CEO blog – An unforgettable evening with the Royal Family

Westminster Abbey at dusk in the snow

13 January 2023

An unforgettable evening with the Royal Family

January’s started off a bit grey and miserable, so I thought I’d cheer you up by handing the blog over to a special guest this time. Vicky is a long-standing supporter of this charity, having been a dear friend of our late founder Helen herself, for many years. Vicky’s going to fill you in on a very exciting adventure she had before Christmas, along with four other lucky members of the Helen Arkell team. Over to you Vicky …!

The first big excitement was receiving a beautiful card invitation to the Royal Carol Concert in an envelope marked “Buckingham Palace”. I had been lucky enough to win one of the five tickets that Princess Beatrice had donated to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, for supporters of the charity to attend this amazing event at Westminster Abbey. My name had been put in the hat because I’m a ‘Friend of Helen Arkell’. By the time the important day arrived, Thursday 15th December 2022, I was like a child on Christmas Eve.

As that Thursday was a day between two days of rail strikes, we decided to go up to London mid morning, in order not to be heId up by transport. I had arranged to meet another lucky winner on the train – Samantha, one of the admin team at the charity – and we decided to find the correct entrance to Westminster Abbey before we had a look round. There was already snow on the grass and everything was sparkling in the sunshine. We found somewhere nearby to eat until it was the time we were supposed to take our seats, and we spent a very pleasant time eating and people-watching in the Methodist Centre. We managed to meet up with the other lucky winners – one of the charity’s dyslexia assessors, one of their teachers, and a trustee.

We had to wait quite a while in the queue, but we were offered mince pies and all the guides were very cheerful and chatted to us. We had been told that the Prince and Princess of Wales would be holding the
concert, but were very excited to learn that, at the last moment, all the Royal Family had decided to attend. We had to wait whilst a car dropped off a member of royalty, and then, after passing through
security, we made our way into the Abbey.

It was very crowded, and I sat at the back of a large block of people but right at the end of a row. As I am very tiny, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see much, but as soon as the King and Queen Consort arrived, everyone stood up and I crept into the gap between the blocks and saw King Charles, Queen Camilla, the Princes and Princesses and Dukes and Duchesses, walk past right in front of me.

I had no idea that the programme would include so many famous people, including Mel C, Hugh Bonneville, Alfie Boe and Craig David. Those that were too far away for us to see were filmed on large screens all around the Abbey, so we did not miss anything. The service was a beautiful mixture of readings and songs, including Away in a Manger, sung by a choir of Ukrainian children.

It was all over far too quickly and, instead of making our way out of the doors, we were rather naughty and made our way to the front of the Abbey, where we saw the Royal Thrones, The Christmas Tree decorated with Paddington Bears and the Nativity Scene, and we took the opportunity to take lots of photos.

This was one of the most exciting days of my life. I felt l like a child in a sweet shop, and so fortunate to have been present.

When all the excitement was over, we made our way back to Waterloo and were lucky enough to catch a train almost immediately and travelled home very tired and aware of the fact that we had shared an important moment in history.


Westminster Abbey carol service programme
Ornate dark blue and gold carved ceiling at Westminster Abbey
Ornate wooden seating in Westminster Abbey
The row of red seats where the royal family sit in Westminster Abbey