On April 21, a sprightly and brightly dressed lady will celebrate her 90th birthday with her family.
On June 12, she will celebrate her birthday with the nation. Some 10,000 people will be invited to attend a “street party” to be held outside Buckingham Palace (organised by the Queen’s grandson, no less), but what are the chances you will be invited to a street party on your road, with your neighbours?
Back in 1977, the chances were rather good. The BBC reckons some 11 million people toasted the Queen’s Silver Jubilee with their neighbours in 12,000 bunting-festooned streets, most likely snacking on Victoria sponge and eating cucumber sandwiches. For the numbers-oriented people amongst our readers (quite a few, I’d think!), that translates into a 20% chance given the 57.7 million UK population at the time.
However, given that 11 million people and 12,000 events works out to be an average of 900-odd people per party, I think there may have been some artistic license in either one of the numbers, or perhaps a lot of multi-street “village” or town parties were included in the tally.
Other sources state 100,000 parties, giving a more likely average of 100 odd attendees. Regardless of questions over exact scientific accuracy on the numbers, it’s clear that the Silver Jubilee street parties were a culturally prominent event.
A lot has changed since 1977. Victoria sponge has given way to cupcakes, and cucumber sandwiches don’t appear much outside tourist-oriented “afternoon teas”. But does that really matter?
Is the nation still up for hanging bunting on telephone poles?
Let’s take a look at some numbers.
So it’s clear that the popularity of street parties fell by the wayside for a number of years-perhaps because after Charles and Diana’s Royal Wedding in 1981 the monarchy gave the land less exciting things to celebrate (sorry, Princes Andrew and Edward - your weddings weren’t all that compelling!)
The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 was initially expected to have very poor street party turnout, less than a tenth of the Silver Jubilee numbers. However, there was a surge of requests for Whitehall’s “street party planning kit” after the sad death of the Queen Mother in April of that year, with 40,000 kits ultimately being shipped.
It does seem that community celebrations for Kate and William’s nuptials sparked a rebirth of interest in street parties. How else would you explain the number near doubling in one year, and then doubling again for an invented reason street party “Big Lunch” in 2015? (For those unaware, the Big Lunch is an annual event promoting local neighbourhood gatherings. It’s promoted by the Eden Project and was started in 2009)
But the question of the day is: how likely you will be invited to a street party on your road, with your neighbours?
So let’s go back and look at some more numbers. This time we will look at some London Boroughs:
What could be behind such disparity? Well, it’s no secret that Wandsworth and Richmond rank in the top 3 boroughs in terms of household income, whereas Barking ranks last.
It’s also telling that certain boroughs charge huge fees for road closures. Croydon, for example, charges £1,000; spoilsport Harrow charges £1,600 (both got a lot of bad press for it!). In contrast, Wandsworth and Richmond not only waived their respective street closure fees, but also actively promoted the possibility of holding street parties to residents.
And of course, there is always a whiff of politics when it comes to marking the duration of a monarch’s reign. Scotland saw only saw 97 street party applications for the Diamond Jubilee - over a third in Edinburgh - and one of those was by a pub desperate to bring back business after a road works disruption.
This year is different. Queen Elizabeth currently enjoys immense public support, with YouGov reporting over 75% holding a favourable view of the monarchy. The ongoing efforts of “The Big Lunch” organisation to promote annual neighbourhood gatherings have obviously kept up the momentum. This year the celebration is around a lady’s 90th birthday, something we can all relate to, and (hopefully) something we all aspire to achieve ourselves.
So back to the question of the day, how likely is it you will be invited to a street party on your road, with your neighbours?
Sadly, pretty slim in some areas, and pretty good in others (see above). It could be 100% if you are willing to organise one yourself.
Pass the cucumber sandwiches, please.
Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth!