This certainly falls into the ‘other pleasures’ category of this blog, although quite a lot of wine and food was also involved.
I’ve spent all my adult life in London and it’s a fallacy that people are unfriendly and that your neighbours are strangers. If that’s what you want, fine, but it needn’t be the case. I’ve always been able to get involved with local residents’ associations and organisations and the concept of community is very important to me. It enrichens your life and gives you a much greater sense of security. Being neighbourly needn’t mean living in each others’ pockets, but a smile or ‘hello’ in the street goes a long way, let alone the comfort of having people nearby who keep an eye on your home while you’re away.
When friends in a neighbouring street told me that a street-party was taking place, I couldn’t resist going along. They were happy to include non-residents as long as they contributed to the buffet. It was one of a number of events taking place around the country as part of The Big Lunch initiative to promote community cohesion. St George’s Avenue is already quite well versed in this way as for several years they have held street-parties on St George’s Day.
The Big Lunch street-party took place on Sunday 18th July – a perfect summer’s day and the bunting festooned street looked idyllic in the dappled sunlight. There was some excitement and media presence early in the morning as London Mayor, Boris Johnson, made an appearance to kick off proceedings, joined by Barbara Windsor to judge the children’s cake competition. Once the press had departed, the event unfolded in a calm, relaxed fashion, with many local residents eating, drinking and enjoying the day.
The atmosphere could not have been more convivial (although a pleasant drip-feed of wine may have influenced my take on things). Children ran around in the sunshine, playing in the padding pool and sandpit in a completely traffic-free road. The Yerbury School parents’ choir sang their hearts out, a local magician entertained the crowd and a talented young schoolboy took over on the piano; there was even a Thai Chi demonstration (very North London).
A good number of people mucked in at the end of the day to tidy up and return the street to its normal state. However, the bunting remained up for a few days as if to reassure people that it hadn’t all been a dream.