All quiet on Jubilee Road

The Queen is planning an all-star pop concert at Buckingham Palace as part of her Golden Jubilee festivities, but what are the residents cooking up in the streets named after previous royal celebrations? Julia Stuart travels to Sheffield, Doncaster and east London to find out
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The Independent Online

At one end of Coronation Road in Plaistow, east London, the neighbours hardly speak to each other. Named to commemorate the crowning of Edward VII, the row of well-maintained terrace homes lies in an area that fizzes with aggression. Kids hang around the neighbouring streets. One attention-seeker pulls over an enormous bin, and a motorcyclist shakes his fist at a driver.

At one end of Coronation Road in Plaistow, east London, the neighbours hardly speak to each other. Named to commemorate the crowning of Edward VII, the row of well-maintained terrace homes lies in an area that fizzes with aggression. Kids hang around the neighbouring streets. One attention-seeker pulls over an enormous bin, and a motorcyclist shakes his fist at a driver.

No surprise, then, that despite Coronation Road's royal connections, there are no plans for a street party to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Some blame the fact that so many foreigners have moved in. One is Olesya Berezin, a 19-year-old student from Russia, who came to Britain two years ago claiming political asylum. "We will not celebrate," she says. "We are respectful, but we don't know the tradition, so we don't know how to celebrate. We don't really talk to the neighbours."

Sandra Pierre, 37, a local government officer who lives a few doors down, hasn't heard of any plans for a street party, either. "I'm not a royalist, I'm just going to enjoy the bank holidays," she says. "I won't be going to any parties, I'd feel a bit of a hypocrite. I doubt whether anyone on the street will do anything." But she does remember celebrating the Silver Jubilee, when she went to a big street party on the Isle of Dogs. "There was lots of food and drinking, and we were allowed out, which we weren't usually."

At least Sandra knows that the Queen is celebrating 50 years on the throne this summer. On the opposite side of the road, Colin Smith, 23, an Australian teacher who came to the UK last March, hasn't even heard about it. A few doors on, Gary Phillips, 29, a builder, has no interest in the Royal Family either. "The word 'leeches' springs to mind," he says. "They don't spread their wealth around enough."

One resident, a retired secretary of 73 who doesn't want to be named, fondly remembers a street party being held at one end of Coronation Road to commemorate the Silver Jubilee. "I'm not really interested now," she says, flatly. "There's no longer any community spirit. Something like that would have been organised by a group of neighbours – nowadays you don't even know who's living next door."

"We're a family of communists, I'm afraid," says Matthew Van Rooyen, 17, a student, answering his door at the other end of the street. "The Golden Jubilee is an example of how useless the monarchy is. People have finally woken up to what these people are like, and that's why they're not having parties."

Coronation Road is typical of the area. At the time of writing, only six groups interested in holding a street party had contacted Newham Council, which presides over 235,700 residents. The council is now offering grants of up to £750 to enthusiasts wishing to hold one. In 1977, there were 12,000 street parties in Britain, mostly funded by council grants.

Two hundred and sixty miles away, Jubilee Road in Sheffield is a curve of modern brick homes, some of which are council-owned. The street was originally built in 1897 and named in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The first person I speak to, Jenny Howe, 24, a student, won't be going near bunting this June. "Nobody's talking about it," she says. "I don't think the neighbours will organise anything, not on this street."

But a few doors up, Deborah Griffiths, 32, is quietly excited by the idea of having a bash. She even has a film of a big Silver Jubilee street party held in the city, which was taken by a relative with a cine camera and converted to video. "I like all that," she says smiling. "I like everybody joining in. Usually everyone keeps themselves to themselves. I'd like something with tables, flags and streamers."

But Deborah appears to be in a lonely minority. On the other side of the road, Muriel and George Fearn, both 72, couldn't be less interested. "I'm not bothered," says George, a retired lorry driver. "There are too many hangers-on in the Royal Family. We're paying for them through our taxes. The Queen's just a figurehead. She's got no authority like they used to have. I haven't heard anything about a party. We keep ourselves to ourselves."

"When I was little we weren't allowed to criticise the Royals," says Muriel. "When I used to say the Queen wore funny hats, my mother used to play hell with me." Neither does their neighbour, 70-year-old Wilfred Marshall, show the slightest flicker of interest. "I've got enough to do without thinking about that," he says. Robert Whitaker, 48, who works in recycling, isn't even aware of the anniversary. "I've haven't heard anything," he says. He may well not be the only one. Sheffield has a population of around 530,000, but at the time of our enquiry the city council had had only around 10 applications to close roads for parties.

A few miles up the M18, Doncaster's Jubilee Road is a row of Victorian terrace houses. Here, Sonia Black, 33, remembers the 1977 celebrations well. She was crowned Silver Jubilee Queen and had to parade up the road in a posh frock. "The road was done up with balloons and flags," she recalls. "It was fun; we all played in the street." But neither she nor her mother, Carmen, 65, has heard the slightest whisper of a party being held this year. "I don't think anything will happen, somehow. The neighbours don't talk to each other much," says Carmen.

Further down the road, Sylvia Kenning, 45, has been having visions of a bouncy castle and karaoke. But she has yet to share them with the neighbours. "With it being Jubilee Road, I thought it would be a good idea," she says. "It's nothing to do with the Queen. I don't give a monkey's about her. Do I look like a royalist?" With her pierced nose and cropped hair, she certainly doesn't. "It's just an excuse for a party. I'll do the buffet," she continues, warming to the idea of a bash. "It'll be sandwiches, sausage rolls and jelly. We'll have a disco and several bottles of wine apiece. If they don't want a party in the street, I'll have a small one in the house."

If Sylvia's plans get off the ground, her neighbour Anita Queen, 45, who lives opposite, won't be in attendance. She's a barmaid. "I'll be working," she says, adding, "I'm not interested in it. I think the Golden Jubilee is a waste of money."

A 10-minute drive away lies Silver Jubilee Close, an arc of pale-brick council-owned bungalows. None of the residents I spoke to had heard of any plans for a street party. "Nobody has said anything," says Ada Barnes, 63. "No one has mentioned anything to me," says Thelma Havacroft, 83, a few doors up, adding: "As this is Silver Jubilee Close you'd have thought they'd organise something." "I couldn't care less," huffs another elderly resident.

But John McGuinness, 78, who lives opposite, cares. So much so that he, as chairman of the Ennerdale Tenants' Association, has been plotting with members of the social club committee to turn the annual garden party, held in the communal gardens, into a Golden Jubilee celebration. He is one of five people – out of a population of around 292,000 – who had called Doncaster Council about holding a party. The council has decided to waive legal fees and advertising costs for street parties held on 3 June, both of which would usually cost more than £250. But organisers will still have to pay for public liability insurance and signs warning of road closures.

McGuiness is sure residents will agree to the plan. "They were young when the Queen came to the throne, and they've lived through her reign. I expect people to have a leaning towards celebrating it. Someone even suggested changing the name of the street to Golden Jubilee Close."

McGuiness, a former pub licensee, is clearly excited at the prospect of a knees-up, no matter how creaky it may be. "We hope to have a rather grand affair," he says. "We'll do whatever the residents want. We'll have a buffet and drinks – everyone will donate something. There'll be music and dancing. But if the weather is inclement, we're in a stew. I've already applied to the council for flags and bunting. I thought I'd get in first." It seems, though, that he needn't have hurried.

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