thoughts on our urban future

A Royal Celebration

Red white and blue over the street

Over the last days, London has transformed into a celebration of red, white and blue bunting; union jack flags; and the plastering of the faces of Will and Kate on any surface imaginable (think coffee mugs, refrigerators, flags, dish towels, etc).

The Royal wedding has made the capital a patriotic canvas to celebrate everything British. It compares with the Fourth of July in the US and Bastille Day in France (it certainly helped that the Prime Minster made the day an official Bank Holiday). You could feel a sense of patriotism that I have not felt in the last eight years in the UK.

It isn’t a celebration of the (perceived) Britain of yesteryear: a place with fewer immigrants, and where greater industrial might brought wealth and power (or other related gripes people claim to be the country’s underlying issues). It’s not a singular celebration of England, or Wales, or Scotland. No, it’s a common celebration of traditions – age-old traditions – in our modern day.

It’s the historic monarchy celebrating the marriage of the possible future king. It’s also breaking boundaries: Royal blood mixes with Middle Britain; a large percentage of attendees watching the wedding were their close friends, in a break with past Royal ceremonies; and the service will not only be the most widely-televised event in history, but also will be broadcast online. It demonstrates how traditions can adapt to changing times and still resonate with a vast population.

Patriotic streetscape in London

It was a day to bring Great Britain, the Commonwealth and beyond, together. With the intense media attention, all eyes were on London today. Minus the unusually hot and sunny weather a week previous, London (and the UK) delivered. Yet it is only for a single day, not an annual tradition. It should be.

While the event was a once-in-a-lifetime event, the hosting of 5,500 local street events across the UK shows the interest the public have in coming together to celebrate British traditions. It truly demonstrates the best of Britain, and more should be done to etch this great celebration into the conscience of the people.

It’s been suggested that a new Bank Holiday could facilitate this. While everyone fortunate enough to escape work on Bank Holidays would enjoy another day off, why not enable such a patriotic outpouring to occur on an existing (summer) Bank Holiday? Why not use the 2012 Olympics to reshape one of our existing days off? Let’s celebrate our past, and focus on all that is great in Britain today.

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  1. From this corner of the Commonwealth we were captivated by the wedding celebrations and enjoyed all the fanfare. The time difference allowed us to watch the events live before going off to work for the day.

    I personally would have appreciated a Holiday for such an occasion, but economics does not allow for too much off-time. As you said, perhaps an existing Bank Holiday in the UK can be used for future celebrations.

    It was so refreshing to see the positive celebratory and orderly use of Public Space.

    What other sort of event can bring people together is such pulbic celebration? Would 2012 Olympics really generate such togetherness? I suspect more Royals will have to marry in grand style.

  2. I don’t think the Olympics will bring together the same feelings- mostly because it’s international and the wedding celebrations were very ‘British’. Of course, maybe it’s better if people would come together in an international way than a national way- I love a good national celebration and swellings of national pride and happiness, but you can see how that emotion can be easily swayed to less positive purposes.

    On the other hand, I don’t wish to be cynical. I think people in general need more events where they are encouraged to feel positive and pride. Too much time is spent being negative- even self negative. People with positive feelings are more likely to behave in more positive ways which will contribute well to that ever so intangible aspect of ‘place’.

    As Scott says, the closest thing I can think of in the States is the 4th of July and Bastille day in France. What goes on in other countries? Does the day maintain a positive emotion where people can put their cynicism aside?

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