The Times February 02, 2006

No whizpopping at the palace, children
By Alan Hamilton

IT WILL be like finding a golden ticket to Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. But instead of oompaloompas and the horrid Veruca Salt there will be Bob the Builder, Noddy, Postman Pat, Mr Happy, Mary Poppins, the BFG, Paddington Bear, the White Rabbit and many more, including, of course, Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort, however, despite his pretensions to the aristocracy, has not been invited.

Winnie-the-Pooh celebrates his 80th birthday this year, and so does the Queen. To celebrate both her longevity and the worldwide success of British children’s literature, she is inviting 2,000 children aged between 4 and 14 to a summer party in her own back garden at Buckingham Palace on June 25.

There may not be Wonka chocolate bars, but there will be a picnic created by Jamie Oliver and a 75-minute stage show to be broadcast live on BBC One featuring not only some of the best-known characters from children’s fiction, but also the real J. K. Rowling and the real Sophie Dahl, granddaughter of the BFG’s creator.

At a press conference in the Palace’s Bow Room yesterday to announce details of the event, footmen were serving only coffee and no frobscottle, so there was no unseemly outbreak of whizzpopping from the assembled media.

When Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant went to live in the Palace, the BFG unashamedly whizzpopped in front of the Queen. “I think I prefer the bagpipes,” she replied — at least according to Roald Dahl.

Yesterday’s real-life event was equally surreal, with Paddington Bear and the Queen of Hearts sitting among sober-suited reporters, all watching a video of Bob the Builder on his mobile phone accepting a contract from the Queen to build a stage for the party. He’s got until June so, unlike most builders, he’d better not disappear for weeks to another job.

For the event the Palace garden will be transformed into a fantasy world featuring characters and scenes from the best-loved children’s fiction.

A Palace official said: “The Queen was keen that her birthday should not be seen as a Jubilee, so we have been looking for new and original ways of engaging all ages.”

There is a serious purpose behind the celebration: to encourage literacy among children. Chris Meade, director of Booktrust, said: “We are in a golden age of children’s literature, and this seems a fantastic way of putting it in front of children.”


Children who want to join the party should apply through the BBC website: www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc (external - login to view)

Or send a postcard to: Children’s Party at the Palace, PO Box 80, London SW1P 9AU. All names will be put in a ballot, which will ensure an even spread of successful applicants across the country

Applicants must be aged between 4 and 14. Even if an adult makes the application, it must be in the child’s name. The party is on Sunday, June 25

Each successful applicant will be invited to bring one young friend and one adult. Transport for London will give the winners free travel for the weekend

In 1887 Queen Victoria invited children to a circus in Hyde Park, presenting each one with a penny and a commemorative mug. Will there be any gifts this time? Ah, dear children, that’s a secret