6 May 2022

How to plan a Platinum Jubilee party

The long weekend of 2–5 June 2022 is the occasion on which the nation celebrates the Queen’s 70-year reign. This is a very special and unique anniversary and much of the country will be marking it in some way. There are a plethora of possibilities, from traditional street parties, and the ‘Big Lunch’, to private garden parties and barbecues.

This week, in association with Party Pieces, we take a look at Jubilee entertaining.

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 in advance (six weeks is recommended) 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 this is not obligatory, and a stand-up buffet may be a more practical alternative. Music and party games (such as treasure hunts, tug of war, or sack races) 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).

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 on Sunday 5 June. 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 Jubilee on a more intimate scale. This may involve hosting a garden party for immediate neighbours or simply holding a Jubilee-themed barbecue or lunch for friends and family.

Whatever you choose to do, you will want to reinforce the message that this is a Jubilee event, which can be done by using themed decorations and maybe even featuring a special dish with royal associations.

BRING OUT THE BUNTING!

One prerequisite of a Jubilee party is bunting. These colourful strings of triangular flags date back to the early seventeenth century, when the Navy used them to communicate from ship to ship. The flags were of a lightweight woollen material, called bunting. An individual flag was known as a ‘tammy’, from the French word for the fabric (estamet). This durable material was resistant to direct sunlight and held its colour well. Each flag represented a number, letter, or combination of letters, which could be hoisted on to the masts of a ship to convey messages.

Bunting has now been co-opted for decorations and celebrations of all kinds. The material no longer has to be cloth, and anything from paper to plastic can be used, though it does help if the material is lightweight enough to ensure the flags flutter in the breeze.

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, with Union Jacks and English roses.

DECORATE YOUR TABLES

A sure-fire way of reinforcing your Jubilee theme is to decorate your tables appropriately. 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 Jubilee paper tablecloths and napkins, plates and cups. Even if you are entertaining at home, and using your own crockery and glassware, Jubilee-themed paper napkins and tablecloths, as well as bunting and balloons, will all contribute to the celebratory ambience. Remember, red, white and blue is the patriotic order of the day!

Party Pieces’ eco-friendly Great British Party Collection offers a range of bunting, tableware, cake toppers and cake stands, all sporting a unique Platinum Jubilee design, which weaves together English roses, coronets and Union Jacks.

There are going to be lots of children at these events, and they will love waving their own flags, and even sporting special Jubilee party hats. Union Jack-coloured balloons will all contribute to the party atmosphere. This is a great way of keeping kids involved and happy throughout the day.

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 Jubilee detritus.

SERVE A RIGHT ROYAL DISH

Coronation chicken was invented in 1953 by two Cordon Bleu cooks, Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It comprises cooked chicken, herbs and spices and a creamy mayonnaise.

In the 1950s Indian spices were not easily obtainable in post-war Britain, so curry powder was used. The dish has evolved to reflect the revolution in British cuisine, and now is made using freshly ground spices, and may also contain other innovations such as flaked almonds, raisins and crème fraîche. Garnish it with chopped coriander – a widely-used ingredient today that was not available in the 1950s.

Image: platinumjubilee.gov.uk

We’ve all been invited to invent a new ‘Platinum pudding’ for this Jubilee. Alternatively, you can nod to earlier royal traditions and provide other dishes with royal connotations: Apple Charlotte (named after Queen Charlotte) or a Victoria sponge (invented after the coronation of Queen Victoria).

Whatever food you’re serving, or alcohol you’re drinking, it is imperative to have plenty of water and soft drinks available throughout the day. Sun, booze and dehydration is never a great combination.

WATCH OUT FOR THE WEATHER

We all hope the Jubilee weekend will be warm and sunny, but this is Britain and we need to be prepared for all 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, Jubilee 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, invite people well ahead of the Jubilee weekend, as there will be a lot of social events going on.

• If you are invited to a private Jubilee 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 enough to have a warm Jubilee weekend, be conscious about late-night socialising outside – voices and music carry at night, so be considerate about ending your party at a reasonable time.

• 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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