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Charles and Camilla reopen West End theatre before thanking Royal Parks staff


By PA News

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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited the £60 million renovation of a London West End theatre, then later visited Royal Parks staff to thank them for their hard work keeping public spirit up during the pandemic.

Charles and Camilla toured through the renovated Theatre Royal Drury Lane with owner Andrew Lloyd Webber, his wife Madeline and Simon Thurley, chairman of the Lloyd Webber Theatre Restoration Project.

The theatre now boasts the biggest stage in London, at two inches more than the London Coliseum, and can hold two double decker buses.

Touring the auditorium, Charles asked when Frozen – the stage adaptation of the hit Disney film – would be able to open.

Referencing the continued setbacks owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lord Lloyd-Webber joked “probably 2040”, to which Charles quipped: “It’s what we call ‘put on ice’.”

The couple enjoyed a brief afternoon tea on the balcony before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the opening.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are shown around by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (Tim Whitby/PA)
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are shown around by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (Tim Whitby/PA)

Later in the afternoon, Charles, patron of The Royal Parks, and Camilla met members of staff from the charity at Hyde Park to pay tribute to them for caring for London’s green spaces.

Camilla also enjoyed a 99 ice cream from the charity’s ice cream van, with Charles encouraging her to “get stuck in” to the treat.

The couple spoke to gardeners, apprentices, cleaning staff, litter pickers, volunteer and the mounted police force, whose efforts helped to provide an escape for people during lockdown.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have tea on the terrace (Tim Whitby/PA)
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have tea on the terrace (Tim Whitby/PA)

Park staff said it had been a “challenging but rewarding” time, and added it was nice to receive appreciation for their work.

Hyde Park boasts a “super” nursery which houses all 450,000 bedding plants and shrubs needed for flower displays across the eight Royal Parks, including the gardens outside Buckingham Palace.

Hyde Park nursery manager Mike Jones, who moved from the Midlands 29 years ago to work there, said he had watched the nursery expand to now grow 1,000 varieties of flowers using state of the art technology.

The Prince of Wales during a visit to Hyde Park (Tom Nicholson/PA)
The Prince of Wales during a visit to Hyde Park (Tom Nicholson/PA)

When asked about the responsibility of caring for so many plants Mr Jones said: “I’ve grown into it. There are very stressful times but we’ve got a great team.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re providing to help people’s mental wellbeing and their stress levels.”

The Royal Parks charity, launched by Charles in 2017, welcomes 77 million visitors a year to its 5,000 acres of historic parkland across London – including Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park, Richmond Park and Bushy Park.

The Duchess of Cornwall with an ice cream during a visit to Hyde Park (Tom Nicholson/PA)
The Duchess of Cornwall with an ice cream during a visit to Hyde Park (Tom Nicholson/PA)

Chief executive of The Royal Parks Andrew Scattergood said: “It’s an incredibly special day, but for me it is bigger than just the Royal Parks, I think they’re trying to say thank you to parks and gardens across the UK.

“This year with everything we’ve been through just the importance of green spaces and that access to nature is hugely important, but what today shows you is just how many people are working to enable that to happen.”

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