Continuing the spirit of the Queen's Jubilee, BAFTA New York joined the British Consulate on June 14 for an evening celebrating Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne. After a reception with sponsor Bulldog Gin providing the gin and tonics, we screened episode one of the new PBS series Queen & Country produced for WNET and Sky and History in the UK by Alastair Layzell's Colonial Pictures.
The event started with a welcome from British Consul-General Danny Lopez. He referred to the celebrations in the UK and across the world for HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, including here in New York with the Great British Run in Central Park and church services and events with charities under the Queen's patronage. He reminded the guests that an estimated 56% of the British population (20,400,000) watched the Queen's coronation on 2 June 1953. This was the first time a TV audience almost doubled the radio audience with about a million and a half viewers watching on big screens in cinemas.
Episode one of Queen & Country looks at the early years, with the young Princess growing up in London before the Second World War and then the death of her father and her accession to the throne. She and her sister Margaret had mingled incognito with the joyous crowds on VE Day, the last time the young Princess would have such freedom. Producer/Director Alastair Layzell found wonderful archive footage of the period, some of which is in 3D, and commentators reflected on the Court she inherited and the traditions. As series host Sir Trevor McDonald points out in the program, so much has changed over 60 years and yet so much has stayed the same.
After the screening Alastair and Stephen Segaller, WNET's VP of Programming and Executive in Charge of this series, answered questions with moderator Gillian Rose, Vice Chair of BAFTA NY and Head of Distribution for WNET. Alastair shared some of the challenges and pleasures of creating such a series and gave several amusing anecdotes about Her Majesty's patience, her unflinching duty and great sense of humour.
Queen & Country airs on PBS on Sunday evenings at 8:00pm for four consecutive weeks starting July 1st. Other episodes look at the Queen's Possessions, her Royal Visits and many of the traditions that are still in place today.