Category

Achievements

The Day That I Met The Queen – Part 2

I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to write the concluding part for this. The first post (‘The Day That I Met The Queen – Part 1‘) was written all the way back in May – so read that first before you read this. Listening to the Queen’s speech today compelled me to write this final chapter, while it is still fresh in my mind.

It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining. We got through security and the police cordon, making our way to our specific tent in Valentines Park. There must have been 8 or 9 other pieces of work alongside ours, but we were bang in the middle, there was no way that she could miss it. We could hear the dull roar of a crowd gathering behind us. There were red, white and blues flying around and there was a hubbub of excitement. 15 minutes to go.

Then we heard the screams and the hollering. The park was now a hotbed of noise as the distinguished guests touched down and tentatively made their way to the art exhibition that had been set up – worth something like 4 million quid. All of a sudden, the chattering in our tent was reduced to an awkward silence as it all became very real. In only a matter of moments, a piece of history was about to look us in the eyes and shake our hands.

We must have been waiting an age before we got the signal. No official signal – just the smiles of the people outside suddenly grew wider and their eyes forgot to blink. And then a tiny lady in a sky blue dress became visible and there was a deadly silence in the tent, I started to bake in the sunlight. I told myself, regardless of whether she walks past or not, whether I get tackled by a security guard, I was going to talk to the Queen. Screw protocol.

She walked slowly to the first few students, asking them their names and exchanging niceties. But the poor girls were too nervous to speak and so just smiled sheepishly. This increased the nerves of every other person in the tent. The next few people froze too and it seemed as if she was not going to stay long. The sunlight through the tent was starting to make me sweat – as if I wasn’t nervous enough. Then the fateful moment came. Rather than describe the conversation, I will transcribe it.

*

The Queen: (noticing the badge on my lapel shining in the sunlight) That badge…does that have your name on it?

Me: (slightly bemused) No it doesn’t Your Majesty, it says head prefect.

The Queen: Oh! (slight smile and looks at the piece) So did you make this?

Me: I was a part of it ma’am (as in ham, not as in palm), but there were a whole team of us. It took us a few weeks to put it together, but we tried to get the whole school involved?

The Queen: Is that so?

Me: Yes, we made sure that everyone contributed at least one stamp so that we could put them all together in this piece.

The Queen: (peers closer to look at a few stamps)

Me: They represent the 60 years of your reign, we have some stamps here that date back to the 1950s.

The Queen: Yes, I can recognize some of them (looks at some of the older stamps as well as the ones of Diana and Sarah Ferguson)

Me: Well, do you think that it is a good resemblance ma’am?

The Queen: I am not sure. Let me have a good look. (takes a step back to have a look)

Me: (takes a step back to look as well – gets a dirty look from the security guard)

The Queen: Yes, I think so (turns to us, smiles and moves on to the next person.)

*

At this point, I looked back at my teacher and he gave me a warm smile as if to say, you done good. The conversation did not last longer than a couple of minutes, but when she walked past us and moved on, my smile matched that of everyone else’s in the room. There are not many moments in life where you feel like you have made it, achieved something, but at that point in time, I felt humbled by where I was standing. And 9 months down the line, that conversation and what happened are as vivid to me as that day in March when it happened.

And so this chapter comes to a close, and in a week’s time so will the year. Luckily for me it didn’t stop there. The picture above was taken and posted in The Sun, the Huffington Post, Telegraph and even the Ilford recorder. It became the official photo for that particular visit – which is now sold on postcards at my school. It is funny when life gives you lemons, you made lemonade – and when life gives you a thousand stamps, you meet The Queen.

The Day That I Met The Queen – Part 1

Now that I am free of the academic shackles for another year, I thought it would be a good time to update you with what has been going on. It has been a little while since it happened, but I thought it would be a good idea to answer the questions that people have been asking me all in one go. So it all started on the 26th morning of March…

We were told that she was coming a few weeks before the event on her Diamond Jubilee tour around the country and that she was going to visit Ilford, which is where I live. We were asked to create a piece to commemorate the tenure of her reign. We weren’t happy. In the middle of our exam, already slightly behind and stressed, creating a piece for this exhibition was not at the top of our priority list. And we were convinced that she was not coming. Nevertheless we trudged on for three weeks in most of our free periods making this huge piece.

It was a 1.5 metre tall stamp of the queen made up of little stamps and it was a horror to create. First we sourced stamps from the last 60 years, and then we mapped out where they were going to go. Then we had to stick them. One by one. Every stamp. I can truly say that I never want to see or stick another stamp down in my life.

That is a close up of what we created. It looks great there and we were really happy with it. Then I got the call. I really wasn’t expecting it, considering we were told unequivocally from the beginning that we were never going to meet her, regardless of how good the work was. I guess we were all wrong. My teacher told me that I was chosen to meet her and present the work to her – I must admit it was a bit of a surprise, but a nice one at that! I received an official invitation in the post a few days later, calligraphy and all and it sunk in…I was going to meet the Queen. The document contained lots of detailed instructions on etiquette and all that rubbish about how to address her and talking to her and making eye contact (not joking!) so it became real for the first time.

And at the risk of boring you with the rest of the back story, I suppose I better get into the main bit.

(KLAXON)

Oh wait, did you hear that? You know what that means…it means that’s all we have got time for folks! I have always wanted to do that…sorry. I will go into the real details of our conversation in the next post, but I am fast approaching my 500 word limit so until next time…

The Revolution Begins…with the BBC!

For those of you that don’t know I am going to give a little bit of background before I get into the good stuff. Monday 13th February was the day when 10 young people marched to the Royal Courts Of Justice in order to give a submission to the Levenson Enquiry about the way in which young people are portrayed in the media. With our research we found that 76% of press about young people is negative, which is wholly unbalanced and we are here to put the record straight. More information about everything can be found at www.youthmediaagency.org.uk. Right, well enough of that formal stuff…

It must have been over a week now, but it feels longer, since I was asked to an interview with Eddie Nestor on Drivetime BBC London 94.9FM radio. It was on my birthday that one of his researchers called, 14th February (yes I have heard all of the Valentines’ jokes thank you!) and I was asked to come into the studio and have a chat with him. Of course I said no, being my first day off and being at home properly since August. Then I realised that I had made a monumentally stupid mistake. Luckily, good ol’ Eddie got me on the phone, and he invited me down to see him face to face…I was definitely going to be ready. Dealing with a fair few journalists in my time, I know that one thing you have to be is prepared, questions can range from the mundane to the obscure and I was not going to be caught out.

As you can imagine, the butterflies were doing cartwheels inside my stomach before we were due to go on, considering I was told that I was the main person that he was going to talk to. I relished the challenge, but that didn’t stop my hands from shaking! Going into the small studio, made it slightly cosier and I believe in all seriousness that Eddie was glad to have us on. It was interesting to listen to the interview back as it felt completely different to how it felt live. What felt like probing questions and awkward answers seemed to be a lot more friendly and seamless as I listened to it again. Although what I learnt was that, regardless of my experience with journalists, and Eddie’s obvious politician-style dodge when we asked about a regular feature, that the BBC were prepared to listen.

Yet Eddie is not right in some respects. Young people have valid opinions across the board, not just on issues affecting young people; their perspective is as good as any. And it is not just about helping old ladies across the road, but getting record A Level results, or having less young people going to prison or more young people spending more time selflessly than other any person before them. These are just the tip of the iceberg…most young people will tell you.

The fact that millions of people heard what we had to say and agreed with us showed us that some of the things we hear are not true. Adults want to believe in young people. They just need to know how. And that is where we come in. That is where it clicked. The reason why previous campaigns on this issue have failed…because they ONLY focus on young people and not adults as well, which is only half-hearted.

That is why I think that we will succeed where others have failed. That is why over 65 youth organisations representing millions of young people have backed us. Because we bridge the gap between the young and old, taking both opinions to the media and telling them we have had enough. And I have. This may be the only chance in a generation to change the way that we are spoken, listened and written about and I am not about to pass up that chance. I hope you are not either. If any journalists are reading this, I think there is a story here…you would be foolish to pass it up!

If you have enjoyed reading this and would like to support the campaign please go to www.youthmediaagency.org.uk for more details.

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LISTEN TO THE RADIO INTERVIEW: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p00ntq93/ (45 minutes in)