A Right Old Knees Up

The Pearly Kings & Queens Harvest Festival

28th September 2014

Scribe Mike Boxall



A Right Old Knees-Up

The Cinque Ports Corps of Drums at the Pearly Kings and Queens Costermongers’ Harvest Festival Parade & Service, Guildhall Yard, London, 28 September 2014


Would you Adam and Eve it? It's that Harry Lime again for The Cinque Ports to jump in their Jam Jars and Scapa Flo down the Frog and Toad to the Guildhall to help the Pearly Kings and Queens in their shiny Whistle and Flutes raise some Bees and Honey by having a Ding Dong. (*Translation below.)


Each London Borough has a Pearly King and Queen, as do the City of London and the City of Westminster. It's a colourful London tradition that has been kept alive by a few dedicated people, figureheads for the capital's working class communities. Today they raise money for charity, in 2012/13 donating over £20,000 to London aid organisations. (There is a link to the London Pearly Kings And Queens Society website in our Links section.)


The Costermongers’ Harvest Festival Parade and Service is the Pearly Kings and Queens flagship event with all the Pearly Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses decked out in their shiniest and most elaborate outfits. This year is the 16th occasion when it has taken place, and it was organised and hosted as usual by Mrs Doreen Golding, Pearly Queen of the Old Kent Road and Bow Bells.  For the fourth year The Cinque Ports Corps of Drums was delighted to be able to support this event by supplying a little martial music and a chance for the Pearlies to parade and sing to our Londoner Medley.


After enjoying the Morris Dancers, Pandemonium Drummers and The Green Hackle Pipe Band, we sounded our bugle fanfare Westminster and then marched on gingerly to The King of the Fairies. Previous years’ experience on the slippery courtyard cobbles made us unsure of our footing even in this slow march.


Thankfully the limited space soon brought us to a halt facing the Guildhall for most of our performance. Euterpe, Soldiers Selection and our 1914-18 Medley soon gave way to the moment all those Pearly Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses had been waiting for… our Londoner Medley.


No sooner had the first notes of Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner rung out than the assembled Pearly Royalty was on its feet parading, singing and generally ‘giving it large’. This must be the only place we play where not only have the audience heard of All My Life I Wanted to be a Barrow Boy, but also know the words. My Old Man Said Follow The Van brought the promenade to a close and we marched off to pleasing applause and our Sussex Medley.


In keeping with the Cockney spirit of this Harvest Knees-Up, we joined the procession through the streets to St Mary-le-Bow Church. According to tradition, a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of this church's bells. This Sunday they would also have been in earshot of Children’s Love, The Adjutant, The Great Escape, Prussia’s Glory and Killaloe as we played our way to church.


As we returned to our Jam Jars to Scapa Flow we could reflect on another great Ding Dong with the Pearlies. Here’s to next year!


Mike Boxall


* Would you believe it? It's that time again for The Cinque Ports to jump in their cars and go down the road to the Guildhall to help the Pearly Kings and Queens in their shiny suits raise some money by having a sing song.

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