After such a challenging year, the announcement of a second Downtown Abbey film is the perfect tonic. A bit of light relief, a soupcon of suspense, a bit of fizz and froth, tiaras, beads and bangles: something positive to look forward to and talk about.  It is also a bit of a relief for all of us that it is now official as we have done our best to evade the guessing, surmising, wondering and leading questions and not to let the news of the film slip out inadvertently.

As crew and cast arrive back, it reminds me of the familiar feeling from my youth of the return to school at the start of term: the slight apprehension allied to the welcome feeling of a familiar structure to the day. Undoubtedly there will be some new faces in both crew and cast and it will take a while to settle down and to find a modus vivendi which is made more complicated this time by Covid protocols. We are all, however, determined to make it work.

Highclere Garden Party

Most of us have struggled to a degree during the pandemic whether it be from a health, business, financial, emotional or mental point of view and we have all relished moments to escape. Escapism is not necessarily detrimental: it offers each of us a relaxing diversion from the everyday world and can expand the power of our imaginations. Indeed, I think dreaming and just letting your mind relax can often help problem solve in everyday life although it is just one of the many ways we find to cope from gardening or going for a run, to music, mediating or joining a book club or theatrical group.  Dreaming and pottering, just letting go, is just as important at times as living in the moment and being present is.

Given that it has been harder to live in the moment in recent months due to the lockdowns, nostalgia for the past is certainly having a bit of a moment but hopefully we can now have both.  The characters in Downton Abbey have their own stories and stress points and have captured and engaged imaginations around the world. It is the script, photography and interest in what happens to them. It is also pure escapism, a romance and a dreamy nostalgic two hours in a cinema or, later, on a home screen.

One of the key elements of a drama such as this is the costumes and all the dressing up, again something that most of us have not had a chance to do for a long time.  It is a bit of an effort, probably a little less comfortable than the clothes we have become used to over the last year and possibly waist bands may have to be adjusted but hopefully we will all become inspired anew. There is nothing more fun than dressing up for a party, knowing that you are looking your best.

Last September we had planned to hold an event called Magic of the Movies, one of several events we had to postpone due to the pandemic. It will now, with what must surely be tremendously serendipitous timing, take place this September.  We are proposing that everyone comes dressed as their favourite Downton character which we have done before and is such fun. There will be music and dancing along with costume and car displays, altogether a weekend to remember.

As an added extra in the light of the news of the movie, and with the help of Team Highclere, I have written a short script, which I thought we would film over the weekend. We might have to pick straws for which of those who attend take part in it but considered yourselves warned! We will also have prizes for the best dressed.

If you don’t wish to dress up, that is fine too – it is not for everyone – but smart attire please!