Dominic Reid has been pageantmaster of the Lord Mayor’s Show since 1992, overseeing a quarter-century of huge parades through the City of London. As he tells us, it was a role he was born to play…
‘I went to my first Lord Mayor’s Show when I was seven, just before my father was appointed pageantmaster in 1972. I was brought up in London and the Lord Mayor’s Show has been a part of family life for as long as I can remember. I used to enjoy helping my father out, then I became professionally involved when he and I started working together.
Nevertheless, when I was younger I don’t think I anticipated growing up to be a pageantmaster. In fact, I was an architect – as were my father and mother, John and Sylvia Reid – and worked with them in their practice. Two things my father and I had in common were architecture training and military experience: an odd combination that equips you well for the varied nature of the Lord Mayor’s Show.
I took over the show in 1992. My father – having done 20 shows – had a fatal heart attack aged 66. It was all a bit unexpected, and I was asked if I would carry on. I said yes, and have since built a career around major event production.
I’ve done a lot of ceremonial and commemorative work. As well as the Lord Mayor’s Show, I’ve run the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race; I worked on the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society; and most recently I was involved in developing the Invictus Games. But the Lord Mayor’s Show has been the backbone of my career. It doesn’t take up 100 percent of my working hours, but it gets constant attention.
‘The Lord Mayor’s Show is never going to be perfect. Some things will always go awry’
The planning cycle for the show is 15 to 18 months, so plans for 2018 are well under way – and you can’t rehearse! It’s the largest unrehearsed procession of its type in the world. You have to get a clear sense of what people are doing and build a detailed schedule. The whole thing has 7,000 people in it, plus animals, big vehicles and things like animatronic sculptures made out of recycling bins – and they’re never in one place for more than five minutes.
Of course, I’ve got a great team of marshals who help put the thing together; without them it wouldn’t be possible. But the thing is, the Lord Mayor’s Show is never going to be perfect. It’ll look great, but some things are always going to go awry. One year I packed off the carriages then realised the Lord Mayor, who should have been in one of them, was still standing, looking bemused, by the side of the road. That was a bit of a mishap, but I managed to cope with it.
This year the Lord Mayor’s Show falls on November 11, which is Armistice Day, so there will be a two-minute silence at 11am. The Lady Mayoress is going to ride on horseback rather than in a carriage, which hasn’t happened since 1984. We’ve got camels, sheep and donkeys – all of which need to be kept apart – and the return of the animatronic bin-bot. This event is all about engaging the excitement and imagination of the public, which is what makes me enjoy bringing it to life each year.’
The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place throughout the City of London on November 11.
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