Highlights: The oldest show on earth

By Tony Phillips  /  Contributing reporter

Fri, Nov 10, 2017 - Page 14

For the first time in more than 800 years a Taiwanese contingent will take part in the world’s oldest civic procession in London this weekend.

The Lord Mayor’s Show will feature more than 6,500 participants, 20 marching bands, 150 horses and hundreds of carriages, carts, coaches and other vehicles. Pride of place goes to the state coach that the Lord Mayor rides in, which has been used in every show since 1757, making it the oldest working ceremonial vehicle in the world.

Expat and long-time London resident Linda Lee is the driving force behind the Taiwanese presence at this year’s event, which was prompted by a suggestion from Mike King, a former City of London Police officer.

King, a friend of Lee’s, fell in love with Taiwan in 1979 on the first of his 15 trips to the nation. Having first-hand experience of the show through policing the event, he thought it offered a great opportunity to showcase Taiwan, and Lee, who runs the only Taiwanese-owned travel agency in the UK, agreed.

“Taiwan is a small country and because of China’s pressure, we don’t have much international recognition,” Lee says. “We would really like to grab this opportunity to raise awareness of our country.”

ANCIENT SPECTACLE

Tomorrow’s spectacle dates back to 1215, when King John issued a charter allowing the City of London to elect its own mayor every year. There was a condition though: each year the new mayor had to leave the city and travel to the then-small town of Westminster to swear loyalty to the crown. Over the centuries the two grew and merged into what is today known as London but the area of the original city, now London’s financial center and known as “the City,” still retains its own institutions, police force and mayor.

The Lord Mayor has been making this trip to pledge his (and her) loyalty for more than 800 years, the journey becoming the celebrity spectacle of its day. It grew so popular that by the 16th century it was known everywhere as the Lord Mayor’s Show and even features in Shakespeare’s plays.

More recently, the show was the first outside event ever to be broadcast live and it still attracts a huge TV audience.