite stretch to cover the gas or electric bills so ticket holders are asked to bring their own candle and stick carefully to the one-match-between-five guidance.
In the now halcyon days of October 2021, as the Queen launched the Commonwealth Games baton relay, Mr Johnson tweeted that hosting the sporting event in Birmingham would mark “a year of pride and celebration for the country”.
Not since the Olympic 2012 opening ceremony when the Queen launched herself out of a helicopter and a bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill came to life has there been such a glorious celebration of British success.
While that was a four hour show of the country’s might and valour, undercut by a gentle, knowing fondness, now we have had Brexit and here we are.
The Games open on July 28, following the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee long weekend in June.
To kick things off we have Boris Johnson’s Festival of Blighty, a valiant attempt to boost the national mood and put the prime minister back at the centre of attention, where he rightly belongs.
But can tonight’s pageant live up to the promises made ahead of the royal celebrations? Speaking at last year’s Tory party conference, Nicholas Coleridge, co-chair of the pageant, announced that 6500 people will be taking part.
“It’s going to be the largest that’s ever put on, larger we think even than that that was put on for Queen Victoria,” Mr Coleridge said, sounding vaguely Trumpian. “That was pretty large, this is larger.” As that British icon Del Boy might say, lovely jubilee.
But if the jubilee is the largest, Mr Johnson’s pageant is set to be the bigliest.
Thousands of people won tickets by lottery to the Festival of Blighty and we can see them now, wandering around the festival stalls. It’s empty shelves as far as the eye can see at the food stalls, which are giving out glasses of water and free piglets.
In the fairground, the Throw the Coconut at the Woke-a-Nut attraction is proving a huge draw, despite the shortage of real coconuts caused by the port blockades.
Overhead we can see giant Boris Johnson balloons, inflated by hot air from the prime minister himself. A worthy contribution to the event though it’s yet to be confirmed which end the air was produced from.
And here we are, the event has begun. The energy shortages mean tonight’s Festival is not being televised but thank you for joining us on your wind up radios as we do our best to invoke the spirit of the event.
Mr Johnson said he imagined the evening invoking a war time spirit as families gather together around the wireless, in semi-darkness, a nutritious meal whipped up from weekly rations. Mothers across the country have been hoarding the Cadbury’s for months as a sweet treat to keep spirits up.
Opening tonight’s pageant is a mass Morris dance, choreographed by Michael Gove. The MP has really stepped up to the pole with his interpretive take on the traditional English dance form, merged with high energy club music. Mr Gove is certainly looking merry as 300 dancers in suit jackets move their ribbons to the groove.
Now here comes Priti Patel, leading… it looks like a parade of people in traditional dress. Are these groups representing the countries of the Commonwealth? Is this segment demonstrating Britain’s foreign might and international friendship?
No, hang on, these are groups of asylum seekers divided up by country. Is the Home Secretary… she can’t be… yes, she’s marching them straight to Dover. Well, that’ll be making international headlines tomorrow.
But that’s what the Festival of Blighty is for, to remind Britain and the world of our country’s great standing and success.
Mr Coleridge also revealed that during the organisation of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, “Team Jubilee” had a “giant map” on the wall with “every part of our country and indeed every part of the Commonwealth.”
There had been criticisms that a British team shouldn’t need a map to remind themselves of each part of the country but it looks like that might have been a useful tool for Mr Johnson, who’s chosen only to represent a limited demographic tonight.
Mr Coleridge also told the Tory party conference, somewhat enigmatically, that during the Jubilee bank holiday weekend the Queen will be “lighting bonfires”. Perhaps the initial intent was for celebration but now, here is Her Majesty at the Festival of Blighty burning fuel for warmth.
Let us all lift our mugs of Bournville in a toast – to Britain! And may its bonfires burn brightly.