James Owen, 17, of New College in Telford, is on work experience at J&PR and told us this cracking tale of his starring role when the Queen visited Shropshire in 2012. Naturally we suggested he wrote a blog about it…
As most students studied in the spring of 2012, working hard for their summer tests, I was called to the principle’s office at Hadley Learning Community.
Thankfully I wasn’t in trouble, but had instead been asked to help work on the school’s new secret project. They needed someone tall and I happened to fit the bill.
I agreed without too much thought (at the age of 14 the idea of working on secret project was all too exciting for me) but I had no idea what they had in store.
The following day I was pulled out of my maths class for ‘Student Council work’ and taken to a bare room with a single shopping trolley in the centre.
A few of my friends joined me along with a few primary school students and a series of crafting materials and peacock feathers. Our small band of secret merry students were then tasked with turning the shopping trolley into a large peacock for a parade at the end of the following month.
Although not knowing what the true intent of this parade was, we started making steady progress on the steel frame.
By the end of the week the peacock trolley was fully skinned in green and blue and the careful procedure of adding tinsel plumage had commenced. But our school had one more surprise for our secret merry band.
One cold and rainy Friday, we were led in the opposite direction of the peacock, deep into the heart of the school’s music department and greeted with the faces of another group of students, mostly made up of confused primary schoolers, and instructed to sit down on the chairs laid out.
Here, I found out that I, and our secret merry band, had just been drafted into the school’s choir for the same mystery parade and that choir practice would commence after school for the remaining four weeks. So, with a voice much lower in pitch than the rest, I started to learn songs not made for one with such a voice.
Work on the peacock continued alongside choir practice and soon the tail feathers were in place, the wheels hidden as best we could and it was ready! But our merry band of secret students didn’t rest. Oh no, we set out constructing little peacock hats for the choir with one having its own set of extravagant tail feathers. Then the day of the parade arrived.
The peacock was taken the night before, ready to be transported in utmost secrecy as the choir gathered at the front of the school. We were then told that the parade in question was none other than the Queen’s diamond Jubilee parade at RAF Cosford and we would be singing for her majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh along with around 80,000 other people.
We all nervously boarded the two mini buses and started our journey. We had hardly left Hadley when our panicked teacher spun round and started asking if we knew the national anthem. Not a single one of us knew any more then ‘God save the Queen’ and so the panicked tune was the soundtrack of the journey.
We reached the museum and came face to face with the concert stage that we would be performing from. Our small group of merry students, most not even ten! And it was a proper concert stage, with stage hands and stairs, the lot. Lining up just as rehearsed, I looked out at the sea of people who had turned up to see us. A giant rectangle of excited faces, all eagerly awaiting our performance. After glossing over the national anthem, we pulled off our songs gracefully, including some wonderful solo verses from some of the older girls, then hurried off the stage.
We were later herded into a hanger and reunited with our secret peacock- and I was informed I was going to be the one to push it.
I grabbed the reins, or trolley handle, and found a major problem. Being over 6ft, the staff had assumed that I would have no problem being able to see over the peacock feathers. But alas, our merry band of students had built a tail so high and wide that even our best efforts to cut open a window for me were in vain.
But the parade must go on, so we donned our peacock hats, and devised a system, a man on either side of the peacock would state directions to me.
The test run went off without a hitch as we pulled up behind a local group of brownies, taking our place in the parade, the merry band stretching behind us with tinsel ribbons in hands.
The parade started fine, but then the first “left right” came in, and I had to choose. My wingman on the left was telling me right, whilst my wingman on the right was telling me left and all the while the safety of a group of brownies was on the line.
My only respite came as we passed the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and all turned to see them on their fabulous seating arrangement. Then it was back to chaos as we rounded the last half of the parade. But I am pleased to report, that not a single brownie was trampled by a peacock that day, although my wingmen did have a faceful of feathers on numerous occasions.