London New Year’s Day Parade

American High School Marching Band

Sometimes, it is the unexpected discoveries that turn out to be the best. I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to attend this parade. A hint to the size of it came when the bus route terminated early and we were all asked to walk. Some of the streets in the centre of London were blocked off and fenced in readiness for the parade. The parade started at noon and finished 2.5 hours later. There were hundreds of participants. Aside from the awesomeness of the parade, is the massive logistical exercise of organising this magnificent event! The organisers did a great job!

The parade was dominated by Americans, marching bands, flag/baton twirlers, cheerleaders etc. The grandstand was populated mostly by very proud American families that have made the trip to loudly cheer on their teens marching. So many American schools, from all corners of the country were represented. Each of these school groups would easily average a hundred teenage, high school students. Unlike the polished stereotype of teenagers in American movies, these were real kids, young looking, bare faced, pimply and often concentrating on their dance steps or counting under their breath so they could play their instruments at the right moment.

American Marching Band

Despite their youth, all the American cohorts were a slick bunch. Amazing uniforms, instruments, perfect, well-rehearsed music pieces and choreography! They must have worked very diligently to prepare for this moment. I can only imagine that for many of these kids, this trip to London is a trip of lifetime. It cannot be cheap. One can only imagine the fundraising that would have happened behind the scenes to support this. What an experience for these young people to march down the centre of London with all it’s historic buildings and to play for thousands of people and then to spend a few days visiting London! Memories of a lifetime for these kids!

American High School Marching Band
American Cheerleaders
American High School Marching Band
American High School Marching Band

In addition to the large number of American bands, was a brass band that have come all the way from Congo and a bagpipe group called, Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band. This bagpipe group was in full Scottish kilts and regalia but was incongruously populated entirely of people of South Asian heritage. They were amazing!!

Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band

There was a float competition held between the various boroughs. The boroughs that attended made great effort with various themes being reflected such as love for the environment, science, Kodak and multicultural diversity. The responsibility of judging the best borough float came down to one lone American man who probably did not expect the responsibility he would be given when he put his hand up to judge the display.

Part of one of the Borough displays

Other highlights include the highly energetic bhangra dancers, ladies dancing samba in impossibly high heels and stunningly, beautiful costumes, the South American groups in colourful traditional costumes and dance, the horses and ponies marching, the motorcycle stunt group and the vehicle displays e.g. Mini Mokes, Aston Martins etc. Of particular note is the diversity of heritage, ages and shapes of the participants. This was a wonderfully inclusive parade with the common thread of joy running through all participants.

Chinese Lion Dance
South American Costume – a slightly terrifying costume. It would be interesting to understand the history and context behind such a costume.
Samba Drummers – all in synch, filling the air with an infectious rhythm.
South American Dancers – amazing costumes with noise makers attached to each boot to highlight each dance step they made!
Henry VIII and all his wives!
Samba Drummers
London Pearly Kings and Queens Society – a charity group
Peruvians in full traditional dress
Giant Skeleton Dancing – a rhythmic sight from one of the Boroughs!
Samba Dancer – dancing samba along the entire parade in very high heels and not much clothing in 8C weather! These ladies were stunning!
All the Queens Horses – beautiful horses and ponies!

The parade is an absolute must-do and it’s totally free! The whole parade had a wonderful community vibe. It’s such a heartwarming, happy spectacle and I will be definitely be attending again next year (and dragging everyone I know along with me)!

Love to hear what you think! Thanks!!