The 2012 Australia/New Zealand Festival Procession
This year is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth, so it was appropriate
that our first engagement should once again have us parading to St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate
Church. In Dickens’ time the church stood close to Newgate Prison where, in Oliver
Twist, Fagin spends the night before being publicly hanged for his crimes.
Dickens wasn’t in favour of hangings and doesn’t seem to have been a big fan of the
flute, either. When Nancy goes looking for Oliver in prison the only inmate is a
man locked up for playing the flute. And in David Copperfield the character Mr Mell
is described as liking to ‘have a blow at it’ and making ‘the most dismal sounds
ever heard produced by any means, natural or artificial’.
Luckily for us, the organisers of the Australia/New Zealand Festival seem to enjoy
our ‘dismal sounds’ and we’d been again asked to lead their Festival Procession.
We had some changes of personnel from last year with Side Drummers Lee Budd and Mick
O’Rourke joining us. Mark Lidinson, who last year carried the New Zealand national
flag, was carrying our Bass Drum this year. We wait with interest to see what he’ll
be carrying next year – a didgeridoo? a boomerang? an inflatable kangaroo? We never
really know with Mark…
After the customary reading of messages and mumbled Australian National Anthem, we
lead off the procession of Pearly Kings and Queens, the RBL, RAFA and Royal Engineers
Standards and the Festival organisers and supporters.
As in previous years we set off with Waltzing Matilda, then followed it with Euterpe.
On our way down Newgate Street we played Galanthia, and Killaloe.
Of Newgate Street in the days when the Prison still stood, Dickens wrote:
“Scarcely one man out of a hundred, whose road to business every morning lies through
Newgate Street, or the Old Bailey, would pass the building... knowing that as they
pass one particular angle of the massive wall with a light laugh or a merry whistle,
they stand within one yard of a fellow-creature, bound and helpless, whose hours
are numbered, from whom the last feeble ray of hope has fled for ever, and whose
miserable career will shortly terminate in a violent and shameful death.”
Fortunately the prison and its gallows are long gone, and so, playing our 1914-18
Medley, we arrived at St Sepulchre’s to end our part in this year’s Australia/ New
Zealand Festival Procession. The weather had been kind to us and the march to the
church, although short, always provides an enjoyable start to our Corps of Drums
We missed a final link with Dickens, though. Our Drum Major is also the Beadle of
a London Guild so, like Oliver Twist, we could have addressed our Beadle with the
famous words: "Please, sir, I want some more."