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Bunting unboxed for royal wedding street parties

posted 25 Apr 2011, 08:26 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 25 Apr 2011, 08:28 ]

With the royal wedding just days away, Britons are preparing to party on the streets.

Britain has a tradition of marking royal events and WWII victory anniversaries by holding parties out on the street, complete with folding tables, Union Jacks and lot of colourful flags known as bunting.

And with the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton just days away, many Britons are planning to continue the tradition.

More than 5,000 street parties will be held on Friday (April 29) to toast the nuptials of the royal couple, and boxes of bunting have been arriving as organisers make their final preparations.

One street party organiser Dan Salem said the royal wedding was a chance to revive the community spirit of years gone by.

"I think it's a great get all the neighbours together and just have fun, have a party. It's about community spirit and I think over the last few years a lot of community spirit and localness has been lost in this country, and what we're trying to do around here is recapture it," he said.

In the East End of London, one local business has decided to host a party for hundreds of people in the area.

"It's been amazing. It's been absolutely amazing. From residents, local businesses, everyone wants to get involved," said Heather Lawton, party organiser and creative director of the cafe and arts venue, The Bookclub.

Lawton says that while the East End is more gentrified than it used to be, the street outside the venue will be filled with many of the traditional accessories of the old-fashioned street party.

"We've got a thousand metres of bunting...And we've got about 30-40 metres of trestle table coming. We've got a big stage, we're going large on everything. Lots of bars, lots of food, lots of champagne, lots of cocktails, lots of fun," she said.

Those choosing to join the party will be able to watch the wedding on a big screen, as well as take part in a vintage fair and play old-fashioned games such as tug-of-war and giant pass the parcel.

Also in the East End, the Water Poet pub has decided to mark two hundred years of tradition. The royal wedding street party outside the pub will be themed on the years from 1700 to 1900, with a music-hall singalong, an old-fashioned gin palace and a visit from the Pearly King and Queen of Bow Bells.

Event Manager Meg Dunne said the street party element of the royal wedding was essential.

"Street parties are traditional at events like this and we're going to be making as much use of it as possible. It's going to be hopefully a real party atmosphere, and yeah, I think it's vital to have people out on the street meeting each other and celebrating," she said.

London mayor Boris Johnson believes street parties are so important he has appointed a Street Party Ambassador -- British actress Barbara Windsor.

Windsor is best known for her roles in the saucy Carry On films and as the archetypal East End pub landlady, Peggy Mitchell in the soap opera EastEnders

On a surprise visit to a community centre in London last month, Johnson and Windsor helped an over 50's group of residents make street party decorations.

Londoners were slow to apply for planning permission to hold street parties for the wedding, which many attributed to the amount of red tape involved. So many councils responded by reducing the paperwork and fees for the occasion.

Johnson said he hoped this would encourage people to take part.

"You can't force people to have fun can you? You can't force people. But what you can do, which is what the council is doing, is to try and get rid of the bureaucracy," Johnson said.

Windsor said she wants to get around as many street parties as she can on April 29.

"I want to go to different places and just go 'Wohoo, hello', have a taste of that food and then go to another one," she said.

The elderly members of the community centre had fond memories of the community spirit shown during celebrations for the Queen's wedding in 1947 and the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

"I just like royal weddings and things like that, it gives you a chance to celebrate. It's just lovely, everybody getting together, we have a good laugh and have a little drink and eat lots of food and decorating everywhere up," said Wendy Hogg as she made her own decorations.

"Everybody mixes and everybody has a great time, you know, really nice. A bit like the old days really," added Valerie Letts.

Even British Prime Minister David Cameron is planning on getting into the royal wedding sprit by hosting a street party outside his official Downing Street residence.