Ahead of the Queen’s Jubilee Weekend, I wrote a last-minute blog with ideas of where to celebrate it. But when it came for me to make a decision, I was torn for choice. As I was flying out to Italy on the Bank Holiday Monday morning for a last-minute holiday, I decided to hit the Thames to watch the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant.
As a South Londoner and having spent a lot of my childhood playing on the South Bank, I was drawn to trying to find a spot to watch the flotilla from that side of the river. We arrived at London Bridge station armed with umbrellas, camera, Union Jacks and some cans of Pimm’s Cups. The forecast was dim, but, like all Londoners, we are used to rain and pressed ahead with our plans to watch it al fresco.
Rather ignorantly, we were hoping the rain may have put off some people and arrived about 90 minutes ahead of the flotilla starting. As we walked past viewpoint after viewpoint – which were closed off by police due to crowd control – it soon started to look hopeless that we were going to see the flotilla at all. We got as far as Southwark Bridge (not very far at all, but took ages due to the sheer volume of people) and after being told that most bridges were being closed off (although my official flotilla map said otherwise…), I had the brainwave to walk to Borough tube and get the Underground ‘over’ the river since going by foot looked increasingly difficult.
After riding to Bank, we then headed down to Mansion House and kept looking for viewing areas along Lower Thames Street Embankment – still to no avail. Some people had stood on flights of stairs to get literally a 10ft by 10ft view through a small gap in the buildings. I was determined I wouldn’t be that desperate to put up with a view that poor.
Finally we reached Blackfriars Bridge about 90 minutes after setting off from London Bridge. Our timing was perfect because there just happened to be a few ‘viewing spots’ left on one of the flower beds on a traffic island in front of Unilever House. Now I’m not a vandle and like to respect my city, but needs must, so myself and my group climbed onto the bed – making sure we didn’t crush the plants in the process before anyone accuses me of vandalising them! Finally we could see the Thames – albeit over a sea of heads and flags – but we had a decent wide view on the river bend and Waterloo Bridge. There was also a large TV screen erected on the actual bridge so we could see the action on the Queen’s Barge too.
It might have been raining and it was a lot of standing around waiting, but the atmosphere was amazing. It was London in all its glory – looking around I could see a true representation of London (and the other Brits visiting from out of town). There were people from different classes, races and religion all coming together to celebrate the country and our Queen. I was feeling very patriotic and wore my Union Jack flag as a cape, a style choice many had made that day. One man had gone to extra patriotic lengths and painted the Union Jack on his face – a true ‘Diamond (Jubilee) Geezer’.
Finally when the Spirit Of Chartwell reached the bridge, there was a massive audio Mexican wave of cheers and whoops. The Queen’s barge was sailing particularly close to the north bank of the river, so I ended up climbing onto a pedestrian crossing light and balancing on the button box to get a better view! The barge’s passing under Blackfriars happened to coincide with the heaviest rain since we’d been outside, but the atmosphere was so jubilant, I was past caring.
After finally seeing the Queen – albeit from a distance – and experiencing the Jubilee atmosphere, we were ready to hit home to watch the highlights from the comfort of the sofa – with a detour to a hot drinks establishment first.
Later reports estimated 1.2million had been by the river to watch the flotilla, which I could easily believe. Walking on some of the City Of London’s busiest roads, where there is usually vehicles, was a surreal experience. As dismal as the weather was, the sea of people wearing red, white and blue raised your spirits.
With the Queen being 86, its unlikely we will see her Platinum (70th) Jubilee, so I felt it was important to be a part of it and was proud to see London on the world stage – for the first of two times this year with the Olympics coming up. I was at the Thames for her Golden Jubilee, but don’t remember it being as big a spectacle as the Diamond. I’ve always associated myself more as a Londoner than a Brit or Englishwoman, but felt very proud to be British on that day.
So yes… the weather isn’t going to be as good as we hoped this Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend. But London is a city of all weathers and we’ll be on the world’s stage again this weekend when we celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.
Even if you’re not much of a royalist, the opportunity for the country to come together and party in the streets doesn’t happen very often (lets face it, we’re not likely to win the Euro or World Cup anytime soon… #spokenlikeatruepessimist)…
As we’re back in a recession… again… what better way to forget Europe’s economic doom and groom and celebrate what’s good about Britain – and goodness knows, spending a few quid on some bunting or a bottle of Pimms will help the economy.
I’ve never had a strong opinion for or against the Royal Family, but I appreciate their value to our tourism industry. I remember how their image plummeted following the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and now 15 years later, they seem to be riding a new wave of popularity, helped in spades by Prince William and his glossy-haired bride Catherine.
So with the weekend officially starting already, here’s some ideas of what’s going on in town if you’re still stuck about what to do (and that haven’t sold out)
- Thames Jubilee Pageant – Sunday 3rd June
Over 1,000 boats will sail down the Thames, starting from Battersea Bridge around 2pm and ending at Tower Bridge at 6pm. The Queen herself be on the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, embarking near Albert Bridge.
The flotilla will cover seven miles of river, with large viewing screens dispersed along the river banks so everyone can see. Police are recommending spectators arrive no later than 2pm. For more information and maps to print off visit the official Thames Jubilee Pageant website.
- Jubilee Family Festival – Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd June
For those with young children, somewhere not involving packed crowds standing in close proximity fighting for a glimpse of the royals is probably a good idea. Sainsbury’s has organised a two-day festival in Hyde Park, including live music and entertainment from Britain and across the Commonwealth. Celebrities including Myleene Klass, Jon Culshaw, Kara Tointon and Strictly dancers will be taking part. Although many tickets have already been sold, there will be limited tickets on the gate, which opens at 10:30am and closes at 7pm. Visit the Jubilee Family Festival website for more information.
- Bellenden Big Lunch (Peckham) – Sunday 3rd June
Free street party on Bellenden Street in Peckham where the road’s boutiques, art galleries, shops, cafes and pubs will be opening their doors with lots of events. The road is closed off to cars with tables in the middle for eating and drinking. Visit the Facebook page for more information.
- Piccadilly Big Jubilee Lunch – Sunday 3rd June
Piccadilly will be closed off to vehicle traffic for the first time its history with some of the road’s most famous establishments hosting various events. BAFTA will be giving people the chance to walk the red carpet, The Cavendish London will be making a hog roast, The Ritz’s resident band will be playing, and loads more food and entertainment. Visit the Big Jubilee Lunch website for more information.
- Street Party @ Water Poet (Spitalfields) – Monday 4th June
There’s nothing like an East End knees-up. The Water Poet near Liverpool Street is hosting a street party with food, drinks and dancing. In the evening there will be a live screening of the Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace. Visit the Water Poet’s website for more information.
- Queen’s Jubilee Carriage Procession – Tuesday 5th June
At around 2:20pm, the Queen and the royal family will ride in a formal carriage procession from the Palace Of Westminster to Buckingham Palace following a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and lunch earlier. They will travel along Whitehall and The Mall, before gathering on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at around 3:30pm. The Royal Family’s appearance on the balcony will culminate with a RAF flypast and a gun salute.
- Jubilee Garden Party @ Dulwich Picture Gallery – Tuesday 5th June
A party in the grounds of the 19th century gallery with canapes and sparkling wine. There will be short tours by the curator and a performance of Fifties songs by soprano Alexandra Carter. Tickets £18. Visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s website for more information.
- World Street Food Festival – Sat 2nd – Tues 5th June
It may be the Queen’s weekend, but one of the best things about London is our multi-cultural residents and cuisines from around the world. Market stalls with different world cuisines will be set up in Southbank Centre Square on London’s Southbank. Visit the World Street Food Festival’s website.
Whatever you do, enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to check the TFL website. There’s going to be some road and tube station closure so be prepared. Happy Jubilee Weekend!