Before I launch into this blog, a disclaimer. This is decidedly not about nudity, rather it’s about the British Parliament, the fantastic tours @VisitParliament oversee and tea overlooking the Thames so Socks on please.
As a community, we’re already very engaged with environmental issues. The widely acclaimed World Naked Bike Ride and the more recent World Naked Gardening Day are a testimony to how collective action in combination with the reach of social media can further promote a cause and raise awareness. However, politically we don’t tend to engage with our respective governing bodies as much as we perhaps might.
Certainly, as a relatively small but vocal community in the UK, we keep our eye on Government policy which might have an impact on the naturist community but only a percentage of us actively engage with local authorities, our MPs and government unless our liberty is threatened. In Britain, we strive to have a democratic constitution which means Parliament welcome representation from all sectors of the community, at local and national level.
UK residents and overseas visitors can attend debates on current issues or proposed new laws in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords by visiting the public galleries during the week. It’s also possible to attend Select Committees which take evidence in public, with very few exceptions. Parliament provides a calendar so you can see the schedule for both houses.
With spring flowers now nudging their way out of the soil, I’m looking back to late November when I was fortunate to attend a tour of the Houses of Parliament followed by tea. The second such time I’ve been on such a tour and both times I was entranced. Whether you’re a UK resident or visiting from overseas, it’s worth blocking off time to Visit Parliament.
Tours take place on Saturdays throughout the year and most weekdays when Parliament is not in session. My friend and I were fortunate; it was a crisp, sunny day, perfect for capturing pictures of the famous London buses and taxis along the short walk from Westminster tube station to the Houses of Parliament and the stunning architecture of Henry VII’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey opposite the imposing St Stephens Entrance
Having cleared security, we had time to spend before our tour started from Westminster Hall. Upon our arrival, a 45 foot high Sitka Spruce tree from the Kielder Forest in Northumberland was being erected in New Palace Yard next to Big Ben
It looked very different when we left later in the day.
Fortified by tea and cake, we entered Westminster hall where another large Christmas tree from the same source was on display and awaited our tour guide, Micki Von Stieglitz.
A large group, incorporating a range of nationalities, Mrs Stiegliz shepherded us around the House of Commons and the House of Lords during a very informative and fascinating tour.
Now visiting Parliament with my artist friend, it was another opportunity to see ‘New Dawn’ by the artist Mary Branson measuring over six feet high and the first piece of abstract art in the historic palace, commisioned to celebrate the campaign for women’s right to the vote.
Cornelia Parker speaks for many of us with her sentiment “The future is very uncertain for Britain . . . everything’s in a bit of a mess,” as quoted in this Financial Times article by James Pickford about her exhibition. “Cornelia Parker – the fifth official election artist and the first woman to take the role – trailed campaign events across the UK in the run-up to the snap June poll, uploading her images of politicians, voters, protesters and onlookers to a public Instagram feed.”
We walked past New Dawn up the stairs and into St Stephen’s Hall. I took copious notes when we were trailing around after Mrs Stiegliz but honestly, there’s no substitute for taking the tour yourself. Only the eyes are privy to the wonderful artworks, statues, friezes, tapestries, ornate carvings and those areas of Parliament we know so well from seeing televised debates.
Quite how she managed to remember so much detail I’ve no idea but it was superb and left me wanting to go back again and again. My friend was equally impressed.
After the tour, we were booked in for tea overlooking the Thames. If you want to really experience historic London from a superb vantage point, this is it.
Tea was sumptuous and the location couldn’t be more perfect; The Terrace Pavilion, a purpose-built heated marquee.
Suffice to say, it was delightful and a fitting end to a memorable day. If you enjoy art as my friend and I both do, you’ll also find artworks lining the corridors en route to the Terrace. I particularly liked the line drawings of Westminster Hall.
Before leaving, another visit to the Gift Shop. Every year in recent history, I’ve purchased a new decoration for Christmas. This visit to Parliament fittingly provided me with a suffragette who took pride of place on my tree in 2017. Yesterday Parliament announced a free exhibition to celebrate women’s suffrage “Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament” which will open on 27 June 2018 and run through to 6 October 2018 with tickets available online from Tuesday 6 February 2018* I’m becoming a regular
*for the period 27 June to 31 July. Tickets for August will be available at the start of March and tickets for September will be available at the start of April.