24 Apr 2023

Break out the bunting!

The long weekend of 6–8 May 2023 is the occasion on which the nation celebrates the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. This very special occasion will be a unique event for most of us, who have not seen a coronation in our lifetime – Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was 70 years ago – and much of the country will be marking it in some way. There is a plethora of possibilities, from traditional street parties, and the ‘Big Lunch’, to private garden parties and barbecues.

Streaming the event

In 1953 many families invested in televisions for the first time to witness a great moment in Britain’s history, and neighbours gathered together in each other’s houses to share access to televisions and feel part of the momentous occasion.

In 2023 there will be hours of spectacular television coverage in full colour, deploying the commentary and expertise of a range of experts and utilising multiple locations to create a panoramic and comprehensive view of the day’s events.

If you are involved in a street party, big lunch or garden event on the day of the actual coronation (6 May) you may well want to give guests access to a big outdoor tv screen, or to hire a mobile big screen and projector to ensure that everybody can witness this historic occasion.

Street parties

Dating back to post-World War I ‘peace parties’, which were held in 1919, street parties have always held a special place in British hearts. They have marked national milestones, such as VE and VJ day, the Coronation, Royal weddings and Royal anniversaries.

Their defining characteristic is that they involve shutting off an entire street. This means planning ahead and obtaining permission from the local council, which may need to re-route traffic. Traffic cones and ‘Road Closed’ signs will be needed, which can be borrowed from local schools or the council. Or you can just block off the road with wheelie bins…

Once the road is closed, the event can take many forms. Traditionally, partygoers eat at long trestle tables, but a stand-up buffet may be a more practical alternative. Music and party games will break the ice and add to the conviviality. Alcohol can be served without a special licence (as long as it isn’t on sale) and remember it is imperative to have plenty of water and soft drinks available throughout the day.

The big lunch

This initiative from Cornwall’s Eden Project started in 2009 as an annual opportunity for neighbours to meet up, eat together and celebrate community. It will be a major national event 6-8 May (20 million people took part in The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June 2022). In many ways it shares the characteristics of the street party, but the venue is more flexible – it could, for example, be held on the local playing field, village green, or recreation ground. As the name implies, it involves a sit-down lunch; this is normally organised on a cooperative basis, with people contributing their own dishes (it’s a good idea to allocate sweet or savoury beforehand). In some instances, guests will simply be asked to bring their own lunch to the event – the main point is to enjoy getting to know your neighbours, not the food.

Private parties

Many people will choose to celebrate the Coronation on a more intimate scale. Try channelling the Royal Family and planning your very own Garden Party (Buckingham Palace style). Ask guests to wear smart casual clothes and serve a refined British afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and cakes.

Alternatively, you could simply hold a Coronation-themed barbecue or lunch for friends and family. Think about serving some special food; you could try the recipe for spinach, cheese and tarragon ‘Coronation quiche’, which has been shared by King Charles and Queen Camilla. Alternatively, you could revert to the spicy Royal favourite, Coronation chicken, which was invented in 1953, or baking some red, white and blue cupcakes – there are myriad suggestions for Coronation dishes online.

Festive flags

One prerequisite of a Coronation party is flags, streamers and bunting. You can opt for classic Union Jack British bunting, or you could elect to use a more subtle decoration, which blends a palette of red, white and blue. Larger Union Jacks can be used for dramatic impact, streamers and banners will add a festive feel and you can dole out hand-held Union Jacks for those who want to indulge in enthusiastic flag-waving. You can be sure that large decorative crowns (both as table centrepieces and on heads) will be a universal symbol.

Decorate your tables

Reinforce the Coronation theme with table decorations. This doesn’t need to be particularly expensive; since you will probably be looking for disposable table decorations in any case, take the trouble to buy some special Coronation-themed paper tablecloths and napkins, plates and cups, which will inevitably blend a red, white and blue colour scheme with union jacks, crowns and other patriotic paraphernalia.

Ensure that all the disposable materials you buy are fully recyclable (look out for FSC-certified), and – particularly if you are organising a larger party – invest in plenty of large rubbish bags and recruit some volunteers to make a thorough sweep of the street and eradicate all signs of rubbish at the end of the day – you do not want to wake up the next morning and find your shrubs and lawn strewn with Coronation detritus.

Enjoy games and dressing up

Children will enjoy waving flags and gorging on Royal themed puddings, but it’s also a good idea to introduce some Coronation-themed party games at big events or they’ll get bored. So, roll out some perennial favourites (such as sack races, egg and spoon races or tugs of war). Or, alternatively you can offer a couple of Coronation games such as pin the crown on the King or a competition to design the best crown. Fancy dress will always be a popular option – you could ask guests to dress up as their favourite British monarch.

Watch out for the weather

This is Britain and we need to be prepared for all weather contingencies.

How about investing in (or borrowing) some inexpensive pop-up gazebos? Their sidewalls can be lowered or raised and even if the weather is clement they will be useful on the day as food or drink stands, where refreshments can be kept cool, or convenient

oases of shade and relaxation (especially for older residents). Remember to festoon the gazebos with festive bunting!

If you’re hosting your own garden party, a gazebo is also useful. Alternatively, plan ahead to take the event inside if the weather turns wet. This means clearing space and tidying up before the party begins.

Mind your manners

As with all entertaining, Coronation events need lots of organising and will be greatly enhanced by showing consideration for everyone involved.

• Plan well ahead – big events will need an organising committee. List all the tasks involved and assign them to individuals who will take responsibility for them.

• Communicate with everyone involved. If you are planning a communal event, announce it well ahead. You can post about it on social media or local WhatsApp groups, and you can reinforce your message by putting up posters around the neighbourhood.

• Issue invitations to communal events – they don’t need to be expensive (a photocopied single sheet will do), but if invitations are posted through everyone’s door you know that everybody has been included, especially older residents who do not use social media. The invitations should be very clear about what is involved: start and end time, activities that will take place, timing of the meal, and any contributions needed.

• If you’re planning your own private party, give people plenty of notice, as there will be a lot of social events going on.

• If you are invited to a private Coronation party, make sure you RSVP as soon as possible. You may receive subsequent offers at this busy time of year, but once you have committed to an event you are obligated to attend – it’s very rude to cancel and take a better offer.

• If you are holding an event in your garden, warn the neighbours or, better still, invite them. If we’re lucky and the weather is warm, be conscious that voices and music carry at night, so be considerate about ending your party at a reasonable time. But remember that early May can still be quite chilly, so make sure you have contingency plans and can invite your friends inside once the temperature starts to drop.

• Clear up after your party. For big events you will need to enlist helpers well ahead of the date. But even if you’re hosting a private garden party, do make sure that you pick up all disposable tableware at the end of the day – if you leave plates, cups and napkins lying around, they might find their way into neighbours’ gardens.


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