It’s time to dust off your tartan and put on a tiara, says Debora Robertson, in her handy guide to organizing the ultimate Platinum Jubilee street party.
One of my happiest childhood memories is of Her Majesty The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, when all of the children in our village ran riot along a bunting-bedecked street, fueled by orange squash and Victoria sponge. Country Life was first published in 1897, the same year as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and the magazine and its readers have marked and celebrated every royal occasion ever since.
In our house — and perhaps in yours — we don’t need much excuse to get out the trestle tables and decorations, but there can surely be no more fitting and joyful occasion than The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to bring out the flags, dress up, and plan the tea to end all teas.
The secret to success is planning ahead as much as possible, and delegating as much as you can. Put someone in charge of decorations, another in charge of games and other cheerful entertainments, others in charge of food.
What to eat: Plan it out and divide up the tasks
A truly successful outdoor party is always over-catered, but do get a rough idea as to what everyone might bring. While for some of us (me), our idea of heaven might be 10 different potato salads, not everyone is quite so carb-focused.
If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at Tom Kerridge’s suggestions for how to keep it simple but delicious at a picnic, and Simon Hopkinson’s advice on what to serve at a posh picnic, and we’ll be running a series of recipes in Country Life’s May 25 Jubilee issue for mouth-watering inspiration.
What to drink: A fittingly royal tipple
On such a special occasion, Champagne is always appropriate for the adults. But you might also want to try that favorite cocktail of The Queen and The late Queen Mother, the majestic gin and Dubonnet. Put some ice in a tumbler, pour over one part gin to two parts Dubonnet and stir. Garnish with a twist of orange or lemon, if you’re being fancy. Which, of course, you are.
What to wear: This is not the time for restraint
You can never be knowingly under-decorated, either your venue or your person. This is not the time for restraint. Attach bunting to whatever you can, of course. Union Jack flag bunting is right for the day, but mix it up with any other strands you have. You can also make pretty garlands if your party is likely to go on into the evening with strings of fairy lights adorned with little shades made from paper cups — you can get quite small children to help you make and decorate these, too.
Fancy dress is to be encouraged for adults and children alike, go heavy on the red, white and blue, pull out your silk scarves and pearls, toss in a little regal cashmere, tartan and tweed (if you don’t think they’ll give you heat stroke). And to misquote the words of the late John Lennon at the Royal Variety Performance in 1963, if you are lucky enough to own any, shake your platinum jewellery.
What to do: Games for all ages
Plan plenty of games and activities to get everyone involved. Traditional lawn games such as kubb and other skittles-type games, giant Jenga, quoits and croquet, and competitions such as sack races, egg-and-spoon-races and tug-of-war are always popular.
As well as such active events, do include activities for those not so athletically inclined. Treasure hunts, biscuit- or cake decorating, or pet fancy dress parades can be enjoyed by everyone, especially those too young or too elderly to partake in the general rough and tumble.
The Platinum Jubilee website is crammed with useful information, from how to host a simple tea over the Bank Holiday weekend, to planning more extravagant events, for example if you would like to join in the Big Jubilee Lunch on Sunday, June 5. If you ‘re going to need a temporary road closure for your street party, you’ll need approval from the local authority: the council’s highways, licensing, events or communities teams should be your first port of call, or speak to your local councillor.
If you live in a part of the country where farm tracks outnumber streets, a smaller gathering of friends and family, ideally out of doors, is just as much fun. No matter what you do, remember not to let it all get on top of you — this is a celebration, not a marathon — and enjoy yourself toasting Her Majesty’s extraordinary achievement.
Oh yes, and one more thing — make sure you also have a rota for the clearing up afterwards!