After a welcome few days break after Christmas (in a cottage in Surrey, since you ask), it’s back into action and starting with a bit of a bang. On Sunday we went to a rugby match. Not just any old match, but Leicester Tigers v Bath, and a bit of a grudge match, as in the away fixture back in September Bath had inflicted an ignominious 45-0 defeat on Leicester. So a lot was at stake in the rematch. But we’d also secured the chance to bring our community appeal to the attention of the 24,000 strong crowd – with a page in the programme, collectors around the stadium before and after – and by entering a team of ten vicars (7 male, 3 female) into the half-time Big Boot competition – whereby you get goes at catching a rugby ball projected high into the air by a machine. We were all suitably dressed in cassocks and dog-collars, but needless to say, we didn’t score very highly – 1 out of 10 in fact. But there again, most teams do little better. It was a big moment for me, as team captain, because as a season ticket holder, I’m normally in the stands watching some other group embarrass themselves by failing to catch anything much. I went last, and (honestly, it’s true) the ball was projected way off to my left. I ran hard to make up ground. I got to its place of landing. Almost. But not quite. I missed. And watching from the stands were my son and 5-year old grandson. Well, I’ll just have to make them proud of me some other way! On the other hand our Appeal raised over £850 from the collections. And Leicester beat Bath 17-8 – so all in all it was a pretty good day. You can see a short video we made on the day here.
Then there’s been a flurry of media interest as the new year gets under way. it started with a piece on Radio 4’s Sunday programme, which had been recorded before Christmas, introducing what they saw as the main issues around reinterment, and featuring myself, Phil Stone, Fr Andrew Cole of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham and David Johnson, of the Looking for Richard Project team. From which line up you can maybe see what they thought those issues were: ‘Leicester or York?’ and ‘Catholic or Anglican?’ That feels like old territory to me, and certainly whatever people’s views may be, both questions are now well and truly settled. But it underlines how those coming new to the story this year, as many hundreds of thousands, if not millions will be, may approach it. I think we may need to do a little more work to change the agenda, not to past and ended arguments, and to focus much more on the key questions, which are, I think, Who was King Richard III? What is his place in history and how is it best marked today? and What does all of this have to say to us in the very different world of the 21st century? Anyway, you can listen to the item here – it’s 20 minutes into the programme, and in the end I think deals pretty well with the issues they opted to cover.
Then local TV woke up to the fact it’s all happening later this spring and rolled up to do a piece with David which went out on local regional news last night (6 January). That focused both on the current state of play in the Cathedral, where the screens and floors are all now going back into place (see the image at the top of this Blog, but also another here),
but also on the ‘public ballot’ for the 200 invitations to the services in the week. And as luck would have it as they were filming, we were actually carrying out the process that results in choosing the successful 600 out of almost 14,000 applicants – mainly on-line, but several hundred who had instead opted to use the paper forms that we had also made available. They even had a brief shot of me, Keith and Emma hunched over our computer screen making sure it was all done properly, with David in the foreground explaining what was happening. In case you’re wondering, basically what we did was make use of a programme that sorts lists into random order – based on the use of atmospheric noise, which is apparently as random an element in the universe as you can get! So we first sorted out the names into ‘local’ and ‘non-local’ (as we’d said there would be 100 seats at each service for each of those two categories), and then randomly ordered them. That took mere seconds. The longer task was going down the lists selecting those so randomly chosen, checking which services they’d asked to be considered for, and ensuring, for example, that if they need accompanying (by virtue of health or disability, or age) that we allocated two invitations not one – and so on. It took the best part of the day – but by last evening we’d got there. So, in principle, those decisions have now been made. The letters of invitation, both for these people and indeed all the others to be invited from whatever other categories have been agreed, will be going out next week. But do bear with us if that takes a while. Over 1800 letters don’t go out just like that – and all the lists need a final sense-check to avoid duplications etc. And, by the way, we won’t be making our invitation lists public – though I know some people would dearly love us to, so they can argue with who is or isn’t included. That seems to us both futile – and, in the end neither dignified nor honouring to what this is all about. But I expect some will disagree with that too. Sigh. (Yes, you ‘cabal’ people, I do read your postings sometimes too, and know we can do no right in your eyes.)
So here we are – back in action, with a vengeance over the next three months. i’ll try to keep up the weekly blogs between now and reinterment – but they may not all be very long!