Join the Thames flotilla for Queen’s diamond jubilee

A 1000-strong group of boats will take to the Thames next year in celebration of the Queen's 60-year reign and your boat could be one of them

The Thames will be transformed into a blaze of colour, noise and pageantry to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 – and there’s a chance for boaters to get involved.

Sunday 3 June 2012 will see 1000 boats from the UK, Commonwealth and around the globe travelling between Putney and Wandsworth in a procession expected to last five hours or more, headed by the Queen’s royal barge.

According the chair of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Commission, Lord Salisbury, it will be “the largest Thames flotilla for 350 years”. London Mayor Boris Johnson, also present at the event’s launch at City Hall, said the procession will include “everything from barques to caravelles to oyster smacks to junks. Which particular craft I’ll be piloting rather depends on how things go in the elections. I could end up in a coracle, although I’m hoping for something a little more substantial.”

Conceived as a focal point for the four-day bank holiday celebrations of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, the pageant will be funded by private donations and sponsorship. Pageant master Adrian Evans predicted that some 30,000 members of the public will be on the boats that make up the flotilla and announced that there will be spaces open for boatowners to join in.

“We’re going to be taking applications from members of the public who want to take part in the flotilla,” he said. “Essentially we know it’s going to be very much over subscribed but we are looking for boats that offer something unique, that represent a certain area of Britain or the Commonwealth. But the basic requirement as it stands is that the boat should be able to get under Tower Bridge and maintain a speed of four knots.”

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Details on applying for a position on the flotilla will be available on the official website.

The flotilla will be made up of five sections, each separated by a “herald barge”, the first of which will be a floating belfry of eight new bells cast by the Whitechapel Bell foundry in east London and commissioned by the 17th Century City Church of St James Garlickhythe.

Other barges will feature water jets and sprays – reminiscent of the old Thames firefighting boats. There will be live entertainment and music from the six decades of the Queen’s reign, while a pyrotechnic barge hosts daytime fireworks and a mechanical flame-spitting dragon.

The royal barge, carrying the Queen and the rest of the royal party, will be a specially adapted Thames sailing barge, stripped of its masts and outfitted with luxurious coachwork. “I believe there was a plan at one point to have Her Majesty transported in a quinquereme rowed by oiled and manacled Members of Parliament, but I’m pleased to say this appears to have changed,” said Johnson.


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