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New Year’s Day Parade – London 2013 27th Parade
I cannot believe that prior to going to this parade I have never heard of it. It has very little publicity and is actually pretty low key despite the fact that people come from all over the world to take part in it. Even more stunning is the fact that the London New Year’s Day Parade (LNYDP) has around 10,000 performers, hundreds of thousands of spectators on the streets and a live television audience of tens of millions. I have obviously been far too busy on other New Year’s Days to watch it! The first Parade took place on 1st January 1987 and now over 25 years later, the LNYDP is the biggest of its kind in the world. It is said to have a street audience of around 1/2 a million people. It was crowded but I have been to busier street events so that figure does surprise me.
What is great is that it offers free entertainment for all the family on what many consider to be a rather dreary National holiday. Hundreds of dancers and musicians from home and abroad put on a real American style extravaganza through the streets of a grey looking London. I think a lot of the performers who hailed from warmer climes but were wearing their usual parade outfits must have been feeling very chilly as we were cold and were wearing full winter gear.
We looked up the route of the parade and thought we would follow it as it went along. We took the tube to Green Park station and then walked to the corner of Piccadilly and St James’s street. The parade seemed to be getting organised and there were people everywhere in costume, some floats
and a number of marching bands . We decided to pop in and have a coffee and several other people who were obviously part fo the parade were also doing the same.
Out side the cafe was a small float with a number of Pearly Queens and Kings all dressed up in full costume and singing old fashioned Cockney songs which we listened to for a while. A number of vehicles from film and TV were part of the parade and we noticed Del Boy’s Robin reliant as well as a number of US Police series cars and the car from Nightrider.
A bus with actors from stage performances was interesting the first time we saw it but having followed the parade and been near it several times the two bits of songs that they sang began to get on my nerves. You would have thought they could have a larger repertoire than two bits of songs!
We walked on past these and getting anywhere was quite tricky as you have to cross on side streets and make your way through the crowds. Some places were easier to get a good view that others so we stayed there a while until the bus with two songs caught up with us again. We stayed for a while on a side street near the start of the parade watching two or three marching bands from South America do their bit. They all looked very cold in their rather miniscule outfits and I suspect they were wanting to be on the move to warm up a bit.
The Parade starts at 11.45am on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street outside the Ritz Hotel and finishes around 3pm at Parliament Street.
THE ROUTE The parade route was two miles long and went down Piccadilly through Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Street. Finishing by the Houses of Parliament.
It was a good long way and along the route were several stands with seats that people pay for and book months in advance . Sometimes to the side of these stands you got quite a good view. The areas with stands also had a commentary. I am not sure if the commentary was the TV one or whether each stand had its own personal commentator as we moved on all the time and anyway I didn’t really want a commentary although they did tell you a bit about the marching bands and where they were from if you were interested.
If you were not booked into one of these stands then obviously you took your chance along the street trying to find a window ledge or bollard to stand on to see.
It is nice to know that there was an area in Whitehall at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue set aside for disabled access. It is an uncovered area of road space that is closed off to the general public. It also contains a toilet. It is available on a first come first served basis on parade day to all people with disabilities, and an accompanying guest.
It is also worth noting that should you want to park your car and need vehicle access to this area then you can apply for a special parking permits which you need to apply for in writing and give details of the blue badge .
Aside from the larger floats and marching bands the various London Boroughs are all competeing for a share in a Charity prize fund
The different London Boroughs are all competing for a share of the big charity prize pot which in recent years has reached £40,000. The money is raised from street collections along the route and apparently over the years around a million pounds has been given to various charities in London and beyond.
Each year the parade has a theme for the London borough competition and this year it was ‘Hat’s Off To London’ and seventeen boroughs took part. I can’t say we saw all of them or maybe some were less exciting than others but I did like the Hammersmith & Fulham entry which apparently came fourth and they got a prize of £4,000. They had stilt walkers who were inside giant tall hats made of fabric and were pretty impressive. It can’t be easy walking two miles on stilts. The winning entry got £7,500 so I am sure it was worth making the effort.
I loved the fact that there were people from all over the world but I also was proud to see what a variety of weird and wonderful cultural quirks we have and enjoyed the pearly kings and Queens , the Morris Dancing and a parade of miniature steam engines as well as a couple of ponies and traps and of course many different people dressed up and riding horses also in costume sometimes.
It was a parade with a huge variety and luckily New Years’ Day was cold but beautifully sunny so everything looked bright and fresh in the sunlight.
If we are down in London for New Year again after enjoying the fireworks on Vauxhall bridge we will certainly make the effort to see the parade in future years having discovered this gem of free entertainment.