Harper's Bazaar (UK)
HAPPY & GLORIOUS
Meet Rosanna Machado, the woman organising the biggest event of the year, the Platinum Jubilee Pageant
It’s a bright but chilly March morning, and Rosanna Machado has just returned from open-water swimming in Hackney’s West Reservoir, where the water was a bracing nine degrees. ‘That’s actually quite warm by my standards,’ she says, cheerfully. ‘Swimming gives me such a wonderful feeling – it’s so calming and energising. My team know that if I don’t start my day in the water, I won’t be a good leader.’
It’s fortunate that Machado knows how to unwind, because her schedule looks set to remain fairly unrelenting between now and the start of June. As the CEO of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant, she is accountable for the success of our most momentous national celebration since the London 2012 Olympics – in which, incidentally, she also had a personal stake, having worked on the city’s Olympic bid back in 2005. Indeed, Machado is no stranger to largescale events: following an economics degree at Cambridge and
a stint organising exams for the Royal Academy of Music, she has built up an impressive CV in events management that has included senior roles on the planning teams for the G8 Summit and the 2012 Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
‘I’m fascinated by how you can get people to work together in a big team,’ she says. ‘For me, it’s all about empathy and relationships – first, you have to understand what motivates your stakeholders, and then you can think about how to bring them on the journey with you.’
When those stakeholders are the entire British public, the challenge must be all the more daunting. ‘It’s true that you feel a responsibility to a lot of people, as well as having a vested interest of your own,’ admits Machado.
‘But you have to stay focused on the task in hand so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Every project, however high profile, has an outcome you want to achieve, and my role is to navigate the best way to get there.’
Keeping a clear head was essential when she was brought in to streamline operations for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant – a remit that turned out to be rather wider than she had initially anticipated. ‘I was shown a sketch of the river, but I had no idea of the scale of the event in terms of the fund-raising, the marketing, the constant communication,’ she recalls.
Still, the months of intensive planning paid off when the public came out in droves to watch the procession, despite the pouring rain. ‘When
I saw the Royal Family stand up to hear the choir sing, it made the whole thing worthwhile,’ says Machado, who was ironically among the few viewers not on the riverbank, having been watching on CCTV from a police control room.
‘The funny thing was that when I eventually came out after the event had finished, the river was still closed off but completely empty, as if it had never happened – very surreal…’
Building on the success of the 2012 celebrations, the team’s starting point for planning the Platinum Jubilee Pageant was to reflect on key milestones from the Queen’s reign. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the highlights of her life and her values,’ says Machado. From hosting a parade of puppet corgis to recreating the extraordinary moment in 1952 when the young Princess Elizabeth learnt of her accession to the throne while on a Royal Tour of Kenya, the Pageant will offer a masterclass in storytelling (with hopefully a few celebrity guest appearances along the way – though Machado is tight-lipped about whether we can expect another Olympics-style James Bond scene). It will also explore how much Britain has evolved since the start of Elizabeth II’s reign. ‘You think about all the new technology that’s come into use – the theme of constancy and change has been very present in our minds,’ she says. While in some ways, what the public wants from a pageant has hardly altered since the Silver Jubilee back in 1977, the rise of digital media has opened up opportunities to involve a larger cross-section of society. ‘All three Jubilee events have set out to unite people with their neighbours and encourage them to celebrate together, but this time round, social media allows us to be even more inclusive.’
In this regard, the project is as much about looking to the future as the past. ‘I’m determined to make a positive social impact,’ says Machado. ‘That means thinking about what we’re doing in communities and what our legacy will be.’ Initiatives include challenging schoolchildren in the UK and the Commonwealth to design flags based around the UN Sustainable Development Goals, some of which will be shown during the Pageant; hosting local theatre events; and running a photography competition inspired by the concept of a ‘commonwealth of kindness’. Working with creative organisations was important to Machado at a time when so many have been hard hit by the pandemic. ‘This is a chance to revitalise an industry that has suffered hugely,’ she explains. Having trained as an executive coach, Machado is keen for everyone involved in organising the Pageant to flourish and develop. This extends from designing packs to help community organisers galvanise support, right down to running workshops on themes such as emotional intelligence. As a leader, she draws inspiration from the Queen herself: ‘The way she has maintained such integrity and humility over seven decades; her kindness and generosity are an example to me.’
Although much of the planning for the Pageant has, inevitably, had to take place remotely, Machado is excited by the prospect of coming together as both a team and a nation. ‘However much we’ve adapted to hybrid working, there is still a magic and electricity that arises from bringing people together physically – it’s a shared moment when you feel something special,’ she says. With such capable leadership, the celebrations are bound to be very special indeed.