Diamond Jubilee: 'There was Blitz spirit, we were laughing in the face of adversity'


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The Independent Online

"What do you expect? It's typical British weather. I think God forgot to put his 50p in the meter and it's run out," laughed Rashid Karolia.

The social worker was among just a dozen or so patriotic locals who braved bitingly cold winds and driving rain to mark the Queen's special day in Bradford's Centenary Square yesterday.

Organisers had hoped 2,000 people would turn up to share a picnic, bringing together the city's different ethnic communities.

But old-fashioned Pennine precipitation did for that plan – forcing the handful of Bradfordians who did turn up to make the best of the bad weather.

As a 1990s cover band injected what optimism they could into proceedings, Sobia Bi, the mother of two children, was beating a retreat with her sister Maryyam and a shivering gaggle of children kitted out in Union Flag face paint and red, white and blue balloon hats. They shared a hasty lunch of samosas, crisps and chocolate, sheltering under umbrellas before making an early dash home.

"We were really excited about it and the kids really loved it. It was a really good day but my hands are frozen," she said.

Bradford has a long-standing affection for the monarchy and 29 street parties were planned across the city. When the Queen paid her first visit here early in her reign in 1954, bunting was hung from the soot-blackened buildings and 30,000 schoolchildren greeted her at the cricket ground at Bradford Park Avenue. While those scenes were always unlikely to be repeated yesterday, better conditions would certainly have seen a healthier turnout.

"I feel really sad. It could have been a really good day if the weather held on. A lot of people would have been down here," said Angus Livingstone, a civil servant.

Neil Collins, who was dressed as a pearly king, did his very best to cheer the small crowd along with a small cast of stilt-wearing street performers. "If you wanted to be all patriotic you could say there was some Blitz spirit, that we are laughing through adversity," he said. "To be honest, with weather like this those people that stay around are quite easy to entertain. You have to laugh or you go away feeling miserable."

Mr Karolia and his brothers decided to brave out the rain to watch the flotilla on the big screen. "The Queen is lovely," he said. "I am a true Bradfordian and a true Yorkshireman," he added. "For us this is an opportunity to support our city. This is my Bradford and I love it," he said.