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Artillery Row

The shows should go on

Would the Queen want us to cancel events?

The week my mother died, we took the kids to Legoland. We’d booked the trip months before, and there seemed no point in cancelling. Emotions were mixed, of course, but what would have been the benefit in asking small children to be miserable, simply because my own heart was drained?

The memory of that trip came back to me on learning that Legoland Windsor had shut its doors on Friday “out of respect” following the Queen’s death. There has been a flurry of announcements this weekend as sporting bodies and others have tried to work out what’s expected of them when the monarch dies. Football is off, Cricket was postponed, rugby is on. It’s not just at the professional level: some children’s leagues have pulled matches.

The Met Office seemed, bafflingly, to be saying it would scale back its weather forecasting. Oddest of all, the BBC cancelled the Last Night of the Proms, despite it being the event in its calendar that could most easily be adapted into a moment of national reflection and celebration. The audience  even have their own flags.

It’s not hard to see where all this is coming from. At times like these, there is an understandable corporate terror of Getting It Wrong, and over-reacting probably seems safer than under-reacting. Legoland is in Windsor, within sight of the Queen’s home. At the BBC they know that they’re stuffed whatever they do. 

It’s 70 years since we lost a monarch

We have no useful reference point to guide us at times like this. The death of Diana, 25 years ago, was a huge shock, the monarchy itself apparently unsure how to react. The death of the Queen Mother, five years later, saw the reaction swing the other way: the Daily Mirror berated its readers for not being sad enough. It’s 70 years since we lost a monarch, and in that time our approach to both grief and the monarchy has changed. 

The death of the Queen is a huge moment, and her life is one that deserves to be honoured and celebrated. So of course the moment should be marked in a significant way. One of the quietly moving things in London yesterday was the way that every electronic poster site in railways stations carried the same image. The service in St Paul’s was lovely, and I’m glad the BBC carried it in full. 

But while some among us are deeply upset by the Queen’s death, others aren’t especially. And many in between feel sad but will also be carrying on. A lot of the current cancellations seem driven more by a fear of being denounced than a belief that the public is planning to put its life on hold for a week or more. 

Let’s be grown up about this. There is no need to stop all the clocks, or the weather forecasts. Most of us have experienced loss and know that, in the end, you keep going, and the grief becomes a part of you. The Queen shaped our nation and will continue to after her death. We don’t need to mark the occasion by cancelling kids’ football matches. We’ve cancelled quite enough of those already this decade.

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