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Jubilation turns sour as Barnet beacon is ‘only one in country’ not to light

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 June 2012

Compere Red Stripe talks to Isabella Ward as she prepares to light the Jubilee beacon in Golders Hill Park on June 4. Picture: Polly Hancock

Compere Red Stripe talks to Isabella Ward as she prepares to light the Jubilee beacon in Golders Hill Park on June 4. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Jubilee celebrations turned sour for a crowd of hundreds when a beacon due to be lit to mark the Queen’s 60 year reign became the only known one in the country not to ignite.

Cheers from the excited crowd who had gathered to see the ceremonial illumination at Golders Hill Park Jubilee Festival on Monday night turned to boos as the beacon failed to catch alight despite three attempts.

Heartbroken Isabella Ward, 12, who had been hand picked to light the beacon after writing to the Queen, broke down in tears as what had promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment flopped.

Her mother, Shelley Ward, said: “It was very much a disappointment. Isabella was really upset. There had been a huge build up and she wanted it to be really special, but it wasn’t.

“It was her 12th birthday on the same day so it was really gutting.”

In what was billed as Barnet’s flagship Jubilee party, a crowd of 6,000 patriotic party-goers decked out in red, white and blue descended on the park in Golders Green throughout the day and hundreds stayed to watch the torch being lit.

It was one of 4,000 beacons due to be set aflame across the Commonwealth, culminating with The Queen igniting the final torch at the end of a star-studded concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Isabella and Barnet Mayor Brian Schama both spoke of their excitement as they prepared to light the beacon at 10.15pm – just 15 minutes before the Queen ignited hers.

But excitement turned to disappointment when the beacon failed due to technical problems.

Organisers even led the public in a rousing rendition of Land Of Hope And Glory while technicians tried to fix the beacon, to no avail.

After a third unsuccessful attempt, organisers called time on the celebrations, prompting jeers and boos from the crowd.

Isabella’s grandmother Judy Green, who with her husband Michael had cut short her holiday in Majorca to watch her granddaughter light the torch, said simply: “It was a dream shattered.”

Bruno Peek, pageant master of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons, said: “It is a real shame that one of the chain wasn’t alight. I can understand the disappointment.”

A spokesman for the City of London, which ran the event with Barnet Council, said the beacon had been successfully lit in tests only hours before the ceremony. It is believed the ignition components, provided by Sugg Lighting, failed, but the investigation is ongoing.

By way of apology, City of London has offered Isabella sponsorship of any animal at Golders Hill Zoo and a behind the scenes tour, an annual season ticket for the Lido, and sport coaching sessions.

Simon Lee, superintendent of Hampstead Heath said: “We are deeply apologetic to Isabella and the public - this clearly impacted on what was, overall, a fantastic celebration.”

A Barnet Council spokesman said the authority was “disappointed” and considering how to make it up to Isabella.

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