With Eurovision done and dusted, it was time to move onto an incredibly different environment. Stuart and I had been invited to participate in a thought leadership event on digital living run by the Corsham Institute, which was exciting enough in it’s own right, but when you add in the location being St George’s House at Windsor Castle it made it completely unmissable for this long term lover of all things royal.
We arrived at Windsor Castle on a beautiful spring day, with the sun shining and the Royal Standard flying high, indicating the Queen was in residence. Unsurprising, as there’d been a massive party there the night before as part of her 90th birthday celebrations, but still provided the remote chance that we may just see her out for a stroll…
We (somewhat smugly I must confess) made our way past the no access chains to enter St George’s House, which is an absolutely fascinating place. It is positioned adjacent to St George’s Chapel, and was founded in 1966 by The Duke of Edinburgh and then Dean of Windsor Robin Woods as a place where people could gather to grapple with significant issues facing contemporary society. It hosts events focusing on a wide range of themes and issues, but with a common theme of providing a safe physical and intellectual space for those discussions to take place.
Discussions take place in the Vicars’ Hall, where any intimidation generated by the imposing nature of the surroundings is quickly lost as the conversations commence and the ideas start to flow.
Our group contained a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but with a common interest in exploring our discussion topic of how greater use of digital technologies in day to day life can benefit everyone in society, and the opportunities and challenges that creates. While I can’t share details of the conversations that ensued, (a report will be published at a future point and I’ll share the link to that then), I can certainly attest to the fact that it was hugely interesting, and fascinating to hear the different perspectives people had on the opportunities and challenges we face.
At the end of the first day we had time to stroll around the grounds (within the designated limits of course, with the heavily armed Royal protection officers providing a decent disincentive for anyone who may have been motivated to see if there was any chance of popping in to see if Her Majesty fancied a quick pre dinner G&T).
After dinner we had the opportunity to enjoy a truly extraordinary experience, as one of the Military Knights of Windsor took us on a private tour through St George’s Chapel. We’d enjoyed evensong in the Quire there earlier in the evening, sitting in the stalls of the Knights of the Order of the Garter (I was in Margaret Thatchers) and marvelling at the amazing décor. No pictures are allowed, but there are no shortage of beautiful images available on the website if you want to check it out here.
Our Knight guide, was incredibly knowledgeable, and we were all spellbound as he told us the history of the chapel, pointed out the details of the artistry throughout, and entertained us with stories of the numerous kings and queens buried within the walls.
After sleeping soundly dreaming of life in a different era, there was time for a morning stroll before discussions kicked off again. I had brought my best coat dress game, knowing the Queen and Kate’s penchant for this style for for official engagements, and made sure I was visible around the grounds in case there was any need for an emergency stand in at an event.
With my services sadly not required, I headed back into the Vicars’ Hall for a continuation of our discussions. As the day concluded and we departed it was clear we weren’t the only ones who’d left the building, with the Royal Standard replaced by the Union Jack.
Stuart and I have always embraced the belief that a changed environment enables change in your thinking, and this was probably the best illustration of this I’ve ever experienced. The juxtaposition of so much history with the very modern discussion topic really contributed to the conversations, and made for a truly memorable event. What an incredible experience, and one I’m very grateful to the Corsham Institute for allowing us to be part of.