Partying on the streets to celebrate royal wedding

Communities across Norfolk and Suffolk have begun planning how they will celebrate the royal wedding this spring.

With bunting stretching from house to house, neighbours chatting in the roads, and union flags in the air, street parties look set to return to our towns and villages this spring.

With the royal wedding just over three months away, communities across Norfolk and Suffolk have begun planning how they will celebrate.

Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton was announced on November 17, giving communities little time to think about how they would mark the event before heading into the busy festive season.

But following last week's announcement of further details, including the time of the Westminster Abbey ceremony, town councils, community groups and royal enthusiasts are starting to put their party ideas in place.

In Wells, plans are afoot for a two-day celebration taking place at The Buttlands on Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30.

A big screen showing the royal wedding, live music, a traditional picnic, a lights display and children's activities have all been suggested.

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James Platten, chairman of the Wells street party steering group, said: 'It's going to be a really hard year so I think that a big celebration like this is needed to lift people's spirits.'

A public meeting next Wednesday at 7pm at the War Memorial Institute will invite ideas and discuss fundraising options.

Swaffham also intends to hold a street party in the centre of town. The event is to be organised by the area's Iceni Partnership along with the Swaffham Lions. Dennis Tallon, Iceni Partnership manager, said: 'It's much more than just a royal wedding. It's about engendering a community spirit. These things are great at pulling the community together.'

Plans for a celebration in Bungay are also in the pipeline and the search is on for volunteers.

Rev Roger Allen voiced hopes for an open air party in the middle of the town but said the plans were at a very early stage and needed more support to get them off the ground.

With more than 200 employees working on the Sandringham Estate, the royal wedding will not be able to pass by there without a celebration.

No formal plans have been made yet, but spokesman Helen Walch said staff would be keen to mark the occasion in some way.

In Fakenham, members of the town council, area partnership and Kickstart Fakenham will get together soon to discuss holding an event while Thetford Town Council is also considering staging an celebration.

Southwold has also started planning with town councillors favouring a celebration the day after the wedding with a marquee on Gun Hill while Angela Bishop hopes to work with Acle library to organise a nostalgic street party with memorabilia from past community celebrations.

Royal enthusiast John Harris, a regular at the Sandringham Estate during the Queen's winter stay, plans to be among the thousands of people expected to line the streets in London on April 29.

'I just want to lap up the atmosphere because I think it will be an occasion not to be equalled,' he said. 'I have waited 30 years for a wedding of this magnitude and I want to be there for the unique occasion.'

Many councils, including Norfolk County Council, have no plans in place and there may be some who deem it inappropriate at a time when budgets were being squeezed and services cut. But discussions at West Norfolk Council are to begin soon and a Waveney Council spokesman added: 'Although no plans have yet been put in place, we will certainly seek to commemorate and celebrate this fantastic public occasion and support our communities in any way we can to put their own special plans in place.'

When the royal couple were looking at venues for their wedding, they had a number of glamorous and historic choices for the celebration.

But one Norfolk wedding planner wanted to make sure the newly-engaged couple were considering all their options.

And, after sending a letter offering Sprowston Manor for the reception, Sarah Hyde received a reply saying thank you, but they would stick with Buckingham Palace.

Miss Hyde, Sprowston Manor's wedding co-ordinator, said: 'We wanted to send our congratulations from the hotel. We said it would be an honour to help in any way we could for their special day... We have a fantastic venue so we thought Kate and William would love it too.'

She sent the letter the day after the engagement was announced and thought no more of it.

But now a response has been sent from Prince William's office at St James's Palace.

On behalf of the Prince, Claudia Holloway thanks Miss Hyde for the 'kind offer' to the couple but added: 'As you will be aware, it has recently been announced that Buckingham Palace will be the venue for the reception. Nevertheless, thank you for bringing Sprowston Manor to our attention.'