England

Diamond Jubilee: Almost 10,000 street parties planned

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Media captionJeanette Smith and Louise Bowen are organising a street party for as many as 350 people

The residents in Carol Crescent in the West Midlands town of Halesowen used to just politely wave at each other when they passed in the street.

Now they consider themselves close friends and it is all because of the preparations for their Diamond Jubilee street party.

"We're all so close and have come together," Jeanette Smith, one of the organisers, said.

It is a sentiment that is echoing around the UK as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee approaches and neighbours begin or renew friendships.

Latest figures reveal that councils in England and Wales have received almost 9,500 road closure applications for Diamond Jubilee street parties - almost double the number applied for in the lead-up to last year's royal wedding.

The appetite for a street party has "ratcheted up" since the wedding and coupled with the economic climate and red tape being relaxed, people are keen to be distracted, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

Councillor Flick Rea, chair of the LGA's culture, tourism and sport board, said: "It's the beginning of a summer of celebration.

'Respect for the Queen'

"I think when you're living in hard times, people like something to take themselves out of it.

"Just to get out on the street with people makes a huge amount of difference - you need your neighbours when times are hard.

"There's also a huge respect for the Queen and with the fever around the Olympic torch relay and Olympics and the weather, we're now celebrating the summer."

Ms Smith, who has lived in Carol Crescent for 34 years, has been organising her party for 350 people since March.

What started out as "throwing a few ideas about" has escalated into new friendships blossoming among neighbours and a community coming together.

"The winter was so bad I thought we needed something to look forward to," she said.

"I told people we'd have a meeting and only expected two or three people but, the room was full and then the kitchen was full.

"We've been knocking on people's doors, sending out newsletters, sorting the bunting, talking to local stores about food, people have made donations and been dropping material off in my porch.

"Everyone agreed to the road closure so we just had to fill in forms and send them off so that side was OK. It's been quite busy."

Chris Gittins, from Streets Alive, which offers advice on how to stage a street party, said there were three reasons why party numbers had increased.

"People got the hang of it with the royal wedding, councils have made it simpler and we all need a good party," he said.

"Whether or not you're a royal fan, you get swept along with the bunting."

'Piece of history'

He said the tradition goes back to about 1919 when "peace teas" started taking place after World War I.

"That seems to be the year the idea of private resident parties started, after the first war - before that, it was always done in parks or squares.

"It was encouraged by government, a democratic notion of having an event - doing your own thing in your own street."

So inspired by the occasion, Carol Crescent neighbour Louise Bowen, 38, has decided to put together a book about the history of residents and the street from before the Queen's Coronation in 1953, through the Silver and Golden Jubilees.

"I've never lived anywhere else and I wanted the new people living here to know what had gone before," she said.

"It's a street where a lot have lived here all their lives.

"People have such fond memories of the Coronation and Silver Jubilee (party) which was in a church hall and now they say: 'You're making a piece of history'.

"I hope they put my book in the cupboard and take it out in 20 years and remember the legacy of what we've done.

"People are realising that this only comes round once in a lifetime and they want to participate. It's good it's sparked new friendships."

Image caption The relaxing of regulations has encouraged people to have a party, the LGA said

Although the vast majority of road closure application deadlines have past, Mr Gittins said it was not too late to organise a party.

"There will be lots of informal parties which cannot be measured," he added.

"As people keep seeing it on the news in adverts, steadily they get the idea.

"There were a few for the Golden Jubilee and it's really picked up since the royal wedding which seems like a rehearsal."

But what will the legacy of the celebrations be?

Ms Rea said: "It may not be tangible but they will revive community spirit.

"The Festival of Britain was held when Britain was in a dreadful state.

"The government said: 'C'mon lets celebrate the country', and now, looking back it's celebrated as a fantastic event.

"With the torch relay and then Olympics, we're not finished celebrating yet."

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