It is terribly British, and especially London, for one to roll one’s eyes at the thought of any public event which will attract tourists and the focus of the world’s press. My mind is immediately cast back to the millennium celebrations and those like it. Some young moderately successful PR type decides that any event can be improved by an 80s band and modern art. In fact the reaction was the same at the thought of London hosting the Olympics, until it actually happened and it was amazing.
However – we all know the fears: loads of tourists who are lost and drive us all nuts. Food vendors popping up selling some food which is supposedly hip but can’t really be how much for such a small portion?! Oh I see it’s made from unicorn horn – well of course!
Yet this doesn’t seem to happen during Wimbledon fortnight. Everyone local seems genuinely excited about it. So this week I have tried to put my finger on why that is:
1 ) Wimbledon Itself
I guess it is like if you have guests coming over – you want the place to look nice. Well, I find that most people who live in and around SW19 are genuinely fans of the place. You have the glorious common, splendid at any time of the year, but even better in the summer. The place looks great during the fortnight and the streets, all lined with flags always makes a chap smile. In addition, big thumbs up to the local council for the big screen viewing outside the cinema in town – it gives the place a really great community feel for such a major event.
2 ) The Royals
That a weird thing to mention – I hear you say. Ok bear with me. Love them or not, you get a royal occasion – then it is always done well and you can beat the class. Every year the Duke and Duchess of Kent are in attendance and are firm local favourites. This then filters down to how people dress, always looking smart, (see last week’s article) and generally carrying themselves with a greater sense of aplomb.
3 ) The Food
People think of Wimbledon and they think of horrendously over-priced strawberries and cream and Hooray Henrys stumbling over whether to drink pimms or splash out on a bottle of bubble for that filly over thar! Yet Wimbledon’s great range of pubs show a fantastic mix of classic style and modern desire. You can get any kind of drink to suit any mood and most come with great menus now. In addition the village has an ever changing array of high end restaurants featuring the Ivy as well as the newly opened Thai restaurant Patara. There are Strawberries of course – but, well, there is quite a lot more.
4 ) The Locals
As I mentioned – people tend not to like their own town being swamped by foreign hordes and grockles. However, in Wimbledon – it seems the opposite is true. People don’t rush away from the hullaballo but positively thrive on it. Yes we all know the drinks prices in the villages will rise by 50p/pint and only return down by 30p – but locals seem to celebrate the fact. Maybe it is the lure of sunny days, celebs and pretty people? Whatever it is – you can be sure that all the pubs will be packed with supporting throngs of happy revelers. Keeps your eyes peeled from the lads of Wimbledon RFC who are well known to adopt at least one day of the fortnight for retro-tennis drinking sessions in full white attire. People in Wimbledon love their Championship.
5 ) The Atmosphere
Every major event has its own vibe, and its own atmosphere. Yet, for me, it is the combination of all of the above points that creates a totally unique environment for Wimbledon. Maybe it is because, no matter where you are in Wimbledon, you cannot escape the tennis. In New York – I am sure you can escape from their tennis open. Yet this is not the London Open – THIS is Wimbledon. The Championships. A major world event, packed into a tiny suburb of SW London: a melting pot of revelry and style.
OK, there you have it. My thoughts on what is so Wimbledon about Wimbledon Fortnight. Yes I know this is a bit of a love-letter to my home town. I admit that – but I do believe it is a very unique place at this time of year. If you think there are factors about Wimbledon I have missed, let me know on Twitter @WimbledonGent.
Cheerio for now!