Thursday, 31 May 2012

How we do a Street Party

This weekend many streets will be holding a street party in honour of the Jubilee. Many streets who may not have had street parties before might be thinking it would be a nice thing to do, but don't know how to go about it or what activities to put on. So here's my little guide to how my street does it.

Bristol is apparently the 'street party capital' of Europe; the place with the most street parties each year. Our street has been hosting one a year for 6 years now, and I've been involved in organising the last 3. 

Closing the Street

I'm sure the exact requirements that councils require vary from area to area, so I won't go into much detail into how to do this, you'll need to check your council's website. Bristol City Council require 6 weeks to process an application, so I'm afraid you can't have a spontaneous street party. Notices will have to be put up a couple of weeks before and you will need signs to show that the road is closed on the day itself (these are available to hire and your council will be able to provide a list of suppliers). You will also need to check if you need a licence (it depends on whether you are serving alcohol and/or having amplified music) in Bristol the licence costs about £20.


In the UK you never know whether the weather will be scorching or soggy, either way I recommend getting some gazebos. There are cheap ones for less than £20 where you have to slot the poles together or expensive ones at around £60-100 that 'pop-up'. I have owned both and the cheap ones are not fun to put up when it is bucketing down with rain and the instructions have blown away (as I have learnt from bitter experience), but if its going to be the only time of the year you use it its probably not worth buying the expensive ones.
pole version

pop-up version
Two years ago the weather was glorious, but last year we had torrential showers all day. We were very British about it all, standing there eating burgers like nothing was happening. But we had a lovely time anyway. The kids particularly liked the puddles.


I don't recommend this design for kids
We run our street party on the small profits from the alcohol sales and an occasional raffle. Other streets around us ask every house to donate £5 or sell tickets. The streets that charge are able to hire in things like bouncy castles or stages for live bands. They might even be able to pay the performers. We manage everything on volunteers. We've got some musically talented neighbours who perform for evening's entertainment, another neighbour performs a magic show, and another a puppet show for the kids. My job is to do the face painting and others will man the bar and the barbecue or run a quiz. Ask around to find out what your neighbours can do and if all else fails rope in your ex-circus performer mate and her husband to do their juggling act (what, you mean not everyone has that friend? Just me?)

Donut bobbing

Obviously we have to entertain all ages. Things that are very popular with the kids and we have done each year are a snail race and donut bobbing. To race snails you need a old table top or piece of board with concentric circles drawn on it. Everyone brings a snail and puts it on the outside ring. The first snail to the middle is the winner (remember to mark your snails with numbers). We found little plastic trophies for 50p that we give to the winner.

If you've got a gazebo then you can put it to good use with donut bobbing. You'll need a lot of ring donuts and some string. Simply tie the donuts around the gazebo (at different heights, so everyone can have a go) and then eat them - without using your hands!

Each year we ask the neighbours to partake in a craft competition; something that can be done with the kids before hand. We've had some very inventive scarecrows in previous years, last year we all made family coat-of-arms.

Please excuse my scarecrows, I did make them with the kids
One neighbour organises a popular kids treasure hunt, each year she take close up photos of features in the street (such as an unusual door knocker), each child gets a page of these pictures and has to write down which house they are found on. It works well even for the really little ones.

Every year we have a tug-o-war; odds vs evens. Someone has a tug-o-war rope in their loft!

Try to keep a section of the street clear from activities to allow the kids to ride their bikes and scooters in the open space, but do supervise any junctions with roads that aren't closed. In previous years we've provided a table of scraps of ribbon and fabric so the kids can decorate their scooters.

Decorating the Street

As well as gazebos you'll need some bunting; it really makes the street festive. Again there are places you can hire this from or you could find out if anyone is crafty and wants to make some. One of my neighbours comes out each year with milk bottles with cut flowers in. It adds a lovely touch to the trestle tables we hire from a local school. Don't forget seating, if everyone brings out a couple of deckchairs you'll have plenty.

Food and Alcohol

We ask neighbours to bring out cake and tea mid-morning for everyone to share - a good chance to show off your baking skills. Everyone goes home for lunch and then rejoins the festivities afterwards. As a mid afternoon snack a neighbour's Dad brings his candyfloss machine (again this is just something we are lucky to have access to, but ask around you never know what things people have). 

In the evening we have a barbecue and a bar. Many breweries can provide a 'pop-up' bar so you can have a proper pint. Don't forget the non-beer drinkers and non-drinkers though. We charge a small amount for the burgers and beers in order to cover the costs of this and other things we have had to buy. You should be able to fine somewhere that will do free glass hire and don't forget to buy paper plates/napkins/ketchup etc.

For the kids we have run a non-alcoholic cocktail bar. The older kids love running this, serving the younger ones. You just need a few different types of juice and some lemonade they can mix together - along with some cocktail umbrellas.

Cleaning up

The following morning we have croissants and coffee on offer in order to entice everyone back outside to clear the street up and put it back the way we found it. After all, we want to have another party next year.


  1. Noticed some gazebos on Gumtree Bristol the other day......

  2. Great ideas. Am actually travelling to another neighbourhood this year (isn't that terrible!) but inspired to get involved in my own street's party the next time there's an occasion.

    1. Do get involved, ours is always a really fun day

  3. Wow I want to live in your street - sounds fantastic and like you're an old hand at it. Very useful tips. No street party for us this year although I am tempted to do it one year - just need to start talking to our neighbours!! Have a great time. M

    1. I lived in the street for a couple of years and didn't know my neighbours until we had a street party. Now I'm in the babysitting group and regularly meet up with other mums on the street

  4. There was never a street party by me when I lived in Bristol. Have a great time.

    1. Its been building for the last 10 years. The only streets in my area that don't have them are the ones that are too busy to close

  5. How amazing to hold a street party, and to do so every year is fantastic. Our street isn't chatty enough to be able to do this. Love your butterfly face painting.

    1. Our street wasn't chatty until someone came up with the idea of having a party. Now we've got a babysitting group and I know where the older residents are to keep an eye on

  6. Ooh love the butterfly face paint! Cool!

    1. Thanks, I think I need to do a blog post!


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