Professor Joe Goldblatt
Greater opportunities for diversity, inclusion, and civic confidence may, as a result of the Coronation of King Charles III, become the hallmark values of future events in Scotland, the United Kingdom and throughout the world. However, we must make certain that these opportunities are genuine and ingrained in the strategic planning of all future events. My father once told me that perhaps the best leaders are benevolent monarchs. He then added that the biggest problem with that equation is to find a benevolent monarch
Perhaps that is why when the Ascension Choir, comprised of eight gospel singers literally opened the show at Westminster Abbey and set the proper tone for quality, diversity, inclusion, and civic confidence for the two hour programme it was a full feast of prayers, ritual, and a joyous musical delights. The diversity of the singers, religious leaders, and guest list represented a wide range of countries and backgrounds and their presence and inclusion in the multi – faceted ceremony literally created a vivid cultural tapestry that reflected the modern state of the country where they live and often work.
This type of authenticity in curating and programming a complex ceremony such as a Coronation is often difficult to achieve and more often than not only succeeds when there are demands from groups that have been under – represented in the past. To my knowledge there were no such demands and the final curation was the sole provenance of the guest of honour, his majesty the King.
Therefore, a greater focus upon diversity and inclusion in public events held within our country, the United Kingdom and indeed the rest of the world may hold one of the most powerful keys to the sustainable success of future events. Whether the diverse representation includes gender, race, ethnicity, religion or other critically key strands in our modern society it is now critically important that we ask prior to the development of any future events this simple but profound question. Who may not have been consulted or included in the planning?
To answer this question sometimes requires critical friends whose experience is broader than those of the organisers. For example, when the producer of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was asked during a pre – event speech how he planned to incorporate ALL of the citizens of Glasgow in his ceremony the questioner was specifically reflecting the concerns of marginalised citizens who lived in housing schemes who may have been over looked because they did not have the confidence to apply for volunteer roles. To the credit of the producer, not only did he listen to the question, he later hired the questioner to make certain that anyone who wished to step forward would be treated with respect, dignity, and encouragement.
Nearly four decades ago I was responsible for a large continuing education programme in Washington, DC. One day a member of my staff who was a female of colour, asked to speak to me privately. She showed me our course catalogue and asked me “Who is missing?” I did not know what she meant until she slowly turned each page and finally said “There are no photos of females of colour, although twenty – five percent of our current students represent this type of person.” I was embarrassed and disappointed in my oversight. When we corrected this mistake not only was there greater diversity and inclusion in our catalogue there was also a fifty percent increase in enrolment.
I have learned from these three opportunities, the Coronation, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and my own mistakes that when folk see themselves as included and welcomed into the arena of public events their confidence grows and spreads throughout human society and this creates boundless new and greater opportunities for all citizens.
Often times a public event such as a rarely conducted Coronation is an opportunity to create a teachable moment for civil society. It is that rarely occurring moment described by the late Scottish anthropologist Victor Turner as “communitas” when the participants enter a space that he described as time out of time and move from individualism to collective responsibility. You have seen this at football matches when the crowd performs the wave or at a concert when those standing in front of the stage begin to dance and sing along with the performers. It is a rare moment of liminality when the bands of structure loosen and human beings seamlessly meld together for one common purpose.
From the beginning of recorded history, public events have sought to bring people together. Whether this is though arts and culture, religion, protests or for other purposes to experience joy, sorrow, or other emotions and we often do this best when we are part of a group that accepts anti – structure as a pathway to deeper human connections.
This is why I believe the Coronation of King Charles III has ushered in a deeper and more meaningful Carolean era for public events. Through the cultivation of diversity, inclusion, and civic confidence those who plan, orchestrate and participate, create much greater capacity for human society to not only celebrate our beliefs but also cultivate our potential for even greater connections in the future.
The longest enduring memories of the recent Coronation I believe will not necessarily be the holding of rods, sceptres, crowning of heads, or even sanctification with oils. Rather, they will be the still, small, silent moments when all who participated in person or through media felt a personal and communal connection to the ancient rituals as they were re – imagined by a clever King. A King who somehow knew that to lead effectively he must also learn to insure that he answers the question of who is not included in the future by continuing to widen the lens to insure that any investiture first and foremost results from civil society confidently investing their hopes and dreams in their leader.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. His views are his own. For more information about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot