Community and the Arts Celebrate the Queen’s Birthday

Andrew Bernardi plays the 1696 Stradivarius in the company of conductor, David Bevan, and choir © Graham Franks
Andrew Bernardi plays the 1696 Stradivarius in the company of conductor, David Bevan, and choir © Graham Franks

The 2016 Steyning Festival provided the perfect prelude to the remarkable celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s official 90th birthday last weekend.

The festival was the largest ever held in Steyning. It represented three years of hard work by a dedicated team of volunteers under the chairmanship of Christine Aubrey. This biannual event gathered leading authors, musicians and artists.

Steyning Festival Chairman, Christine Aubrey with supporters from the Festival and Steyning Parish Church © Graham Franks
Steyning Festival Chairman, Christine Aubrey with supporters from the Festival and Steyning Parish Church © Graham Franks

I asked Christine Aubrey what has been at the heart of her vision for the Steyning Festival. She replied “Bringing the community together – to provide something for everyone.” At moments of great celebration it is often the Arts which bring communities together.

Sara Bowers and the Steyning Bookshop once again ensured a remarkable literary line up.

The festival included Theatre Trails, walks on the Downs and the Art Trail. Star attractions included Craig Charles, Steve Knightley, Vince Cable, The Comedy Store Players, Frank Gardner, Alison Weir, Cressida Cowell and Steyning’s very own Julia Donaldson of Gruffalo fame!

My own contribution was to bring the Steyning and Shipley Arts Festivals together with Steyning Parish Church to put on a performance of one of the finest classical works ever written, Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Bernardi Music Group and The Choir of Our Most Holy Redeemer St Thomas More were conducted by David Bevan. This work is one of the greatest pieces of music in the Baroque canon. It was an exceptional performance which was both reflective and alive with great vigour and energy. It blessed the sell-out audience. It really was a fitting celebration of the Christian feast of Corpus Christi which marks the Institution of Holy Communion.

The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham and the Revd. Rupert Toovey celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday with Steyning’s community
The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham and the Revd. Rupert Toovey celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday with Steyning’s community

Steyning Parish Church is at the heart of its community and this was reflected in the generosity of those attending concerts and events throughout the festival with some £2000 donated towards the tower restoration fund through retiring collections. Estimates for the urgent restoration are upwards of £150,000 and all contributions are most welcome.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving at Steyning Parish Church, led by the Revd. Fr. Neil Roberts. The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, the Bishop of Horsham, reflected on the role of the arts in bringing our community together and the richness with which they bless our lives. He spoke movingly of the Queen’s contribution to our nation’s life and identity.

After the service Steyning’s community gathered outside the church and the Festival Big Top, on St Cuthman’s field, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday with music and picnics.

I was interested to know what the highlight of the 2016 Steyning Festival was for Christine Aubrey. She smiled and exclaimed “The pleasure of watching everybody enjoying themselves!” This generosity of spirit has been evident throughout this wonderful event and Christine Aubrey and her team of volunteers are deserving of our thanks and congratulations!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Her Majesty The Queen at 90

A Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and a Royal Worcester brown cast bronze Silver Jubilee figure of Her Majesty
A Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and a Royal Worcester brown cast bronze Silver Jubilee figure of Her Majesty

This weekend the nation will come together to mark Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s official 90th birthday.

A Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design, covered in Royal Windsor tapestry
A Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design, covered in Royal Windsor tapestry

Up and down the land people will be engaged in street parties and watch events unfold on their televisions. The weekend celebrations begin on Friday 10th June with a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. A fitting start as the Queen’s Christian faith has been one of the cornerstones of her life and reign and is central to her sense of calling to the position of monarch. It has given life to the qualities of service, respect and duty with which she has blessed us all. Our monarchs have often inspired our nation’s tastes through their patronage as well as their reigns. The first official photographs of HM Elizabeth II were taken on the 26th February 1952, just twenty days after her accession, by the English society photographer, Dorothy Wilding. Wilding’s photographs are striking in their simplicity. She often employed a plain white background, as in her portrait of the young monarch shown here. The backdrop ensures that our attention is entirely focused on the sitter. There is a timeless quality to the patinated, cast bronze figure of HM Queen Elizabeth II. It was modelled by Ronald van Ruyckevelt for Royal Worcester to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

An Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand, probably housed originally at Sandringham
An Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand, probably housed originally at Sandringham

The Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand is an example of Royal patronage. It was manufactured by Queen Alexandra’s Carving School and was probably originally housed at Sandringham. It is marked with a manufacturer’s stamp and inscribed ‘From Sandringham’ to the inside of one of the doors. An accompanying letter from the Estate Office at Sandringham, confirms that the impressed mark on the drawer indicates that it was ‘constructed by pupils at Queen Alexandra’s Carving School’. The Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design is covered in Royal Windsor tapestry. It was given as a wedding present to Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, and his bride, Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmont. They were married at Windsor on 27th April 1882 and lived at Claremont near Esher, where the Duchess of Albany died in 1922. These wonderful objects form part of an eclectic single-owner collection to be auctioned at Toovey’s Washington salerooms on Tuesday 14th June 2016. They reflect the notable passion for British Royalty of a very private gentleman collector. The array of royal related pieces date from Tudor times to the present day. Information on the sale is available at www.tooveys.com. Our fascination with these objects reflects a love and gratitude for our Royal family and especially HM Queen Elizabeth II. In a recent interview with the BBC royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, Prince William spoke for many of us when he said: “The Queen’s duty and her service, her tolerance, her commitment to others – I think that’s all been incredibly important to me and it’s been a real guiding example of just what a good monarch could be.” We wish Her Majesty a very happy birthday, giving thanks for her continuing Christian life and example to us all. May God continue to bless her and her family.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Second Elizabethan Age

A black and white photograph of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by Sir Cecil Beaton

God-willing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will today surpass her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest reigning monarch in our nation’s history.

As I write this column I am aware of a deep sense of gratitude and anticipation. Elizabeth II has been our constant point of reference in a period of unprecedented change for more than sixty-three years.

In the aftermath of the Second World War Britain’s relative success in rebuilding was expressed in the mood of conservatism prevalent in the 1950s. This was captured in the seemingly timeless and unchanging imagery of Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony. The Church of England, the monarchy and the nation were united with the long procession of our island history. For the first time the Coronation was watched on television, indeed, my Grandpa built a television set specially to watch history in the making. Millions watched and listened across the world. The coronation service was of deep spiritual significance to the Queen and her people.

A black and white photograph of the British Royal Family mounted above the signatures of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, dated 1957

The Queen’s Christian faith has been one of the cornerstones of her life and reign. It has informed her sense of calling to the role of monarch and the qualities of service, respect and duty through which she has blessed us all. The words from The Book of Common Prayer Communion resonate in my heart as I pray – ‘We beseech thee also to save and defend all Christian Kings, Princes, and Governors; and specially thy servant Elizabeth our Queen; that under her we may be godly and quietly governed…’ Elizabeth II still holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. In her first Christmas address she asked people, whatever their religion, to pray that God would give her the wisdom and strength to carry out the promises that she would make on the day of her Coronation.

Elizabeth ascended the throne when she was just twenty-five supported by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout their married life Prince Philip has been her strength and stay, a marriage which has endured for nearly sixty-eight years. Prince Philip and their family have been another of the cornerstones of her life and reign. Like all families they have faced both joys and sorrows including the untimely loss of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Princess Diana. It was with great empathy that the Queen responded to the tragedy of 9/11 through the British Ambassador to Washington when she said ‘Grief is the price we pay for love…’

A Wedgwood Elizabeth II coronation mug designed by the Sussex artist Eric Ravilious, which captures the hope and excitement at the beginning of the second great Elizabethan age

Queen Elizabeth II has overseen great changes. The success of the Commonwealth of fifty-three nations is amongst her proudest achievements. It has maintained Britain’s international outlook in a post-colonial world. Reconciliation, too, has been a defining quality of her reign. Here is a monarch able to bring reconciliation to her peoples as witnessed in Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign has been defined by her faith and her family, by love, service, respect, duty and courage. She has been our constant point of reference in a period of unprecedented change for more than sixty-three years.

Like Queen Victoria before her, Elizabeth will be at Balmoral today and this evening will no doubt reflect on the day’s significance with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is perhaps fitting then to end with Prince William’s reflection on his grandmother in the preface of a new book about the Queen, written by the former home secretary Douglas Hurd. In it Prince William writes ‘Time and again, quietly and modestly, the Queen has shown us all that we can confidently embrace the future without comprising the things that are important.’

I thank God that I am blessed to live in the second great Elizabethan age – long may she reign over us that we may be godly and quietly governed.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 9th September 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.