Queen's funeral: Chorley Theatre joins nation is saying final farewell to our beloved Queen Elizabeth II
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In theatres, in cinemas, and in living rooms and on phones, the county fell respectfully silent and watched as the pomp and ceremony of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Lancaster, played out on television; a solemn and fitting farewell to a towering figure who belied her diminutive stature throughout her life of service.
A single toll from Big Ben signalled the start of the service at Westminster Abbey, where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066.
King Charles III and his siblings - the Princess Royal, Duke of York and Earl of Wessex - had marched behind their mother's coffin as it travelled the short distance from Westminster Hall, where the Queen had been lying in state for four days, to the ancient Abbey.
Across Lancashire, venues opened specially for the screening so residents could come together and pay their respects.
They included Chorley Theatre, a community multi-media venue which last paid royal service when it screened the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Largely staffed by volunteers, the main screen and studio space were opened up for free to allow local residents to pay their respects and sign a book of condolence.
Ian Robinson, operations director at Chorley Theatre, said: "We are a community theatre, we are run by volunteers, we are here for the community and this is the sort of thing we should be doing. It’s great to see people turn up to watch this momentous occasions. After Covid it’s been difficult to do community events so it’s really important.”
Estelle Bryers is a volunteer at the theatre: “We’ve been at the heart of the community since 1910 – it’s very important for us to open up to those who may be part of the group to commemorate and witness, particularly those who may live alone. Her Majesty had a lifetime of service and duty and humans have an urge to all face on one direction and gather particularly when it’s emotional.
"The Queen’s always been there, I remember the Silver Jubilee when I was in primary school. I never actually met the Queen but I was a Brownie, I was in the St John’s ambulance, I was at Myerscough College and we all swore service to the Queen and it does mean something.”
For Lesley Johnson, it was important to be at the theatre with others rather than at home alone. A regular volunteer at the Chorley Theatre where she works largely at the bar, it was important to feel part of something as the Queen was laid to rest. "It just means we are part of history and will see the Queen go to rest.”
Another volunteer Ming Possible, found the day particularly emotional. Originally from Malaysia which is part of the Commonwealth, she said: “ I want to say thankyou. I’m so proud to be in this country. I really appreciate the United Kingdom and all it’s done for me and the Queen represents that. It really means a lot.”
Glenys Duxbury, from Coppull, was full of praise for the theatre’s efforts in bringing people together, saying: “I want to say thankyou to the theatre for opening today otherwise I would have watched this at home alone and instead, I came with my friends.”
Local residents Ian and Alison were dressed smartly in black for he occasion and said they wanted to be part of something: "We’ve come down to be with other people and pay our respects to the Queen for her 70 years of service. Yesterday I was at a memorial service at the parish church and last week in both Chorley and Preston I was part of the proclamation of King Charles as well and we’ve done a few things over the last couple of weekend.
"I don’t think we’ll ever see another like the Queen again and it’s just showing respect for the loss of her. I served a short term in the navy and I lost my dad just over 12 months, he was in the Lancashire Fusiliers, one of the last ones to do national service in 1960-63. During the week I’ve actually ordered his medals so I can wear them as a mark of respect.”
During the service the Archbishop of Canterbury has described the Queen as having touched "a multitude of lives" and being a "joyful" figure for many, in his sermon at her state funeral.
With the grieving royal family sitting nearby and thousands of mourners filling London's streets, Justin Welby said the outpouring of emotion "arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us".
This emotion was reflected by Alison, who said: “I’ve come because I’ve known her all my life, a beautiful lady, the Queen of smiles and I just wanted to pay my respects.”
Sue Tasker, one of the many volunteers helping the screening run smoothly, said: “I’ve come in because we had the funeral on a large screen and I thought it would be nice to this sort of thing as a group, rather than alone. It will probably be more upsetting but the theatre is a very comforting place for me. I do remember when I was at junior school we all lined the streets and she came past in the car, we all had flags to wave and as everyone says she’s always been there.”
As the National Anthem was sing at the service finale, all the audience at Chorley Theatre rose as one to their feet, reflecting scenes at Westminster Abbey before the Queen's coffin took its final journey from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle where the late monarch will be reunited with her beloved husband.