Gary Barlow, the Queen, and me: Ben’s amazing trip

By Marcus Dysch, May 31, 2012
Gary Barlow and Ben Winston, right, wearing complimenting travel rugs, during their Commonwealth tour

Gary Barlow and Ben Winston, right, wearing complimenting travel rugs, during their Commonwealth tour

As royalists from around the globe arrive in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a television producer has described how he travelled further than most to be part of the simchah.

Ben Winston spent more than a month filming around the Commonwealth with Take That star Gary Barlow for a documentary about the official Jubilee song, Sing.

Mr Winston, who runs the Fulwell 73 production company with three Jewish partners, led the team which followed Mr Barlow’s efforts to find performers in countries including Australia, Kenya and Jamaica.

He said: “I’ve known Gary for a couple of years. When he was asked by the Palace to come up with the song the two of us had this idea that if we could hunt down hundreds of people from around the Commonwealth – which the Queen loves – then it would be a great challenge and something people wouldn’t have seen before.

“It was a dream project and an amazing experience. Everywhere we went was far-flung, off the beaten track and not tourist locations at all.”

Viewers will see Mr Barlow first writing the music for the song with Andrew Lloyd Webber, before composing the lyrics at the spot in Kenya where the Queen learnt of the death of her father, King George VI, and her ascent to the throne.

The production team later travelled to Jamaica where Mr Barlow recorded Rastafarian drummers, to the Solomon Islands where spear-wielding tribesmen performed, and to Africa, where young musicians demonstrated their skills on instruments made of rubbish.

Mr Winston, who managed the Maccabi GB football team to gold at last year’s European Maccabi Games, said: “In the Solomon Islands we travelled for six hours to the middle of nowhere. It was all a huge adventure.
“It wasn’t the easiest thing to find kosher food in most of those places, but I did get to have a kosher salt beef sandwich in Sydney.”

Members of the Royal Family feature throughout the film. The team began the project by filming Prince Charles showing Mr Barlow his record collection and offering advice on the Queen’s musical preferences.

They later caught up with Prince Harry in Jamaica, where he is recorded playing two beats on a tambourine for the song.

Mr Winston, 30, was also alongside the singer-songwriter at Abbey Road Studios to see the Military Wives Choir performing the main vocals.

The documentary climaxes with Mr Barlow visiting Windsor Castle to play the finished track for the Queen. Mr Winston makes a small cameo appearance, introducing the Queen to Mr Barlow, Lord Lloyd Webber and choirmaster Gareth Malone.

He said: “I remember growing up around my grandmother, Ruth Winston-Fox, and how proud she was of the Queen and the country, and I think that rubbed off on me. So when the chance to do this came up, I thought of how much my grandmother would have loved it.”

The Queen is said to be “delighted” with the commemorative song.

A former Leeds JSoc president, Mr Winston has previously made Comic Relief films with actor James Corden, and films with bands JLS and One Direction.

Gary Barlow: On Her Majesty’s Service, is on BBC1 on June 3 at 7.30pm

Last updated: 12:26pm, May 31 2012