England

Covering the Queen’s 90th Birthday in Windsor

This was by far the most fun and most tiring week I’ve had at the bureau.

Before I get to the Queen, I want to mention another great story we got to do on Tuesday. I had made a pitch to cover the unveiling of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph in Trafalgar Square. The original arch in the ancient UNESCO world heritage site city of Palmyra was destroyed by ISIS during their 10-month siege of the city which ended in March.

I wasn’t the only one with the idea.

When we showed up Tuesday morning, the square quickly filled with media. Having at least two people on site is great because (for example) as the organizers moved the media barricades forward one person could run up and claim a good spot while the other stayed with the gear and brought it up after.

I try to secure my employment future by taking as many cool photos of my colleagues as I can. That's a good strategy, right? Here's Thomas Daigle, our videojournalist. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
I attempt to secure future employment by taking lots of cool photos of my colleagues. That’s a good strategy, right? Here’s Thomas Daigle, our videojournalist, in front of the National Gallery and recreated Arch of Triumph. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The day went well. I talked to lots of Syrians (from Aleppo, Latikia, Damascus and Palmyra) who were now living in London. The guy from Palmyra was who I wanted to talk to most – I found him on Facebook a few days before the unveiling and asked whether he was going. He wrote passionately about the arches:

“I’m happy to see Triumph arch again in London after six years of leaving my home city, Palmyra. I feel I regain part of my body again.  The Triumph arch represents the identity of Palmyrenes because we have to pass it when we go to our farms at sunrise and then we have to take some rest under it before going back to our homes at sunset. Thanks for London and all world to return our identity to us.”

I really wanted to interview this guy in person. He seemed perfect! A local who could connect with why this was important.  The only problem? He said he wasn’t going to be at the square the day the arches were unveiled.  The day I’d need to talk to him in person to get the news story.

Then I had a stroke of amazing luck. Somehow, on the day of the unveiling, in a sea of civilians and media people, I heard someone call my name.  It was the Palmyra guy! He recognized me from behind the barricades and called me over. He had cancelled everything last minute and decided to drive in to London from Uxbridge where he’s doing his PhD to see the unveiling. So I got to talk to him, and he was lovely.

Here he is! Obeid Obeid is originally from Palmyra, Syria but has lived abroad for the last six years. He's studying for his PhD in Engineering at Brunel University London. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
Obeid Obeid is originally from Palmyra, Syria but has lived abroad for the last six years. He’s studying for his PhD in Engineering at Brunel University London. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Here’s the finished piece – Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch Recreated in Trafalar Square

The Queen’s 90th Birthday

Thursday, April 21st was the first of the Queen’s many birthdays this year. April 21 is her actual birthday, while traditionally monarch birthday celebrations are held in June. This June birthday tradition was started by King Edward VII, because he worried his November birthday might not have good weather.

Last week on said birthday the Queen turned 90 years old. Liz is breaking all traditions this past year. In fall 2015 she became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, having reigned 63 years. Now she’s the first monarch to make it into their 90s. Good for her. Go Liz!

Looking beautiful, I can say that my internship here at CBC London has been a success because, if nothing else, I got this great photo of the Queen. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
Looking beautiful, I can say that my internship here at CBC London has been a success because, if nothing else, I got this great photo of the Queen. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

She’s also the source of much near-religious fervour throughout the country. They say that liking something is a consequence of its familiarity. If that’s true, maybe Liz’s long reign and life explains just how much people love the Queen. They’ve had a long time to get to know her. I’ve heard it over and over again that hers is the most documented life, ever.

The Queen looked so cute and happy the whole week. Here she is, greeting her subjects. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
The Queen looked so cute and happy the whole week. Here she is, greeting her subjects. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Our CBC team covered three days in Windsor: The Queen’s birthday eve, the day of her birthday, and the day after her birthday where she had President Obama over for lunch.

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Felt pretty safe having my camera gear out with these guys around. No one is going to steal this guy’s phone booth. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Windsor Castle stayed open for tourists during the celebrations and there were lots of people coming and going, like this adorable family from Japan. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I was there for birthday eve and her Majesty’s birthday.

One thing I learned from the experience was just how important logistics are. Lots of reporters, lots of gear, lots of people on the ground. I drove up with our team on day one, then took the train back, up and back again. It’s a nice train ride, about 40 minutes from Paddington station and £14 for a return ticket.

Here’s a glimpse of our behind-the-scenes media tent setup.

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All the gear, all the time. Tents are essential. They protect the gear from potential rain. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Every so often all the correspondents for all the different networks’ live hits would line up at the same time, so you’d have this row of well-lit, beautiful people all talking to their cameras at once. Quite a sight. From left to right: CBC, ABC, BBC. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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We had a beautiful view of Windsor Castle from our media tent. Also note what Thom is standing on. Crucial for a better view! Real broadcasters never leave their boxes at home. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

My next two days were a fever dream framed by union jacks and filled with people dressed in all variations of Brittanica costumes singing ‘Happy Birthday Your Majesty.’

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The benches in front of Windsor Castle along Castle Hill were a popular meeting point for all forms of monarchists and royalists. Spot anyone famous? (Hint: Gogglebox). (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Lovable Terry Hutt spent both April 20th and 21st outside Windsor Castle, waiting for a chance to say hi to the Queen (he did, by the way! I saw it on a Reuters feed) and talking to everyone who sat down with him. Glad to have met you, Terry! You’re a young 81. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Royal Mail workers and their families gathered outside the Royal Mail in Windsor on the day before the Queen’s birthday to wish her Majesty a happy birthday. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Schoolkids would burst out into ‘Happy Birthday Your Majesty’ as soon as you asked them. However, a lot of them spent their day hanging off the rails, wondering: “When does she get here?” (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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They should build these with eye holes. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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No wondering what country you’re in here. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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A tiny royal well-wisher along High Street waves his union jack while waiting for the Queen to pass by. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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I think I found a dorgi!!! Or at least a corgi. Any dog experts around? (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Team CBC on site at High Street in Windsor. Waiting around for the Queen and preparing for our hit. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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This girl looks how I felt. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

For my part, I helped haul gear, did whatever the correspondents needed me to do, found and arranged two interviews with Royal Watchers (people’s whose jobs it is to basically observe the monarchy and comment on their doings), ran around doing streeters with people in crazy costumes/cute children/a dog named Camilla, sent my photos with captions back to the CBC desk in Toronto, and freehand held an iPhone for a live hit while holding the iPhone in one hand, reflector in the other, and bracing myself between a rail and a tripod on a tiny media platform with about 20 people. We shall never speak of it again.

In other news: we learned Windsor is a bit of a signal dead spot for our Dejero and MiFi. We were fine once we got to our media spot at Windsor Castle though because we had a satellite dish.

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Our Dejero was struggling to find a signal in the field, but once we got it back to the media tent and routed it through the satellite, it was fine. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Our technical wizard, Anjuli. She kept us up and running for all the events in Windsor! She’s also base camp. We can call her with any problems in the field. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Our super cool satellite dish on the roof. The petals come apart so it collapses into a very portable shape. Once you put it together though, you have to adjust it millimeter by milimeter until it locks onto our CBC satellite and makes a strong signal. Technology is so cool. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)
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Our satellite was set up on the roof above our media tent. These tiny, narrow stairs were the only way up. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The day of the Queen’s birthday she walked down from the castle and around the block into the town’s Guildhall where she was presented with a cake. On the way back she drove right past us in her roofless Rolls Royce and it was amazing because she was so close.

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She was so close. I could have touched her… if my arm was really long. Driving along High Street in Windsor in a roofless Rolls Royce. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

After the birthday excitement was over, we needed to do some more logistical coordination. Half of our people and gear had to stay in Windsor to cover Obama’s visit the next day, and half our people and gear had to come home to London. This resulted in Pascal and I hauling an incredible amount of gear on the train, like little CBC sherpas.

All in all, a great week. My body was sore from hauling gear, but giddy that I got to shoot her Majesty. I mean, seriously, I got pretty lucky that my internship just happened to coincide with all this cool stuff. I’ve gotten to go out with the crew and do quite a bit of shooting and fieldwork. There’s also been a lot of opportunity to learn from the correspondents, cameramen and producers. All in all, a really great gig.

There are still two weeks left to go. I feel like this is probably the natural climax of my time here, but who knows? Here’s looking forward to two more great weeks with the CBC in London.

Hi, I’m Mel, blogger and tea sommelier at Mel Had Tea. I love to explore, learn, and meet new people. Nothing inspires me more than reading, traveling the world, talking to strangers, and drinking tea.

8 Comments

  • Nolda

    Couldn’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea tonight & read your Sunday post! I’ve really been enjoying your ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse of the news. Pleasantly surprised at the new format – I like It! What a thrilling week for you! All the pics are great – perfectly captured the quintessential Queen Elizabeth, and my fav shot being the solo guard … Just makes me smile 🙂
    Keep up the great work Mel !

    • Mel Hattie

      Thank you! I like the new format too. I was nervous at first, but I think it’s a great change. Getting to see behind-the-scenes is probably my favourite part of this internship. Seeing how the news is made, put together, choices and decisions. It’s all fascinating. And yes, I was so stoked that I got a perfect Queen Elizabeth smile! Once in a lifetime chance and I’m glad the sea of people parted at the perfect time for me to catch her smile. <3 :-)

  • Kaleigh

    All of these pictures are my favourite. But I especially love that one with the British Army person (with no eyeholes. <3)

  • Bernice Tracey

    Really interesting reading about the logistics of how the news is gathered, the people you have met and worked with. Sounds like you are having an awesome time. Memories and hopefully connections you will have for ever.

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