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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cultural Feast Heralds Queen's Visit

The impending first visit by a reigning British monarch to Russia has diplomats in Moscow abuzz with activity in preparation for three days of Queen-related dinners, receptions and visits.


But on another, less formal, level, businesses, cultural groups and schools with British links are using the occasion as a chance to promote themselves, boost their culture and even feel better about being British.


At the Savoy Hotel, the management is flying in four cooks and a "tea lady" to preside over British Food Week from Oct. 12 to Oct. 19.


For skeptics of British food, the Savoy's Finnish chief chef, Kenneth Lindberg, explained: "I think it is one of the best cuisines in the world. It's related to the French cuisine ... They have some nice puddings that you don't find anywhere else."


Over at the British International School, the mostly British staff is non-plussed about the Queen's Oct. 17 visit, headmaster Henry Searle said.


"There is no mood of anticipation," said Searle, himself from Britain. "Yet, all the Brits who are in Moscow are really thrilled that she's coming, because it sort of gives their being here credence. Moscow must be important. Our work here must be important."


The Queen's arrival is proving a chance to educate the students, who come from dozens of different countries, about Britain.


"The week before she comes it will guide a lot of our study," said Searle. "You tend to use something in the center of the news as a theme for study."


The most ambitious Queen-related cultural effort, by the British Council, starts a week before the Queen's Oct. 17 arrival date and includes three theater productions, two art exhibitions and performances by the Westminster Abbey Choir. Using the royal visit as a peg, the council also plans to distribute teaching kits to 40,000 secondary school teachers throughout Russia.


"She is obviously taking the opportunity to promote Britain abroad," said the council's Iain Law. "And, that's our job, anyway."


In all, the British Council is bringing some 180 people from Britain for the program of special events.


"It has required us to do an enormous amount of planning," said Victoria Field, assistant director of the Moscow office of the British Council, who cited the Westminster Abbey Choir's young singers as a particular challenge.


"We have 22 pre-pubescent boys in the choir and they will want their biscuits and juice before they go to bed and their British breakfast cereal in the morning. Those things are actually quite difficult in Moscow," Field said.