Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education

Day 2 of the 26 Day Big Shut UP: did you ever meet the Queen?

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Was it destiny that a planned series of blogs on the theme of silence and being silenced would have been overshadowed by the passing away of the Queen this week?  In the name of respect and solemnity we are now shaping our utterances to reflect the passing of one monarch on to the next one. The subtext of that process is there will be things that shall not be spoken now in either private or in public.  We’re all facing those moments of silence and being silenced: for the time being, at least.  And perhaps in the name of decorum, protocol and respect: this is the way things should be.

And the moment we defer to the ways things have been and should continue to be, we place ourselves as complicit conspirators or the act of silencing and being silenced.  If not now, then when? Might be a response to being told to quieten ourselves down, to speak appropriately (such a weasel word) and to reflect the purported national mood (whatever that is) but that would be a question too far for some, right now.

So, my silence today is to the question “Did you ever meet the Queen?”  I’m posed this question when people learn about my own trip to Buckingham Palace in 2012.  The answer to that particular question is a definite ‘no’ as I had the privilege to meet the man who was to become King 10 years later, but that question does open up other questions of whether we ever met, me and Her Madge?

The answer to that follow on question is a more provisional ‘yes’ in as much she passed me and several other colleagues by in a corridor at LIPA when she came to formally open the Institute.  ‘Meeting’ her would be an overstatement as we didn’t exchange words, just looks (and I’m not even sure there was an act of exchange there).  But the events of this week have encouraged other questions to blossom – some which are at risk of being silenced on the vine – such as, how many people have actually ever met her?

The only other moments me and others have experienced the Queen have been through countless forms of mediation: the TV, the film, the photographs, the postage stamps, the banknotes, the tea cups: all have contributed to – or detracted from – an understanding of who this extraordinary woman actually was.   Whether those simulacra have much to do with the multidimensional person who passed me in that corridor is a moot point and don’t offer much help in answering the question: has anyone actually ever met The Queen? And what did they think when they found her?  

Would it be silly to suggest that She’s a figment of our collective imagination? Perhaps, but that imagination has been busy at work over the last couple of days in reinforcing and reconstructing Her images, Her story and Her personality (see how loud those capital letters become in times like these). One thing we can be pretty certain of in future is that questions of whether we – or anyone – has ever actually met her won’t disappear any time soon.  The Mystery of Her Madge is alive and kicking.

This blog is contributing to The Mighty (Un)Mute, a campaign aiming to raise £5,000 to support the artistic creation for one of ten Globe Sculptures in The World Reimagined art trail across Leicester. The purpose? To recognise and honour those most impacted by the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans through the centuries to the present day.

The TMC staff team are going to support the campaign by taking part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on the 5th October. If you want to join us on the day and take a vow of silence, then please check out the campaign here. 

Of if the thought of donating your silence for 24 hours is really too much, then you can donate your hard-earned disposable income here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcome and appreciated.

So… come and help me to shut up, once and for all. You know you want to.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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