Hang up your Rob Ryan bunting, hustle your friends and family into the sunshine and host a great British street party – it’s the only way to mark the Jubilee weekend.
Words: Amy Grier Exclusive Artwork: Rob Ryan
Quintessentially British, a touch eccentric and utterly cool: the humble street party is back. Whether it’s down to the buzz surrounding the Olympics, being proud owners of the world’s edgiest fashion city or the newly invigorated royal family, this year is all about embracing our heritage. And thanks to its unique mix of bunting, cream teas and hanging out with your neighbours, nothing says it’s a British celebration quite like a street party.
It all started last April when Kate and William tied the knot and a million people across the country held Pimm’s and scone-fuelled street parties – no longer were we a nation of cynics. And as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee draws close, community spirit is once again sweeping the nation. Applications for street parties are twice what they were last year, with an estimated two to three million events likely to take place over the bank holiday weekend of 2-5 June.
But it’s the sheer diversity of events which proves just how excited we are about the four-day holiday. On Sunday, London’s Piccadilly is being closed down for the day as it hosts Westminster’s biggest ever street party with residents such as BAFTA, the Royal Academy of Arts and Fortnum & Mason set to attend. In Shoreditch, east London, The Book Club is throwing a street party on Sunday featuring the Hackney Colliery Band and Guilty Pleasures DJs, while on the south coast there’s a Fifties retro bash at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday.
So how did the street party come to play such a key role in our national identity? According to Professor Robert Colls, a social historian at Leicester University, “they were a community affair, run by women for their children as a treat in times of austerity.”
In 1953, post-World War II rationing was still in place but families got extra sugar and margarine to celebrate the Queen’s accession – ingredients which they used to create the era’s infamous party food of salmon paste, cucumber sandwiches, ‘preserved cream’ and cake. By 1977’s Silver Jubilee, real ice cream and sticky orange squash were imprinting themselves on the national consciousness.
In 2012, we’ll be concentrating on locally sourced, ‘very British’ food and cocktails with a modern twist. English wine is now winning over experts and bespoke gins from distillers such as Sipsmiths, Jensen’s and Hendrick’s are essential drinking, making them the perfect fit for a ‘patriotic’ street party. Meanwhile, traditional British recipes with a modern spin are the new menu must-have (see right for recipe inspirations including Mark Hix’s updated take on Scotch eggs and Eric Lanlard’s delicious popping candy Eton mess). Perhaps this new wave of exciting British food and drink has been fuelled by our new national desire to celebrate, (or perhaps it’s the other way round), but never has patriotism been so cool.
So, whether you live in a minimalist apartment block or a Victorian terrace, it’s time to make your own bunting (with a little help from our cover artist Rob Ryan) and have yourself a right royal street party. In case you need inspiration, we’ve asked a group of experts fit for her majesty for their take on the necessary ingredients for the perfect gourmet spread, the best cocktails and the country’s coolest street parties. Enjoy!
The Stylist cover will be on show at Rob Ryan’s shop, Ryantown, on east London’s Columbia Road over the Jubilee weekend; misterrob.co.uk