Linda Colling: ‘Do you know who your next door neighbour is?’

Jubilee Party 9 June 1977

Jubilee Party 9 June 1977

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YOUR royal correspondent couldn’t resist sharing this snap of a Jubilee party I opened in 1977 in St Stephen’s Church Hall, Fulwell.

Never mind that it was 24 hours behind everyone else’s – it was deliberately planned to leave Jubilee Day free for telly viewing. And what a right, royal day it was for all who lived in Lilac Grove and the Views of North, South, East and West.

Which all goes to show what fervour there was then for the monarchy. More so than now with a staggering 1,000 street parties flung across Sunderland on that Jubilee Day.

Now I’m reliably informed not one is planned this time around by the good residents of these streets, whose neighbourhood was buzzing.

So too was our street – trestle tables end to end, laden with party fare and a real will to celebrate the Queen’s 25 years on the throne.

Thirty five years on and there’s a distinct disinterest in the royal family.

The number of street parties says as much about our fall in fervour as it does about what’s also missing, and not just in our town, the community spirit that bound people together.

Do you know who your next door neighbour is? Plenty don’t know them at all, let alone well enough to pass the time of day. And while there’s still plenty of good neighbours around, these days the sense of community is thin on the ground compared to when everyone weighed in all those years ago, after gran Irene Whitfield set the ball rolling in Fulwell. The toffee cake queen sent her husband to the shops so many times for brown sugar that some thought they had gone into the toffee business.

It was all to fund the party. And the bairn next door, then 14-year-old Dawn McQuillan sold the cakes for 3p each at Monkwearmouth Schoo1.

The women did a sponsored bike race – 10 times round the block, won by 53-year-old gran Betty Cobb, of Lilac Grove, which boosted the fundraising as well as a seven-mile sponsored walk – 28 times round the block. I jest not.

Raffles, coffee mornings and hard work raised £87, enough to buy party fare for 50 children and grown ups, flags, hats and prizes. All the kids paid 35p for their own mug and North View’s “Aunty Mary” Allen, who invited me along, told me: “We only did it for them. We won’t live to see another occasion like this again, but they will and we want them to know how to celebrate when the King comes to the throne.”

Wonder if they will. And more to the point if Charles ever will be King.

I’ve still got the glass Jubilee goblet I was given that day. If you were at the party or in this picture, do share your memories of that June day.