There’s been a short delay in converting Greenwich from a dowdy old London borough to a shiny new royal borough, councillors heard last night – with the changeover now due to take place on Friday 3 February, a month later than previously expected.
The big day is likely to be marked with an event for councillors and “key stakeholders” at Woolwich Town Hall, where they will be able to vie the letter patent which grants royal status, assistant chief executive Katrina Delaney (who’s also the council’s head of communications) told a cabinet meeting.
As for the rest of us mere mortals, the council is considering showing the letter patent off to the public at events in Greenwich and Eltham over that weekend.
A community concert is planned for Woolwich in the spring, while a suite of music known as the Greenwich Diamond Jubilee Suite has been commissioned. It is being overseen by the Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and is being composed by Trinity Laban for performance by local schoolchildren.
Many of the royal borough plans are tied in with celebrations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, with council leader Chris Roberts confirming at a meeting a fortnight ago that a royal visit is planned for the river pageant on 3 June.
A poplar tree – every London borough is getting one – will also be planted in Eltham, in recognition of the fact that most of the regal festivitives will be in the north of the borough.
Other ideas under consideration include the striking of a commemorative coin and holding a fireworks display (“I’d be delighted to have the fireworks back,” quipped culture cabinet member John Fahy) as well as commissioning an opera singer to perform in Woolwich town centre.
The changeover will also mean a new crest for the borough. Ms Delaney said “consultations with community groups” had uncovered a desire to build on the borough’s current crest – featuring stars representing Greenwich and cannons for Woolwich – but new elements would also feature a Tudor rose and supporters with crowns. The council was “very close to a crest acceptable to the Royal College of Arms,” she added.
“I don’t want to spoil the surprise when you all get to see it,” she told cabinet members.
Greenwich will also get new a logo in February to replace the current “green angular representation of the river“, which has been around in a couple of incarnations since the mid 1980s. Ms Delaney said after “research and consultation” that the new logo would include the river and the Tudor rose, which already appears on the council’s new website.
As for stationary and signage, Ms Delaney said legally important documents – such as parking tickets – would get the new borough name and identity first, with others as they are replaced.
I don’t know about you, but I still can’t get worked up about the idea of living in a royal borough. I suspect I may be in a minority, but I see my identity as being more about London than Britain or England.
I don’t really identify with the “borough”, either, more the places I lived in and grew up in. Talk of “key stakeholders” and “consultations” that took place largely out of sight only reinforce that view. But if I think of the borough of Greenwich, I tend to think of the river, parks, the clatter of overground trains and reddy-brown lamp posts more than the royalty who haven’t lived here for centuries.
Indeed, there’s no material benefit, no special privileges from becoming a royal borough – council leader Chris Roberts said at the last full meeting that “the primary result is one of civic pride… but our work in tourism and economic development will be enhanced by royal borough status”. Anything that brings economic benefits has got to be a good thing, but the rest of it leaves me a bit underwhelmed, and “civic pride” always feels like “the council celebrating itself again”.
I’d like to know what you think, though – if you live in the borough, please vote in my poll, and wherever you live, share your thoughts below.