Right Royal time to celebrate

Lancaster Castle, which is owned by the Queen will be a focal point of the Diamond Jubilee weekend in Lancaster.
Lancaster Castle, which is owned by the Queen will be a focal point of the Diamond Jubilee weekend in Lancaster.

Lancaster is hosting a five-day Royal festival to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next month.

Celebrating its many royal connections, Lancaster will see a range of events staged at historic sites throughout the city centre from June 1-5.

They are all part of this year’s Lancaster Unlocked festival, which has kings and queens as its theme to coincide with the jubilee.

During her reign, the Queen, who is Duke of Lancaster, has visited the city’s castle three times, most recently in 1999.

It is fitting then that the castle and nearby Priory Church will play major roles in the festival.

On Saturday, June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, there will be guided tours of the castle, including another chance for people to go through the famous John O’Gaunt Gateway and explore parts of the old prison. These tours will be repeated on June 3 and 4.

Outside the castle, from June 2-4, there will be an action-packed medieval re-enactment, recreating the days of the 14th century.

And from 10pm on June 4, joining thousands of others around the world, the beacon at Lancaster Castle will be lit as part of the jubilee celebrations.

Lancaster Priory will begin its festivities on the Saturday night with Music for a Royal Occasion, when the choir and orchestra present music from past coronations and Royal weddings.

From noon-6pm on June 3, the Priory hosts The Big Lunch, which will include a special celebratory peal of bells at 2.30pm, and teddy bears parachuting from the church tower.

On June 4 and 5 from 2-4pm, visitors to the Priory can learn all about its links with the Crown and Duchy of Lancaster during royal themed tours, and talks, followed by short organ recitals.

Lancaster has more reasons than most cities in the country to celebrate the jubilee, for as well as being monarch for 60 years, the Queen has also been Duke of Lancaster for six decades.

The origin of the Duchy of Lancaster goes back almost seven centuries to the reign of King Henry III.

In her capacity as Duke of Lancaster, the Queen owns Lancaster Castle, which has seen 22 royal visits since King John held court there in1206.

And it was the Queen’s father – King George VI – who honoured Lancaster with city status on his Coronation day 75 years ago.

So it’s little wonder that Lancaster will be rolling out the red carpet for a right royal celebration.

The Lancaster Unlocked Festival will be officially launched in Market Square by the town crier from noon-1pm on June 2, and there’ll be brass band performances too.

Market Square has hosted many a royal walkabout throughout the decades, and visitors to Lancaster Library can relive memories of those special days at an exhibition of old photographs.

The library will also host children’s storytelling sessions and talks on Lancaster’s historical pageants and Victorian Lancaster.

The nearby City Museum welcomes children, who will be able to create Royal Victorian peg dolls at a workshop on the Saturday from 1.30-3.30pm; hosts a Victorian collector on the Sunday at 1.30pm and 2.30pm; and a talk on Victoria, Queen of Wessex, at 11.30am on the Monday.

Lancaster’s Maritime Museum will be running a series of family friendly workshops including Elizabethan tale-speaking and tale-hearkening on the Saturday, join the Elizabethan Navy on the Sunday, all about flags on the Monday, and a kings and queens craft session on the Tuesday. A talk on Walter Raleigh and the English View of America also takes place at the Maritime Museum on June 1 from 11am.

The Judges Lodgings hosts musket and drill sessions by a re-enactment group from noon-4pm on June 2, a Macbeth story and craft session for children on June 3, and a talk about domestic life in the Stuart period on June 4 from 1.30pm.

St Peter’s Cathedral will be playing its part in the festival with a talk – The Original Virgin Queen – at the social centre on June 2 from 1.30pm and a garden party from 1.30pm-4.30pm on June 5, when there are plans for trumpeters from Lancaster Royal Grammar School to perform from the 240ft spire, introducing a full10-bell peal from 3pm.

St John’s Church will host a Georgian talk at 11.30am, and tours throughout the day on June 2.

There’s an entertaining twist to the festival too with the comedy Tea With The Old Queen on June 1 at the Grand Theatre, outdoor performances throughout the city centre of Six Weddings and a Funeral by the Thursday Girls on June 2, and a House of Tudor Jubilee Festival at the Three Mariners pub on St George’s Quay from 4-9pm on June 3.

The Dukes will give children a chance to make their own prince and princess puppets at a workshop from 11am-1pm on June 2, and will be screening The Princess Bride from 2pm that afternoon, as well as presenting a talk on The Royals on Film from 2.15pm.

Most of these events are free, but some will charge an admission fee. Full details are available in Lancaster Unlocked leaflets available from Lancaster Visitor Information Centre, ring 01524 582394 or visit www.lancasterunlocked.co.uk.