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Republicans throw 'Not the royal wedding' party

Text by Katherine THOMPSON

Latest update : 2011-04-30

Think the UK is all royal wedding mad? Think again. The Republic movement, which campaigns for an end to the monarchy, has established an anti-royal wedding zone in the heart of central London.

While the rest of the UK appears on the face of it to have collectively caught royal wedding fever, there is a corner of central London that is most certainly immune.

Close to Covent Garden, the Republic movement, a pressure group which campaigns for an end to the monarchy, is holding a 'Not the royal wedding' street party. With 20% of the UK reportedly republican, this group campaigns for those whose voices are not being currently heard.

Graham Smith, the group's campaign manager and Executive Director, told FRANCE 24 that it is a traditional British royal street party, but with a twist. Instead of celebrating pageantry and royalty, the street party will celebrate democracy and an end to inherited privilege.

The fact that the street party is being held at all is a surprise. It was originally meant to take place not far from the main royal wedding route, but was banned from doing so by a local government body that feared it would be overrun by anarchists. Smith believes that lobbying on the part of a powerful local landlord was partly behind the ban.

Taking a sneaky peak at the wedding?

The move to ban Republic's celebrations was, it could be argued, a PR gift since the issue promptly became front page news across the UK.

Despite this upset, the event went ahead Friday, but further away from the royal madness at Westminster.

Early Friday morning, in a garden square a short stroll from Holborn tube station, Republics' members busily set up stalls and strung up bunting.

As has happened at numerous events for this royal wedding, journalists outnumbered attendees in the morning, with the TV crews pulling rank and trying to elbow the mere print and web journalists out of the way for the best shots.

Smith admitted to being nervous about the lack of crowds and ruefully said that he thought people were “probably taking a sneaky peak at the wedding on TV before heading down.”

As the morning progressed, the crowds started to arrive and, in another running theme from this wedding, seemed to be delighted by all the media attention they were getting as banks of journalists jostled for position around those who had chosen to dress up.

Fun day out, but with a serious message

The Republic party was not all 'bah-humbug' and serious. Bunting hung cheerfully from the stalls that had been set up, a jazz band played to entertain the crowds, stocks and other games had been laid on, and there was a general party atmosphere.

Underlying the fun, however, was a serious message which everyone was keen to get across.

Smith believes that there will be a “royal wedding hangover” next week as the country starts to count the cost of putting on such a spectacle. “People don't believe in democracy any more, but if we completely reformed the system they would again,” argued Smith. He also, somewhat jokingly, said that he would rather “David Beckham was the president” than the Queen.

The points made by Smith were echoed by many at the event. Kaye Boyce, who sported an ironic “Thanks for the day off” t-shirt in a nod to the national holiday Friday, said that the royal family is “anachronistic”. “No one really cares about the royal family”, she assured.

Joyce Bradley, who has been a member of Republic for two years and was manning a stall, said, “Intrinsically it is wrong to have a democratic country with an inherited monarchy.”

The republican conviction behind the party was clear for all to see, but whether the movement's views will catch on is another matter. The points they make are logical, clear and well argued. But if you look at this purely as a PR war, I would say Royal Family 1 – Republic 0.

Date created : 2011-04-29

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