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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Flying the flag for Morecambe: town bids to host Britain’s biggest jubilee lunch | Queen’s platinum jubilee

“I’ve got my gin, so I’m all right now,” said Chez Ferdinand, a retired office manager in a crown and cape as she took a break from handing out plastic union-flag bowler hats and bow ties.

“We’ve got all sorts here. We’ve got ploughman’s, Eton mess, jubilee cake, scones and clotted cream … We’ve got pink gin, we’ve got vodka, we’ve got wine, beer, Pimm’s. What would you like?

“I wouldn’t say I’m a big royalist, but we like to do something every time. We live locally, so we thought it would be a good thing to support.”

Ferdinand was organising the family table on Morecambe’s promenade as part of an attempt to set a new record for the biggest jubilee street party. There were thousands of “big jubilee” lunches across the UK on Sunday, but the Lancastrian seaside town very much wanted to be the biggest.

“Jubilee” was the operative word, said Luke Trevaskis, the clerk of the town council. They were not attempting to set a new world record for any street party, given that that is held by organisers of an incredible 37-mile-long event on a stretch of autobahn in Dortmund, Germany in 2010.

Tables full of patriotic revellers
The event’s organisers said they expected about 5,000 people would take part. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

“The last couple of years have been such a challenging time for everyone, and people haven’t had the chance to spend time with others, so we want to make up for lost time,” said Trevaskis.

“We started planning this event as we were coming out of lockdown and it has just grown and grown. The demand for tickets has just been absolutely phenomenal.”

The event had 500 tables stretching 1.6 miles (2.5km) along the seafront and organisers expected that about 5,000 people would come. “We are relying on the patriotism of Morecambe residents today.”

If the weather had been wonderful, Trevaskis estimated there would have been more than 10,000 people taking part.

The clouds remained stubbornly grey, but the rain held off.

Samba dance band
In full swing: the events included a performance by a samba dance band. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Among those at the event were Paul and Kath Zanelli, at a table with its union flag tablecloth held in place by four cans of Tetley bitter. “It is just nice to see the community come together,” said Kath. “It’s great to see the town so busy, especially after Covid.”

She said she was a royalist, her husband Paul less so. “It is a shame about the weather, but I don’t think it is going to dampen spirits too much,” Paul said.

The party was supported by the Eden Project, which is planning a £125m outpost in the town.

Tim Narey, the project manager for Eden North, said the jubilee lunches were an extension of its long-running Big Lunch initiative to bring communities together over food. “There are over 200,000 big lunches going on across the UK, from Orkney right down to Penzance. It really is quite incredible.”

On Sunday, Morecambe was buzzing – not something that could be said very often in recent years.

“Bringing the visitors back to Morecambe will just be incredible,” said Narey. “Until about 1977, the Queen’s silver jubilee year, this place was still really vibrant, and then the short-haul flights and European package holidays was the cliff edge, really; it took the core visitors away.

“Like a lot of coastal towns, Morecambe has just not had much luck, or much investment, but it is an absolutely incredible, unique place. You look out at the amazing bay and you see the peaks of the Lake District.”

Louise Simpson and Dave Hodges
Louise Simpson and Dave Hodges at the jubilee lunch. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

The Morecambe events included a samba dance band and singers, and volunteers firing red, white and blue smoke from cannons on the promenade. Amid much coughing, many people broke out in renditions of the national anthem.

The day was more about fun than a professional record attempt, and there was no sign of any official Guinness World Record adjudicators.

Dave Hodges, a plumber from Slyne in Lancaster, was dressed head to foot in red, white and blue, and – looking a little like an armed robber in the film Point Break – was wearing a face mask that he was reluctant to take off.

Why was he dressed the way he was? “Because I’m a pillock,” he replied cheerfully.

“He is the joker of the family,” said his partner, Louise Simpson, more charitably. “If there is an opportunity to dress up, then he will. He did the hospice run the other week dressed as a shark. If you do something, you’ve got to do it 100%.

“We had a jubilee barbecue at home and made everyone wear red, blue and white. And I am a royalist. I do love the Queen. I think the royal family are amazing.”

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