We'd been told that the gates to the Palace would be opened at 3.30pm, so the Mother and I arrived at around 3.15pm. Evidently, the organisers had known all along that the keen ticket winners would arrive early, so they'd actually already started letting people in, which was fabby because we barely queued. The atmosphere outside Buckingham Palace was electric! Everyone was absolutely buzzing, waving flags and soaking up all the excitement. After going through airport-style security, we were in! We strolled through the courtyard in front of the palace and were given our incredible picnic hampers as we went (more on that later), and then we got to actually walk through part of Buckingham Palace to get to the garden. As you can imagine, it is super grand inside - unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures. What was lovely was that we weren't rushed through or anything, and the staff (who must have nearly outnumbered the guests!) were so delightfully friendly and helpful, frequently wishing us an enjoyable time (but not overdoing it!)
Unsurprisingly, everything in the garden was beautiful. There were stylish marquees dotted around for sheltering, different musicians playing (from steel bands to jazz), and delightfully classy loos (no portaloos for the royals!) We were free to stroll wherever we pleased, and it was really nice chatting to different people. I really liked that because each winner had won two tickets, everyone was walking round in couples, from mothers and daughters to husbands and wives. It was such a friendly atmosphere, as I suppose everyone just felt so thrilled, excited and lucky to be there. And because the 10,000 tickets had been allocated randomly, there really were all sorts there - some people had dressed up for the occasion as if they were going to Ascot, whereas others were in Union Jack style fancy dress. The mother and I went for somewhere in the middle.
And now, the picnic hamper. It was absolutely incredible to be honest! I'd found out what food we were getting beforehand (all done by Heston Blumenthal, don'tcha know) but I wasn't expecting it all to be in such a beautiful wicker basket/cool bag. Such a great souvenir. Not only was there loads of delicious food ("jubilee" chicken, duchy oatcakes, fancy chutney, four mini bread rolls, chilled soup, cheese, two cakes, strawberry crumble crunch pudding and more), we also got a pack of 12 hand wipes (I'm not sure quite how messy they were expecting us to get!), a beautiful souvenir programme and a delightful (and sturdy) blue rain poncho, with the Jubilee emblem design.
Not only that, but we all got unlimited bottles of water (again, with a special Jubilee label) and elderflower. We each had one drinks voucher, entitling us to either a flute of Champagne or a pint of beer. Obvs mother and I went for the Champagne (Moet, natch), and although the flute was plastic, it didn't look it. THEN - yes there's more - staff started coming out with loads of tubs of ice cream for us all. It's ridiculous that we didn't pay for any of this (don't hate me!)
So the mother and I casually strolled around the gardens and their beautiful pond, generally having an amazing time. It was quite funny because there were a couple of showers, and the lawn suddenly turned completely blue as everyone threw on their ponchos. Overall, we were lucky with the weather though, especially compared to the torrential downpours for the flotilla the day before. More excitement came in the form of meeting and chatting to Daily Telegraph journalist, Bryony Gordon, whose piece we ended up quoted in the next day (read it here)! I LOVE her writing so this was super cool for me (she seemed to love that my mum's and my names are Monica and Rachel, like in Friends). I also met Made In Chelsea's Ollie Locke, who evidently thought the concert and picnic were more important than watching his series finale. Good priorities. What's more, I myself actually got recognised by someone because of my interview live on Sky News on the morning of the concert, which is hilarious (read all about my interview here.) I think it's really sweet as well that some members of the Royal Family actually came down to the garden to mingle with us mere commoners too, such as Princesses Anne, Beatrice and Eugenie.
At around 6pm after we'd all had the perfect amount of time in the garden, we started to be casually ushered round to get into our seats for the concert. It wasn't forceful, and we could all take our time and finish off our ice creams. The staff really were fantastic - they went round collecting rubbish all the time, were always smiley and were extremely polite when trying to get us all from one place to the next.
As mother and I took our seats, the sun was fully out and the sky was blue. We were fortunate enough to be on the side that was hit by the evening sun which not only kept us a bit warmer, but also meant that the sunset behind the stage added something extra beautiful to the concert. I really loved that it started in the light and finished in the dark. And although it was long, I didn't even notice as we were all having such a great time. We also were on the side that could see each act coming on to and off the stage, which was cool. While we waited for the concert to start, The One Show was playing on the screens to keep us entertained and build our excitement. I also munched on a bit more of my picnic. It amazed me that some people were queueing up to buy more food from the stands outside as I thought we had LOADS in the hampers. Our seats were on the other side to the royal box, which was great as (with the aid of binoculars) we could see into it. Throughout the evening I was peering through them announcing things like "Prince Harry just scratched his head!", "Kate's waving her flag!" and "William just laughed!" It was brilliant. One act that really got the royals going was Sir Tom Jones singing Delilah, which was cute. A lot of the comedians made Prince Harry the butt of their jokes, and it was hilarious to watch him cringe when they did so. One thing that really made the Queen chuckle was when it was joked that she had had to rent out her drive to Gary Barlow as times were tough! I also saw her really applauding Sir Elton John.
I shan't go through the whole concert, as write ups of that can be found everywhere. But I personally thought it was all done brilliantly. There were loads of stage hands who worked fabulously to make it all run smoothly. No one act was on for too long, the mix of artists worked really well, and the comedians in between were fab. I did chuckle when some of the more modern artists were on and the middle-aged members of the audience sat in their seats smiling along, before getting up and screaming like crazy for their fave oldies. If the atmosphere beforehand had been exciting, it reached a whole new level during the concert. We were all waving our flags, stamping our feet, singing along and whooping. Even one of the BBC cameras on a crane had a Union Jack flying from it. I was a bit worried that the Queen wasn't there from the very beginning, but apparently she had always planned to come around half way through. I was majorly cringing when Stevie Wonder said "Happy birthday, your highness!" so goodness knows what she thought of that. It was great that some acts had changed their lyrics to fit the occasion though - most notably Madness' "in the middle of One's street" and Stevie Wonder's "a young 86 years old".
If you watched the concert on TV (it's still on BBCplayer for those who haven't!), you'll know what I mean when I say the way the palace was lit up was incredible. As it got dark, this really added something special, and all the animations fitted perfectly to the music. It was also amazing to have artists performing on it - from Madness on the roof to Alfie Boe on the balcony.
Prince Charles' speech at the end was very touching. It was perhaps my favourite moment of the whole night when everyone down the mall and at the concert spontaneously started chanting "PHILIP! PHILIP! PHILIP!", showing just how much affection we all have for the Queen and her incredible husband. The roars of support were deafening. We all got rather emotional singing the national anthem (luckily the words to the second verse were in our programme!) and the fireworks coming off the roof of the Palace to the sound of Land of Hope and Glory were just something else. I've never seen such spectacular fireworks in my life. It was a real moment to remember.
To be honest, I'll never forget the whole day. I have no idea what I've done to deserve to go, but by jove I am a lucky girl. I actually sent a message to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee website (anyone can do it):
I was one of the lucky few who won tickets to the Diamond Jubilee Concert and picnic in Buckingham Palace. I went with my mother, and we were so very impressed with everything. The organisation was impeccable, the staff were all very helpful and friendly, what we were given in our hampers was extremely generous, and it was a real treat to be able to walk through the Palace and explore your beautiful gardens. Thank you so much for allowing us into your world to celebrate your amazing achievement. It was a day I will never ever forget, and I feel really privileged. I hope you enjoyed the concert and the celebratory weekend as much as I did, and congratulations once more on your Diamond Jubilee. You are an inspiration to us all and I think you are fantastic in every way."
And that's that.