The First Commemorations at St Albans

Sir Robert Worcester, Chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Committee

I am delighted to welcome you to this  edition of the Magna Carta 800th Committee’s newsletter. This edition will naturally focus on the first of the 800th Commemoration festivals, hosted by the City and District of St Albans, working together seamlessly with St Albans Cathedral and local residents. The weekend of 2nd – 4th August will be unforgettable for many of us who were there, as I will go on to describe below, and the photomontage that follows will demonstrate.
I arrived at St Albans Cathedral on the Friday morning, just as the press were gathering to see the Lincoln Magna Carta starting its tour. I was joined by the wonderful Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Annie Brewster, the very entertaining Dean of St Albans Cathedral, the Rt Rev Jeffrey John, and my old friend and colleague, Lord Tom McNally, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Minister of State for Justice, together with Stephen Zack, just off a plane from Washington to join us for the weekend.

Lord Dyson, the Chairman of the Magna Carta Trust, has written above about the stakeholder meeting that afternoon. I would add that he and I were thrilled by the number of people who attended, on that first Friday in August, as many families were off on their holidays. In fact, he and Lady Dyson had delayed their holiday for a day to be with us.

That evening in the Cathedral I chaired an excellent lecture by Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, Institute of Contemporary British History at Kings College, London. He spoke for forty minutes on a theme of “The New British Constitution” and then took plenty of questions from a sell-out audience in the Cathedral. Thanks to Vernon for being with us.

On the Saturday we were treated to a Medieval Festival in Verulamium Park, which had been organised by local residents, and included opportunities to enjoy life as it was in 1213 in a medieval encampment, with equestrian events, archery and combat displays, free for all the family.

That evening back in the Cathedral, we enjoyed a spectacular concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the St Albans Chamber Choir. Standing outside the Cathedral beforehand, I could hear the strains of “Ode To Joy” being performed by the bell-ringers, a song selected in an audience poll by the readers of the Herts Advertiser. That was a bit special too.

The orchestra, which was due at a Prom in the Royal Albert Hall later in August, performed a very varied programme of music with strong choral support. I particularly enjoyed the adagio by Samuel Barber. It was good to chat to the musicians in the interval, as they also loved the Cathedral.

Finally on the Sunday afternoon, I joined the procession from Verulamium Museum to the Cathedral with the Lord Lieutenant, Lady Verulamium, for a special evensong.

We were delighted that the Daily Telegraph ran a full page article on the Saturday by Harry Mount as part of their role as Media Partner for the 800th anniversary, following their full page on 15 June.

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About Roger Nield MBE

Safety Director for the SMPL Organisation and supporting our Vulnerable Veterans Programme.
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