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Royal wedding: How might refuseniks spend the day?

  • 19 April 2011
  • From the section Magazine
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Royal wedding mug
Not every UK subject will be snapping up royal wedding souvenirs

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is hard to escape. So what will royal sceptics do with themselves on 29 April?

The bunting might be hanging, the sandwiches may be sliced, but plenty of Britons don't want to join the party.

Although the UK news media is frantic with anticipation ahead of the royal wedding festivities, a significant minority of the population is less than overwhelmed - either because people oppose the monarchy as an institution, or they simply don't care about the marriage of two strangers.

Opinion polls suggest republicans make up about one-fifth of the UK population, compared with around 70% backing the constitutional status quo.

But this does not mean an overwhelming majority will be assembling trestle tables in their roads to hail the union.

A YouGov survey of 2,000 adults indicated that, while 35% intend to watch the ceremony on television, an equal proportion are determined to ignore it altogether.

With blanket television coverage and thousands of applications to hold street parties submitted, enthusiasts for the event will have plenty of ways to celebrate.

But how can sceptics spend the day?

Throw an alternative street party

Why should only committed royal-watchers get to have fun on their extra bank holiday?

Republicans and those put off the official celebrations are planning a series of bashes to register their opposition while enjoying themselves at the same time.

The pressure group Republic, which campaigns for an elected British head of state, is staging a series of outdoor events in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

Its initial plans for a bash in the capital's Covent Garden area were turned down by Camden council.

Now it hopes to stage the event in nearby Red Lion Square. It will look much like any other street party, says Republic's Graham Smith, with stalls, entertainment and plenty of union flags to counter what he says is the "misconception" that republicans are unpatriotic.

"We want to counter these stereotypes," he says. "What counts is that there's a visible, alternative view. It's going to be positive and fun."

Other alternative wedding parties are being staged on London's South Bank and in Bristol's Trinity centre.

Leave the country

If the blanket television coverage is too much to endure, sceptics and republicans always have the option of getting away from the UK altogether.

Indeed, a survey of 740 people carried out by social networking site CitySocialising suggested that 18% of people planned to leave the country altogether in time for the ceremony.

This exodus from British shores may, of course, be fuelled by a desire to make the most of the long weekend rather than any political sentiment or wedding fatigue.

However, the notion of taking refuge on republican soil is one that was once popular among some of the UK's erstwhile leaders.

In 1981, as the Daily Mail has noted, a group of Labour party activists sailed to Boulogne for a day trip which coincided with the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

They included Peter Mandelson (now Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham), the future business secretary, Harriet Harman, now Labour's deputy leader, Jack Dromey, Ms Harman's husband and also now an MP, and Alan Haworth, who currently sits in the House of Lords.

Try to ignore it

Sceptics can always reach for the "off" button

It might involve staying indoors, unplugging the phone and keeping the television, radio and broadband all switched off.

But there is another way for the unenthusiastic to deal with the wedding - do your best to avoid it altogether.

Read a book, go for a walk in the countryside, listen to music - the options for occupying oneself while the monarchists celebrate are limitless. Unless a street party is under way directly outside your front door.

The children's author Michael Rosen, a staunch republican, says this will be his strategy on 29 April.

"My way of dealing with it is just to carry on," he says.

"I shall keep on doing what I usually do. I will go on reading and working and ticking along around the house.

"I don't have to acknowledge it at all."

Away from the pomp and circumstance, other non-monarchists will try to do the same.

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