The Royal Wedding- time to get neighbourly!

I don’t know what you think about the royal family. I don’t think they were often in my thoughts while I was growing up. But I did wholeheartedly enjoy the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and not only because of the opportunity it presented to run round my village dressed as a fairy. That little burst of exercise was in the context of a village fancy dress fun run- one of a range of events put on by people in the village to celebrate the occasion. There was a village meal on trestle tables in the street, baking and craft competitions, games in the village field…. even a royal visit from a very convincing Queen lookalike.

It was great fun, and everybody seemed to get involved, whether or not they usually participated in village activities. For me, it really strengthened my feeling of belonging, and of being at home not only inside the family home but in the wider community.

This is why I think there is every reason to be excited about the wedding on the 29th, whether or not you feel sufficiently attached to the royal family to rush out and buy commemorative teacups. These royal events can bring people together. Whatever your views on the monarchy, it is something we all have in common. And Prince William and Kate are obligingly causing an extra bank holiday. It’s a perfect opportunity to GET NEIGHBOURLY!

The classic way for UK communities to celebrate royal or national events is the street party. A street party can be great fun and an excellent way of getting to know your neighbours. It needn’t be too complicated. All that is really needed is for someone to arrange road closure with the council, and for people to be willing to come out on the street with a cake, some bunting or perhaps a guitar. Children can play, for once, on a traffic-free street and everyone can relax and have fun together.

Estimated numbers of royal wedding street parties are actually a lot lower than anticipated. The unreliable spring weather may have something to do with this, or people may be put off by the bureaucracy involved in closing roads. Many have opted to use the extra bank holiday to go away.

But the occasion still presents a great opportunity for those staying at home.

Road closure for the 29th would be a challenge at this stage, and you might not trust the weather sufficiently to plan a full-blown street party. But why not suggest a “Street Meet” in a local park, in someone’s garden or in front of people’s houses? The Street Party Site (run by Streets Alive) offers a lot of practical advice. Getting together for a brief street picnic could be enough to make it a day to remember, and a day that makes your street a safer, friendlier place to be.

And if that’s more than you can manage at this time, you could still take advantage of the special bank holiday to invite a neighbour or two round for a cup of tea and some cake- or even a Noah’s pudding!

Why not treat the 29th as a chance to take a first step towards a friendlier neighbourhood? A small street meet or tiny tea party on this occasion could give you the confidence and connections to try something a little bit bigger next time, like a summer street party, a Big Lunch or a neighbourhood fast-breaking dinner (watch this space for the launch of the Dialogue Society’s manual series on this and a range of other local dialogue activities!).

There is always a bit of a psychological barrier to taking the initiative and knocking on neighbours’ doors. But it is so worthwhile. So many people who have taken up the Dialogue Society’s challenge and taken a Noah’s pudding to a neighbour have found that that simple gesture transforms the environment in which they live by creating a network of friendly neighbourhood relationships. It is surely worth taking every opportunity to change our local environments in this way- and the royal wedding is an opportunity!

(If you take this opportunity to have a nice time with your neighbours, please tell us about it.)

*The ideas expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily of the Dialogue Society

Frances Sleap

Frances Sleap

Author, Former Research Fellow at Dialogue Society

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