Jubilee Britain: No cash for bunting, no royal pictures, and nobody knows their neighbours

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The Independent Online

At last, after the depressing sights of peeling paint, boarded up windows and row upon row of satellite dishes, here was evidence that the Queen's subjects were celebrating her golden jubilee. It was in just one window, but it was definitely bunting. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, it read: "Come on England."

At last, after the depressing sights of peeling paint, boarded up windows and row upon row of satellite dishes, here was evidence that the Queen's subjects were celebrating her golden jubilee. It was in just one window, but it was definitely bunting. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, it read: "Come on England."

The flags of St George were hanging from a patriotic window on the little Windsor Terrace estate in Islington, Tony Blair's old north London stamping ground, and they just about summed up the feeling of the people here. There is more interest in the World Cup tournament than in marking the Queen's 50th year on the throne.

Opposite Windsor Terrace is a shining block of contemporary lofts for rent at £1,840 a month, but there was no bunting on those, either. The people who live in the lofts do not mix with the people who live in the council flats. In most cases, the people in the council flats do not mix with each other. It is a state of affairs repeated in small inner-city communities all over Britain.

"It's hard to have a street party when you don't know anyone in your street," said George Young, 33, a chauffeur who lives in Buxton Court, one of the blocks on the estate.

"I have lived in this house all my life, but I only know one person in my block; the guy who lives next door on one side. I don't know the man on the other side because – and this is no criticism – he can't speak English.

"I remember waving at the Queen at the Barbican Centre back in 1977, and there was much more interest then. Times have changed.

"I'm half-Chinese and I was brought up as a Christian and a Londoner, but there are so many more immigrants now who don't feel a part of the community. We want to be a multicultural society on a national level, but perhaps we have failed on a personal level, and we just don't integrate properly."

Even though the Windsor Terrace estate is in N1, an Islington postcode, it is administered by Hackney Borough Council. Yesterday, the example set by both councils seemed hardly likely to stimulate an outpouring of royal fervour.

Islington set aside £50,000 for grants to people who wanted to arrange their own street parties. However, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council said yesterday it had organised no events of its own.

There would, a spokesman said, be no bunting on the Town Hall and no pictures of the Queen.

Labour-controlled Hackney, one of the poorest boroughs in the country, said it, too, had arranged nothing, because it was under severe financial constraints. Again, there would be no bunting and no pictures of the Queen.

Back on the Windsor Terrace estate, Ann O'Connor, 30, was walking in the rain with her daughter Sarah, two. "No one's organised anything here," she said. "There is no sense of community. I think our parents' generation felt they had grown up with the royals through the war and just after it, but we can't relate to them like that. Now there are lots of immigrants and asylum- seekers here and, through no fault of their own, they don't know what's going on."

Russ Lownsbrough, 37, a jewellery designer, said: "I've lived here about three years and the total length of all the conversations I've had with my neighbours must add up to about one hour. Neighbours just don't mix any more. People move around much more and so a community doesn't have time to develop.

"People are either too busy or too different to try to understand each other. And that just leaves us with EastEnders as our surrogate community."

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