‘Chance to celebrate with the neighbours’ in Sheffield

Philippa, Georgia, Philippa, Ellie and Darcey having a great time
Philippa, Georgia, Philippa, Ellie and Darcey having a great time

FLAGS, strawberries, cakes and scones, and of course, rain.

Royal events do tend to crop up every now and then in the British summer, and this year’s was one of the biggest for some time, with over 50 street parties across Sheffield.

“It’s a good thing to do,” said Tim Cudmore on the firmly barricaded Fulney Road in Nether Green.

“I quite like the Queen,” added Rebecca Harris.

It was not quite a scene of royalist euphoria, but neither were the Fulney Road barricades stiff with republicans. One of the organisers, Di Durie, nearly put it in a nutshell: a good excuse for a get-together, she almost said, before correcting herself.

“It’s better to say we’re using the Jubilee as an opportunity for connecting with each other, to extend and develop those community links.”

Di and fellow organiser Chris Tufnell were inspired to launch a street party after a chat at their church, Christchurch in Fulwood, where many of their fellow street party people also work or worship.

“As Christians we feel strongly about knowing each other and being able to give friendship and support,” said Di.

Chris added that he saw the Jubilee weekend as a chance to celebrate 60 years of the Queen’s reign as a committed Christian, serving her country and also serving God.

Around Fulney Road, the celebrations continued with bubble machines, a bouncy castle, street cricket and buns made by scores of local residents.

“It did take a bit of organising, applying to close the road and dealing with any queries,” said Chris. “But the street party was generally supported, people were often very excited and said that’s great, is there anything we can bring?”

One household wasn’t sure about the royal angle, but the issue was resolved, said Chris.

“A number of people said: ‘We’re not royalists but this is a great chance to celebrate with our neighbours.’ I hope parties like this will lead to closer friendships and a better community. People will know more neighbours and see them more regularly.”

Tim has worked in sometimes chaotic southern African environments for many years and reflected that the 60-year reign of the Queen is worth celebrating. “It is an extraordinary achievement. I think she has brought a stability to the country.”

Whirlow Lane has a long tradition of royal street parties. Hilary Proctor, two years younger than the Queen, has been behind many of those parties celebrating weddings and Jubilees over the last 40 years, but this time passed the royal reins to younger residents, Tim Ward and Joan Ward, not related, but both residents in the lane for around 20 years.

“It is a tradition on Whirlow Lane,” said Joan. “It’s a very sociable street, everyone knows one another.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Tim. “It’s a good excuse to have a celebration and get everyone together, and it’s great for all generations with people taking part aged from 90-odd to eight-year-olds.”

Around 130 people came out to party at Whirlow, with bunting and flags placed up and down the lane over previous evenings by Tim and colleagues. There was food and plenty to drink and local musician Wendy Allbutt even brought out her keyboard to entertain the crowds with patriotic favourites including Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.

The event had been organised by a small committee over the last six months, said Tim.

“There was an immediate enthusiasm,” he said. “They said we’d love to come, and everyone brought drinks and food, and some brought extra relations.”

“It’s a great excuse for a party and getting everyone together, even if we’re not all hugely patriotic,” said Joan.

Veteran Whirlow Lane street party queen Hilary Proctor declared the event to be “absolutely splendid”.

Hilary had hosted royal and national celebrations for neighbours in her large garden in the past. “And in the evening we’d come inside for garage parties, which were great fun,” she said. “But I was told by my daughter not to do it this time, and to let the new gang do it, and it’s been absolutely wonderful.”

Hilary and her sister were born shortly after the Queen and Princess Margaret and she remembers her own mother noting during the difficult times of the 1940s: “If the Queen can do it, I can do it.”

Hilary added: “Going through the war it made us all realise how precious life was, then after the King died, I remember it took quite a while for people to get used to singing ‘God Save The Queen.’

“I think when the Queen took over from her father she knew she’d got a battle ahead of her, and I think she has coped with it in an extremely clever way.

“She’s kept the respect of the country and I think after this weekend a lot of people will realise how very precious she is to the country.

“ She represents the British Isles and I don’t think anyone could do it like she does.”