If you’re planning your Jubilee street party this weekend, don’t miss this essential advice from etiquette expert William Hanson.
Street parties can be great for boosting neighbourhood morale and strengthening community spirit – and after two largely reclusive years, next weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations will have an extra gloss.
But, as with any form of entertaining, quality is always better than quantity. So a well-organised, tasty street party that lasts two and a bit hours is always going to be preferable to a drawn-out, six-hour affair with neighbours discreetly checking their watches every five minutes.
A lunchtime or early afternoon soiree is the norm for street parties. People are then free to go about their own evenings and unwind after the celebrations, or continue partying with others if they wish … and not cause a ruckus in the street when younger residents may be trying to get to sleep. Plus, it also saves any worry about lighting the street once the sun sets.
For Jubilee parties, it would only be good manners for there to be a royal twist on proceedings, whether that’s a patriotic or majestic theme with décor or food that we know has some palatial overtones. Coronation chicken is a good crowd-pleaser (invented in 1953 for the Queen’s coronation); eggs Drumkilbo (technically a favourite of The Queen Mother’s, but it still counts); chocolate biscuit cake – and perhaps the new Platinum pudding, a lemon and amaretti trifle. You can take inspiration from the official cookbook, which has lots of recipes from around the country and Commonwealth.
It would be churlish not to have the Union Flag present. Unlike our American friends, we Brits don’t seem to get too hung up about using our flag as a design for paper plates, cups, cushions and tablecloths. I even saw some Union Flag knickers in a department store the other day (flag pole, thankfully, not included).
The usual and arguably most appropriate way to display the national flag would be with bunting. If you are running it along a wall (thus people will only see one side), do please ensure the bunting is hung the right way round – not everyone realises there is a right and wrong way. The thicker white band is meant to be on top of the thinner red band in the top left-hand quadrant (when the flag is flown horizontally or vertically).
Street parties are not a chance for a nosey into your neighbours’ houses. When it comes to freshening up, the unspoken etiquette is that you use your own loo, not beg to go into Number 42’s.
Finally, music. Music plays an important role in any party but it is not something that should be there to replace the far superior soundtrack of animated conversation and laughter of guests. Have it louder at the start, when fewer people are there, but turn it down as more people arrive.
What music should you have? Street parties are for everyone, of all ages, so picking one type of music is borderline impossible. My suggestion is to play Number 1 tracks from 1952 to 2022. From a curation perspective, playing them in chronological order makes most sense. It’ll sound weird having Nat King Cole come off the back of Lizzo.
Whatever you do this jubilee, have fun. Relax, enjoy it, and remember it’s everyone’s street party – not just yours.