When there’s a birthday to celebrate, there’s nothing quite like throwing a big party.
And when it comes to celebrating her Majesty’s 90th birthday, just one party will not do.
Over the past 100 years, Britons have been holding street parties outside their front doors and on their streets to mark all sorts of occasions, including the end of wars, Royal Weddings/Coronations/Jubilees and even to celebrate the start of a new century.
Initially designed as a treat for children post-World War I, street parties have grown into social gatherings – bringing people together for a common cause, or in some cases, a good excuse to throw a party, bake a cake and generally have fun.
The format for street parties has largely remained the same over the past 50 or so years.
There’s an emphasis on sharing – bringing food and drink along is almost compulsory, as is dragging your dining table and chairs out for others to sit at.
There’s normally a BBQ, bunting, party games for the children, and often a gazebo for everyone to huddle under when the inevitable happens and the heavens open.
In 2016, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, an estimated half a million people took part in street parties across the country, with the largest ever street party held on The Mall in London outside Buckingham Palace, hosting 10,000 guests who all enjoyed a picnic lunch.
I decided to visit a street party being held in the Queen’s back garden in Windsor to see why these events are still so popular.
On arriving at the street party on a pretty road in Windsor, I spotted the bunting proudly flying and the street was awash of blue, white and red. Music was playing and the sound of children laughing echoed between the houses.
This street party, like many others, was organised by a passionate group of neighbours who wanted to do something for the street they live on – a chance to meet new people and for others to reacquaint themselves.
It was so fantastic to see children running around, playing games that had been organised and getting their faces painted.
Ultimately the original point of a street party was to give children something to remember post-War and while these children clearly didn’t need their spirits lifting, i’m certain that many of them will remember this day for a long while yet!
The street party had a wonderful vintage feel about it.
The games and events harked back to a bygone era (including tug o’war, tin can alley, roll the barrel, fancy dress parade to name but a few) and the houses were beautifully decorated with British flags and emblems of the Queen.
And not forgetting the British Bake-Off, an event that’s fast becoming a tradition at most fayres, fetes and street parties across the UK thanks to a very success BBC TV program, where wannabe bakers spend hours creating masterpieces in their own kitchens, ready to be judged by a panel of cake-fanatics.
Half way through the day I popped to a neighbouring street party (there were numerous taking place across Windsor) where i’d been informed there had been a rather fierce ‘Cake Competition’ going on.
The Monarchy-inspired results looked mouth-wateringly delicious. How could you ever choose an eventual winner out of these fabulous creations?
Back at the original street party, and judging for the best decorated house was taking place. Patriotic bunting, The Queen, Windsor Castle and the Union Jack all featured heavily on numerous houses along the street.
The band was in full swing, and there was a real buoyant feel along the street. The waft of BBQ’ed sausages and burgers lingered and guests were queuing up in anticipation.
Another popular element of street parties is the ‘group effort’ of preparing the food – attendees providing desserts, sides, and on occasion when there isn’t a local boozer nearby, alcohol and soft drinks.
On this occasion, attendees were all asked to bring a dessert or a salad/side to go along with the BBQ which was kindly provided by the pub.
Before too long, the inevitable happened, and the rain clouds covered Windsor.
The rain came down, and in true street party-style, everyone huddled with their hot dogs and burgers under the gazebos and canopies that had been set up.
Cozying up to strangers while munching on a burger and salad in the middle of a road while the rain pours down was a new experience for me.
But a really enjoyable one!
Not only do you get to meet people from all walks of life, but you get to experience some of the fabulous ‘bull dog’ spirit – not letting the rain or anything else get in the way.
Once the rain passed everyone carried on with the festivities, including barrel racing and tug of war to finish off the day.
By 7pm, the event is all but wrapped up. Tables are dragged back inside, gazebos taken down and the road re-opened to traffic.
And now all that was left was the bunting to remind people of a magical and enjoyable day where neighbours and strangers descended onto an ordinary road in Windsor and had a party.