By Danica Kirka | Associated Press
LONDON — During a long weekend of royal pageantry devoted to Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, the British people will take center stage in at least one event.
More than 10,000 performers, including schoolchildren, community groups and military bands, are expecting to troop to Buckingham Palace on June 5 to cap four days of celebrations marking the queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The event on the Mall, the tree-lined road that leads to the palace, will feature pop star Ed Sheeran, dancers, acrobats, vintage cars and depictions of the queen’s favorite corgis and horses in performances highlighting the changes in British society during Elizabeth’s long reign.
“It will be all about how, through the recollections and stories and experiences we share, we can see how we are all connected through time to each other, and to the queen,” the show’s director, David Zolkwer, said Tuesday.
Elizabeth, the longest-ruling monarch in British history, assumed the throne when she was 25 years old. In the next seven decades, the U.K. navigated the end of its empire, the Cold War, the economic tensions of the 1980s and the challenges of an increasingly multicultural society.
Now 96, the queen who was a constant presence through it all remains a symbol of stability.
The jubilee pageant seeks to celebrate that legacy with a spectacle that will begin with the ringing of Westminster Abbey’s bells, just like on Elizabeth’s coronation day.
The first of four “acts” will be a parade featuring military bands and service personnel from the U.K. and Commonwealth nations including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Ghana, Belize, Jamaica and Sri Lanka.
Some 2,500 volunteers are expected to take part in the second act, which will be devoted to creativity, dance, fashion and music during the queen’s reign.
This part of the program will also feature 150 “national treasures” who have shaped British culture over the past 70 years, including singer Cliff Richard, chef Heston Blumenthal and figure skating gold medalists Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
The third section will celebrate the queen’s reign and personal interests with quirky British humor. The acts include a 20-foot-tall puppet of a young woman, surrounded by a pack of mischievous corgi puppets.
The event will end in front of Buckingham Palace, where Sheeran will perform and the public will be asked to join in singing “God Save the Queen.”
Organizers declined to comment on whether or not the monarch might be persuaded to appear on the palace balcony.
The U.K. is marking the queen’s jubilee June 2-June 5.