Battersea toasts 'eccentric' Britain for Jubilee party

Bennie Banares, from Vancouver, Canada, writes a Christmas card to the Queen every year.

So, with Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee approaching, she naturally sent the monarch a letter to find out how she could be involved.

Five months later the 63-year-old and a group of 43 friends from Canada found themselves on the banks of the Thames in Battersea Park where the Diamond Jubilee Festival was held.

She said: "Even in my dreams I couldn't imagine being here for the 60th Diamond [Jubilee]."

The Queen's secretary had replied to her with information on where to buy tickets.

"I knew everything before the tour operators," she said.

"It is such a privilege to be here. I always read about fairy tales but this is real."

Bling queens

The festival was dubbed a chance to celebrate "eccentric British culture", bringing together artists, designers, chefs and bakers.

There was high demand for tickets and up to 90,000 people attended.

Those who could drag themselves away from the riverside where spaces were saved and camps set up found the chance to dress up as a queen.

They could also watch an attempt to build the tallest cake in Britain, enjoy buns baked by the Women's Institute, dance to live music, make their own crown or escape to a tranquil tent for some storytelling.

Tank designers Gareth and Emma Ayre, from Eshwinning, Durham, took their 13-month-old daughter Sophia Florence and were especially keen on the cake-building, with world-class engineers and architects competing to construct the tallest.

Image caption Barby Asante with Nora Heidorn, who transformed into an African queen in the Bling Jubilee Court

Speaking at the event, Mr Ayre said: "As engineers we are really looking forward to seeing the tallest structure in cake."

Steven Birch and his partner Christine Robinson, from Bakewell, Derbyshire, were attracted to the jiving displays.

Foxtrot and jive dance classes were provided at the bandstand in the centre of the park, to take party-goers back to 1952, the year the Queen took the throne.

Elsewhere, artists included Norman Jay and Noisettes.

Feather boas

Meanwhile Barby Asante turned her attention to transforming people into queens in the Bling Jubilee Court.

A tent full of hats, feather boas and glitter welcomed game men and women alike.

She said: "You can be a dance hall queen, drag queen, carnival queen, or just Elton John."

Image caption Ladies with hats offered the chance to toast the Queen

But for those who found the excitement of the day too much, Kate Gorley curated a reading area with book sculptures and a tent with stories of queens told using puppets and instruments.

She said: "What we wanted was an area for adults and children. We knew it would be so busy so we wanted this area to be tranquil.

But perhaps the best part of the festival were the unexpected details, the women walking around in costume with a selection of hats, for example, which they gave to people to wear while making a toast to Her Majesty.

As an example of all that is British and eccentric, little beats a festival where the only thing outnumbering the people are union jacks, feathers and sequins.

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