Why, After All, I’m Celebrating the Jubilee

A few weeks ago, I traveled to central London to the Blade Rubber Stamps store near the British Museum. My mother Pamela was asked to make 20 jars of the famous local jam for the Platinum Jubilee Street party in the Norfolk village where she lives and I wanted to update the stamp for her label – insert the word “jubilee” The existing “Pam’s Jams” brand – would be a great touch, especially since she’s celebrating her birthday at the end of June.

It took me a while to tweak my original basic design, which used an Old English font, to accommodate the extra words, and went a step further by replacing the dot above the “i” with Microsoft’s “White Queen” crown symbol. People in the village have been making bunting for months, and three weeks ago a knitted crown, corgi and queen appeared in a postbox crochet hat. In the east London area where I live, I have seen no signs of a jubilee.

In the midst of these contradictions, I began to wonder what made me want to go to a street party, despite being a little uneasy about what the anniversary meant to me, as someone of dual heritage, my mother was a white working-class British woman , my father is Nigerian. Missing the old days and childhood memories of attending the 1977 Silver Jubilee Eastside Street Party the year before we moved to Norfolk? As a novelist, an interest in observing and reporting on a tribal practice that I feel I don’t quite belong to? Or just a chance to be with the family—brother and sister-in-law, 11-year-old nephew and my mom—especially after prolonged isolation during the pandemic?


one of my earliest memories A view of what would become London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from the multi-storey car park above a 1960s shopping centre, watching trains pass through Stratford Station. This moment represented the budding love of a love I barely dared to name – the love of public transportation. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that I became a transportation planner specializing in the environment.

My first major project was the extension of the London Underground’s Jubilee Line from Green Park to Stratford. It was only recently that I realised (despite obvious clues) that the line’s name was chosen in 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, although the Prince of Wales officially opened it two years later. I was also involved (and thousands of others, according to TfL) in the development of Crossrail, which opened to the public this week. A week ago, the Queen officially opened the line that now bears her name.

Many of the projects I work on seem to intersect with my birthplace of Stratford.In the foreword to Dave Hill’s recent book Olympic Park: When Britain built a big thingSir Peter Hendy described London 2012 as “the first real public transport games ever”, partly in response to criticism from the IOC early in the bid process.

The Queen surveyed the site from the top of another local landmark, Houghton Point Tower, in 2005, the year London won the bid. Earlier that year, I attended an Olympic planning event at the Royal Albert Hall. The conference ended with a bland “Rule Britannia” rather than the uplifting version the organizers no doubt had in mind. We were fortunate that the organizing committee finally had the foresight to commission Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce to attend the opening ceremony, resulting in a more diverse and inclusive vision for representation in this country, Of course that includes the Queen’s match participation “parachuting” into the stadium from a higher height than Holden Point.

At the same time, I was becoming a writer. My first novel was published during that Diamond Jubilee Olympics, and was inspired in part by the environmental part of the business case I wrote while working in the Butler Square Crossrail project office. “The Queen’s Own Fireworks” is my first (unpublished) work of non-fiction, written in the late 1990s as a Black and Asian Writing Retreat at the Arvon Foundation Totleigh Barton Centre in Sheepwash, Devon. It explores my family history, with a particular focus on conversations with my father about Nigeria, and the title is a metaphor for the explosive “mini-stroke” he suffered in the last years of his life.

As a biracial person, I think I have to choose sides based on who I am; no matter how consciously I am, I often try to fit in as “culturally white”. More recently, though, during the years of the pandemic, I’ve been able to contextualize my background, trace my biological and literary roots, and get a more nuanced look at my British identity than the usual either-or binary. One commentator described my father’s people, Itsekiri, as “Afro-Europeans of the Niger Delta”, who were initially a middleman between the Kingdom of Benin and the great Portuguese Empire, and later Britain. My readings during this period have helped to counter the simplistic view that Britain’s mixed history only began with the arrival of the imperial Windrush.


My mother, like a queen, Has an uncanny ability to express an opinion without saying a word, barely changing her facial expression in the process. However, I’m sure she loves the updated rubber stamp, which I sent when I visited her last weekend, and 20 jars of jam are ready. (Unfortunately, the Blade Rubber Stamp store has closed, possibly due to the pandemic, although it continues to trade online.)

Of course, we could just laser print the labels, which is part of a process my brother loves, expanding the production of the 286 jars of preserves (145 jars of jam and 141 jars of jam) that my mom made last year. jam, all for country churches). This could emulate the success of another regional startup, also a local favorite, Candi’s Chutney, whose founder Candi Robertson will be visiting My Mom’s Women’s Institute branch later this year. My mom was probably twice the age of the “chutney queen” and she ruled that out.

As we labelled the jars, she recalled seeing the coronation in colour at her local cinema after the event, her principal whispering the news of the king’s death to her teacher, who was then in the classroom announced the news. This sparked my own memories: while watching the Queen’s speech, my mum somehow managed to instill in us the purest form of domestic silence every year;​​​​​​ In the private landscape of the museum, find yourself in the small presence of Her Majesty; Princess Diana, who travels underground after the death of Princess Diana, against a backdrop of slow changes in royal protocol and the ministries of the New Labour government.

Undoubtedly, my mom’s incredulousness is due to the all-too-easy opinion of her parents’ generation, especially when it comes to the wisdom (or otherwise) of marrying a Nigerian in the 1960s. Our times – #MeToo and Black Lives Matter – are equally revolutionary, with their own generational tensions and conflicts, shifts and regressions. There will soon be an opportunity to assess this longest reign. But, for now, is it that bad to want to be in the festivities?

Simon Ocoty’s novel is Published by Salt

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