Our community is lucky that the local traders (at the Whitton Business Association) invest a lot of effort in organising some great events and the RFU (Twickenham Stadium is nearby) always generously sponsors them. The annual highlight is our St George’s Day parade, which is apparently the second largest of its kind in the UK.
The High Street
We were particularly excited this year as we have just recently had a host of improvements (including new lamp posts which fit with our High Street’s 1930s charm) following a Local Government Uplift grant. Neighbours had been chatting about the event on Facebook for a while.
Entering the High Street in the middle – and with just minutes before the parade began at 11am – we were greeted with some Kylie songs from one of the stages managed by D & P Dynamics. There were families, kids and dogs everywhere and all with red and white St George’s flags and big smiles as the sun was out and the rain clouds distant.
There were a bunch of kids gathered around the Spinart Magic stall, cross bow range, two “Hook a Duck” games, basketball challenge and the candy floss. Teens were browsing happily at Gail’s Make Up stand and some nearby jewellery tents.
There was a healthy gathering of young (and not so young) chaps outside Action Bikes – where there was a virtual reality Lake District 1K time trial. Most of the shops had displays and goods outside – we browsed at the gardening supplies outside This N That, inspected the toys and kitchen equipment at Bargain House Whitton and checked out the goods and tombolas at various charity appeals: RNLI, London Wildlife Trust, the Middlesex Freemasons, Visit Richmond, Whitton Local Neighbourhood Care Group, Hampton Fuel, West London Waste, Shooting Star Hospice, Cancer Research and a couple of animal rescue organisations.
Hearing the band approaching everyone stepped back onto the pavements with cameras at the ready. Amongst the stewards were some of our friends and we waved enthusiastically.
At the front of the parade was the Surbiton Youth Marching Band – which had some real youngsters – but they belted out a rousing tune. Some cadets followed along with some jolly Chelsea Pensioners. Then it was the Brownies and Rainbows carrying a fabulous long dragon behind a portly St George.
Next up were a colourful group from St Philips and St James Church and the Edmundian Theatre Group. The purple shirts of Heathfield School were ahead of another band – this time from the Horse Rangers Association.
We carried on cheering and waving as the marching continued. There were acrobats in cheerful yellow and black chequered outfits balancing on large balls and loads of young folk in black outfits from Dansibility. The local rugby team – Whitton Lions – strode along with some lively Morris Dancers in close pursuit. Police cadets came next before a magnificent black horse drawn carriage from Co-Operative Funeral Services.
Another band followed – this time from Whitton Baptist Church and then an assortment of old army vehicles including a tiny armoured vehicle. Some brightly coloured classic cars came into view, followed by some Scooters – one of which was ridden by a chap in a fetching striped blazer. Then it was the roar of engines from the classic bikes – including a contingent of Harley Davidsons.
The crowds spilled out onto the road again and we popped into the local jewellers L Guess to pick up some repairs and did a bit of shopping at Tescos – saying “Hi” to our local Big Issue seller who was outside as usual. One of our favourite fair attractions are the grannies who perform a live fruit machine at the sound of a bell – fantastic and always generating lots of laughs.
Once the parade had completed its return journey, the spinning cups, swinging chairs and bouncy castle were put into action. All of the coffee shops – Café Parisienne, Coffee Ways and the Coffee Bean – were full of chattering folk – and it was great to see the Morris dancers taking a well-earned rest outside one of them.
We made do instead with a burger from the stand outside Ellis the Butchers and sticky buns from Jonquil Bakery and popped into Whitton Pet Store to get a treat for the dog.
The motorbikes were parked up outside The Admiral Nelson pub where there were lots of admiring glances, a Fire Engine arrived for the kids to clamber on, and the Police were there to offer advice and mark bicycles.
Then the second stage burst into action, much to the youngsters’ delight with Dusty Does Disco. The singing and laughing was infectious. We were only saddened that we didn’t have time to catch the Zumba class, the Orleans Soul Band or the “Instant Circus”. Can’t wait til the Jubilee Celebrations now…