History of street parties
Anyone planning a street party might like to know that street parties have a long history in the UK, though mainly in England and Wales. The tradition of street parties as we now know them as popular residents' events in their own streets seem to have really taken off on a large scale in 1919. They were held in July as 'Peace Teas' as a genuine celebration of the signing of the Versailles peace treaty after the First World War. They were tea parties that were focussed on a special treat for children in those times of hardship and were quite formal sit down affairs.
We have a project that is recording stories about how street parties developed as evidence of the history of street parties. Read about it here.
These resident-led street parties were a popular mass participation and were probably a development of more formal public street dinners that had historically been held, such as for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The earliest living memory of a residents' street party is of a man in Cornwall who clearly remembers having a street party in 1935, held for the Silver Jubilee of King George Vth. There are also many people who remember holding them in 1937 for the Coronation of King George VI, like this one from Leicestershire.
After then residents continued to organise them on all major national days of celebration as shown below. These have always been held in the summer which is why street parties were a good idea, except for the spring wedding of Prince William in April 2011.
And so these get-togethers became a popular tradition as they are a good way of people coming together with their neighbours in the summer. It seems that this tradition did not develop in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Now street parties are becoming more common and held at any time for their own sake, not just centred on the children but for all ages. They are a more relaxed BBQ and bring food-to-share arrangements. Some older people can sometimes be bemused by this new format and still think that they are just for the kids.
Streets Alive believes that they can become widespread and regular throughout the country to promote neighbourliness - this is one of our missions.
This history of this curious part of our culture is what Streets Alive has learned from the public over 10 years. Please contact us with any stories of old street parties, and if possible send us any photos or website links.
See this great Jubilee Street Party video