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The Royal Parks celebrates 160 years of welcoming visitors

Anniversary celebrations launch with a new display commemorating the Great Exhibition of 1851

The Royal Parks today launches celebrations to mark 160 years of welcoming visitors to London's Royal Parks - offering a breath of fresh air to Londoners since 1851.

In 1851, the Crown Lands Act transferred management of the Royal Parks to the Government. This meant that the public was freely able to enjoy access to all of London's Royal Parks for the first time - transforming them into the world-famous public spaces that are today enjoyed by over 37 million people each year.

In 2011, The Royal Parks agency celebrates 160 years of public enjoyment of the parks with a season of distinctive and wide-ranging events. Highlights include:

  • 11 June: Trooping the Colour (Horse Guards Parade, St James Park)
  • June-July: Live Nation concert series (Hyde Park)
  • 9-10July: London Prepares - Modern Pentathlon (Greenwich Park)
  • 23 July: BBC Proms: Human Planet in the Park (Kensington Gardens)
  • July to Sep: Nomad Outdoor Cinema (All Royal Parks)
  • 6-7 August: London Prepares - Triathlon (Hyde Park)
  • 9-14 August: London Prepares - Beach Volleyball (Horse Guards Parade)
  • 10 September: BBC Proms in the Park (Hyde Park)
  • 13-16 October: Frieze Art Fair (Regent's Park)
  • Nov to Jan: Winter Wonderland (Hyde Park)

Anniversary celebrations officially open today with the unveiling of a new permanent art project in Hyde Park to commemorate the Great Exhibition of 1851. The new display, organised by Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 in partnership with The Royal Parks, marks out the site of the Great Exhibition with plaques by artist Virginia Nimarkoh.

Colin Buttery (Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Parks, The Royal Parks) commented: "The Great Exhibition was the major international event of 1851 and started a tradition of the Royal Parks being a focus for landmark occasions - a tradition which continues with our recent role in the Royal Wedding, and will continue next year during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, when 11 events will take place across five Royal Parks.

For 160 years, the Royal Parks have been welcoming visitors from across London, the UK and the world. We look forward to welcoming many more visitors this year, when we will be celebrating our anniversary with a range of events highlighting our varied work across history and heritage, horticulture, cultural activities, sports and leisure."

Bernard Taylor (Commissioner and Chairman of the Royal Commission's Finance Committee) said, "When the Exhibition closed the Hyde Park site was reinstated to its original state and since then it has been impossible to see on the ground where this world famous event took place. I am delighted that, 160 years after the opening of the Great Exhibition, the site is being marked by Virginia Nimarkoh's innovative art project."

For further information about The Royal Parks and 160th anniversary season highlights, please contact:
The Royal Parks Press Office on 0300 061 2128 or email press@royalparks.gsi.gov.uk or
Marion Irving, Corporate Communications Manager, 0300 061 2145, mirving@royalparks.gsi.gov.uk
For any enquiries about the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 or the Exhibition itself please email royalcom1851@imperial.ac.uk.

Notes to Editors

About the Live Nation Concert series (Hyde Park):
Performers include Kings of Leon, The Killers, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Arcade Fire, The Black Eyes Peas, The Chemical Brothers, and Pulp. For information about dates and tickets, visit: http://www.livenation.co.uk/venue/3974/hyde-park-tickets#bio

About London Prepares:
'London Prepares' is the testing programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The series will see world-class sporting events take place across London, from May 2011 to May 2012, in order to test crucial aspects of operations ahead of the London 2012 Games. Test events for the Marathon, Race Walk, Equestrian, Modern Penthalon, Triathlon, Beach Volleyball and Marathon Swimming will take place in Royal Parks. For more information, visit: www.londonpreparesseries.com

About the Nomad Outdoor cinema series:
A summer season of outdoor cinema, featuring 16 classics and cult favourites in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Parks. The programme starts in July and includes: The Truman Show (July 15, Kensington Gardens); Night on Earth (29 July, Hyde Park Lido); The Birds (28 July, Bushy Park); 2001: A Space Odyssey (7 August, Greenwich Park); Raiders of the Lost Ark (31 August, Richmond Park); Pan's Labyrinth (8 September, Brompton Cemetery). For more information, visit: http://www.whereisthenomad.com/royalparks/

About The Royal Parks:
The Royal Parks is an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Royal Parks are: Bushy Park, The Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, Richmond Park and St James's Park. The agency also manages Victoria Tower Gardens, Brompton Cemetery, the gardens of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street, and Grosvenor Square Gardens. For further information please visit: www.royalparks.org.uk

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851
Originally set up to stage the Great Exhibition, the Royal Commission was kept in being to invest the Exhibition's substantial profit. It acquired the site in South Kensington on which the three great national museums, the Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College and other colleges now stand and still owns and manages the freehold of most of this estate. In 1891 when the development of the estate was complete, the Commission set up the education and research awards programme which runs to this day. The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 gives fellowships and grants for top level science and industrial research, industrial design, the built environment and design. Some 24 awards are made each year which, together with a number of special grants, exceed £1.7 m in value.

Details of the 1851 Royal Commission's awards are on its website www.royalcommission1851.org.uk

The Great Exhibition 1851
The 1851 "Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations" was organised by the Royal Commission under the presidency of HRH Prince Albert. The building in which it was held, nicknamed the "Crystal Palace", was designed by Joseph Paxton and built by Fox and Henderson. It was 1848 feet long and covered an area of 19 acres. It took four months to build and at the height of its construction there were over 2,000 men working on site. The Exhibition was an enormous success attracting nearly 14,000 exhibitors and 6 million visitors from all over the world. Queen Victoria herself visited on a number of occasions. The "Crystal Palace" was only ever intended as a temporary structure in Hyde Park and so, once the Exhibition had closed, it was dismantled and moved to Sydenham, Kent, where it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

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