The southern London suburb Peckham can be gloomy even when it isn’t raining – and the rain was steady last night, washing out hopes of holding a party in the street to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee and bring together people who live in the fortress-like tower blocks that rear up into the sky on the local council estates.New venues were hastily created in a small community centre and church hall but there was no way other than soggy street posters to let locals know about the change.
But the organiser Jeanette Macey, who has spent weeks with other locals making homemade bunting from old sheets and hand-painting flags for the children to wave, was still cheery.
She had wanted to ”get the community working together again,” she said, something that had faded since locals had been put into tower blocks where they all stayed behind their own front doors and rarely spoke to each other.
She also wanted to wave the flag for the Queen – she points out her blue and white dress and red cardigan and grins. ”I think she’s done a marvellously good job considering what’s gone on in her life with her family. She’s still held it together, stiff upper lip and all that. Very British, isn’t it?”
Ms Macey has lived on the estate with 1000 other people since 1981. ”I was born in 1952 and I moved here when Diana and Prince Charles married and now I’m here for her 60th. I’m the queen of Peckham, don’t you think, love?”
Her brother Alec Bourne is loyally helping but his loyalty is to his sister, not to his monarch.
”What’s she ever done for the working class?” he says gruffly. ”All they do is turn up and be photographed. I’m not anti-monarchist but I don’t need them.”
Over the plastic tablecloths sat trays of mini-sausage rolls and ham sandwiches. Soufaane Traroe, 8, and his brother Aguib, 5, carried two large cakes made of recycled fabric. ”But there will be real cake later?” Aguib asked.
The director of People Empowering People, Nicholas Okwulu, said the street party had been planned to bring together residents on different council estates, break down barriers between them and work out ways to help each other in the face of funding cuts by government and councils.
Britons had planned to hold 10,000 street parties for 6 million people as part of the jubilee at the weekend, more than for the royal wedding last year. There was an estimated 2000 kilometres of bunting and one of the major supermarket chains was expecting to sell 2 million bottles of champagne, 2.8 million Victoria sponges, 1.7 million pork pies and 1.6 million sausage rolls. The supermarket chain Asda said it had sold a million Union Jacks, enough to cover 462 football pitches.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a street party in Piccadilly, in central London.
Braving the damp weather, 500 revellers clapped and cheered when they realised they would be eating with royalty. Guests were asked to bring food to share with their friends and neighbours, with Charles and Camilla offering a Union Jack cake.
A Sunday Times poll reported Britons thought the Queen was more in touch with ordinary people’s concerns (35 per cent) than the nation’s elected leaders (9 per cent), and 73 per cent wanted to retain the monarchy.
First published on smh.com.au