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Prince Charles and Camilla were coming to Salisbury to try and boost the city following the high profile Skripal poisoning. They were to visit a local market, have a meet and greet with local residents and schoolchildren, and to meet privately with VIPs at the Guildhall, including the police officer who was taken ill after responding to the incident.
Venture’s team was needed to support the police and royal protection team, in ensuring the safety of the royal couple and the smooth running of the visit.
So, what was it like to be part of the Venture team on the day? Here is one security officer’s experiences of being on royal duty.
Hi, my name’s Ben and I have been working as a licensed security officer for Venture since March 2014. Here is my account of the royal visit to Salisbury.
Thursday – 8 days before the visit
I received a phone call in the morning from Jenny in the Venture office, asking if I was available to work at an important event taking place a week on Friday. No other information was provided at this stage and it was quite short notice, which was strange and piqued my interest. I was intrigued and free to attend that day, so said to count me in.
Wednesday – 2 days before the visit
In the morning I was given my joining instructions by the office. I now knew that it was going to be a very high-profile event, as Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall would be visiting Salisbury to show support for the city’s recovery, following the spy poisoning incident in March. Lots of residents, visitors and press were expected to attend, including major TV channels.
Thursday – day before the visit
In the afternoon I received my final joining instructions, which confirmed where I needed to park, as well as the morning briefing time and location. I also received clear instructions about the press interest expected and advice on what to do if questioned by reporters.
I got my uniform prepared – shirt ironed, maroon tie at the ready and shoes polished - then laid them out ready for the morning and set my alarm for 5am.
Friday – the big day!
I arrived bright and early at the Venture office at 6am, where a majority of the team were meeting. The boss had kindly laid on some pastries for us, which was nice.
We then hit the road, to travel to Salisbury together. There were a number of cars, so I knew we had a fairly big team for the day. Everyone was in good spirits as we headed over to Salisbury. Which is not surprising - after all, it was a really nice day and we were going to provide security for the future king!
We arrived at the designated car park, where we piled out of the cars. A jogger came over and asked us what was going on. We suspected he was a plain clothed police officer testing us, to check we were not giving out information to the public. We had been briefed not to say anything about the royal visit, so joked we were there for a photo shoot.
From here we walked over to the Guildhall. Pedestrian areas had already been fenced off by the police, who had guarded the site overnight. No one was allowed to enter the front entrance, so we went around the back and showed our IDs.
The briefing was then delivered by Duncan – Venture’s events manager. He explained exactly what was going to be happening, who was who, timings and individual roles and responsibilities. He also reconfirmed what was to happen with the press and that we should assist them in finding the designated press areas.
After the briefing, we got to work.
One team took over the controlled access to the back entrance to the Guildhall, where we searched everyone entering, including VIP guests and staff. A second team went to work in the public spaces and I later joined them, helping to bolster the crowd positions.
Areas had been fenced off that only the royal couple and their entourage could access. The Venture team were in with the crowd behind the barriers. Our main responsibility was to look out for anything suspicious and any potential threats, as well as managing crowd safety.
There was a great atmosphere, lots of people had turned out for the event and a band was playing. But throughout the whole visit, it was vital we all remained focused and alert, no matter what was happening around us.
We each had a radio and ear piece, which was connected to central control. Any issues that needed to be communicated to us, such as from the council, police or management team, were sent to us this way. For example, at one point we were asked to remove people who were sitting on a wall beside the entrance to the public toilets, as there was a 10ft drop behind them, so for their own safety they needed to come down.
The royal party arrives
While we were busy managing the eagerly awaiting crowd, the royal couple were flown in to the cathedral grounds, where cars picked them up and drove them to the Maltings. After meeting shop owners affected by the poisoning, they made their way through Library Walk, Market Square and into Guildhall Square. Then they had an official meet and greet with the VIPs who were waiting inside the Guildhall.
While this was happening, we stayed in position. The public started leaving once they entered the Guildhall, but we remained until the royals had finished and left the venue with their protection team. We then oversaw the dispersal of what was left of the crowd and were finally stood down when the council gave us the all clear.
The boss then treated us all to pizza, as thanks for a job well done.
Now it’s over
I’m really proud to have been involved with this event. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to be part of something that’s so high profile, with the eyes of the media watching. The whole thing went like clockwork, which is down to all the planning and hard work that went on behind the scenes, long before the day itself. We could all do our job feeling confident in what we were doing.
The time just flew by and if a similar opportunity is to arise again, I’ll be first in line.
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