It’s been a couple weeks already since The Pinup Picnic in the Park and finally I’ve found some time to do a little write up of our day.
It was weird to finally be going to an event we had been organising and talking about since February–right at the beginning of the year my friend Giselle, who wasn’t yet my friend, commented on one of @thebritishbelles pictures on Instagram asking if we were open to organising a British event as an alternative to Viva Las Vegas for all we British girls who wouldn’t be going and would be jealously stalking the hashtag on IG. Way back in December when I had first met up with most of the Belles I had mentioned how it would be nice to do a public event in future where other pinups could hang out, as we Belles were already having regular friend days together vintage shopping and eating diner food. With Giselle’s request we decided we definitely wanted to make something happen, but with VLV happening in April we couldn’t think up a free idea that wouldn’t take place outdoors and, thus, possibly be in with a chance of being ruined by the great English weather that early in the year.
It was for this reason we chose to host an event in June, deciding upon a quintessentially British picnic. Holding it in London’s Hyde park meant it would be free and easy for a lot of people to get to. As of the day before we had absolutely no idea how many people would be turning up, as 600+ had RSVPd yes on Facebook but we considered that unlikely.
The day came and Amber and I emerged from the Marble Arch tube station to find a gaggle of pinups on the side of the road, confusedly wondering whether they were supposed to wait there or meet elsewhere. “Nope! We’re meeting at the actual Arch over the road. Y’all are with me. Come on!” I shouted confidently at these poor glamorous strangers who probably did not have a clue who I was, and over we swarmed to the gathering of 30+ people already waiting at the arch with BB Sophie.
I had planned to be at the arch before 11, the designated meet up time, along with Sophie, but some delays in Victoria meant I got there at 11.15. As we waited for more people to turn up, tourists not only took regular pictures of us, but actually posed in front of us while their spouses took pictures, so convinced we must be something other than normal people in awesome clothes that we would expect nothing less than photographic curiosity from strangers–which, frankly, we did. Almost anytime I’ve been out with my pinup friends we’ve been stopped for pictures or spotted someone thinking they’re being super stealth as they angle their phone up to take an obvious picture as they walk towards us on the pavement. It makes me laugh every time, and I had great fun giving a huge smile and a thumbs up in amongst the pinup rabble anytime I spotted someone snapping our pictures.
Thanks to train delays and bus diversions, we ended up waiting until at the arch until 12, when we had finally gathered all the attending Belles and felt like most early attenders were probably with us by now and it was safe to move. As soon as we chose our spot in the park everyone got out their picnic blankets and starting chomping away on the goodies in their baskets. I should have expected nothing less, but it made me happy to see so many actual picnic baskets gathered in one place with so many people gleefully using them.
It was a flurry of sandwiches and cake and selfies and everyone intermittently delighting at what good weather we were having and complaining that actually it was getting a bit too hot and could the sun go away again because we were going to start to sweat soon and it was annoying having to take off our sunglasses then replace them so often as the sun disappeared behind clouds then reemerged again.
The attendees were diverse; there were two pregnant lovelies and a new mum with a gorgeous 4 month old who came with her own mini nap tent, bunting-decorations included. Well, I guess she didn’t come with the tent so much as with her parents, who provided the tent, but still, I was tickled.
A police car rolled up to ask what our little gathering was and Sophie charmed and bribed them with sausage rolls and cake, chatting away to them for a good five minutes about our style and why we all dressed this way. Soph chatting up the popo was probably one of my favourite parts of the day, but it’s closely rivalled by her boyfriend Louis fetching the three of us milkshakes from Mcdonalds as we waited at the Arch because someone had sparked a desperate and immediately fierce craving within me for one. Plus there was the dog in a hat. That was also pretty dope.
It was a fun day. When I met heavily-pregnant Aíne, who looked gorgeous by the way, we both got incredibly excited to discover I could pronounce her name correctly–Anya, essentially, for those wondering. Sophie went on a wild selfie stick rampage all day which cracked me up. There was a man with an excellently curly moustache, whom I wish I had gone to talk to, or at least got a selfie with. There was an Australian couple who were, by the way, on fucking point with their outfits and their entire picnic setup, who had decided to come as they were in the country on vacation. Claudia, who I had met at London Edge in January, had come over with her boyfriend all the way from Belgium so she could celebrate her birthday weekend with us all for a weekend in London.
From Instagram I met Laura, who is now my little ginger cat-loving friend, and Kayla, who is not only an adorable babe of babeness but who made me both laugh and blush by declaring “I just have to say, I love how loud you are!” Context: when I get excited I get loud and when it’s already loud somewhere that loudness becomes downright shouty. In fact, I met a ton of gorgeous cuties from Instagram, and they were all lovely.
A friend of mine who lives in Virginia, America, whom I’ve known online for 12 years and whom I will be meeting for the first time in October when I fly over to attend her wedding, sent me text messages freaking out that she had seen on Instagram that one of her favoruite fashion bloggers, Norafinds, was at our picnic. YOUR PICNIC AMY. SHE’S THERE. OMG. AAHHHH, she essentially text shouted at me. It was surreal to have someone across an ocean following and commenting on things that were happening at this little event we had arranged. We think there were probably between 150-200 people that actually came of the 600 that claimed they would, but it was sad to know there were so many people, including some of my dearest friends across the world, who wanted to come but couldn’t.
There were girls who were brand new to vintage style, coming along to find friends or to just talk to other ladies who share their new love for red lipstick and wiggle dresses and the joy you feel in the morning when you brush out the wetset you were tired and reluctant to pin in the night before, only to be vindicated that it was totally worth the effort and slightly less sleep. One girl had only been dressing this way for a month and had come because she happened to have met BB Charlotte on the train a few weeks before and Charlotte had told her she ought to come to an event we were holding in London.
There were families there and groups of friends who had come together and girls who had come alone and found they were making new friends throughout the day. There were girls I recognised from Instagram and ladies I had meant to go say hello to at events before but hadn’t wanted to interrupt, but finally got to meet this time round.
Also, shout out to the sassy son of one of the last ladies we spoke to who was appropriately and dramatically shocked to learn I am 29 when he was sure I looked younger–good looking out, kiddo, I appreciate that and your fiesty attitude. You were immediately my favourite. Feel free to call me for a reference.
The day itself was fun and hot and tiring and lovely, and my only regret is that I didn’t make sure to meet even more of the people there. It made me so sad to get messages after I got home from girls on Instagram saying they had wanted to say hello but had been too shy–YOU GUYS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COME UP TO MY FACE AND SAY HELLO INTO IT NEXT TIME, OKAY? OKAY. GOOD. LET’S STOP SHOUTING AND HUG NOW.
The best part of it all has to be the £1000+ with gift aid we raised for Macmillian Cancer Support. I don’t even feel like I can say we raised it–we organised a raffle we thought would be small with a few prizes we had made and donated ourselves, but instead over 30 retro and vintage companies rallied round to donate vouchers and prizes worth hundreds and hundreds of pounds in the name of raising money for this cause. And you guys who donated are the ones who raised that money and enabled all of that good work that will happen from that money you gave up. My dad died of cancer when I was 17, after a 2 year fight, and my grandad, his dad, who lived with my family my entire childhood, died less than 2 months later, 5 months short of turning 100-years-old, from cancer too. We Belles picked Macmillian because so many of us have been touched by cancer, and statistically we knew so many of our followers would have or will be too, so I thank you from the darkest and deepest parts of my heart, where things are both as happy and as sad as could ever be, for your generosity and support. Great things will happen because of you, people suffering the very worse will get some much needed help, and that is a beautiful thing. Thank you very much.
It was a lovely day. It’s no great surprise, then, that the Belles have decided to host another event, The Belles Ball. It’s early days and nothing is booked yet, but it will likely be in Brighton on Saturday November 7th. I’ll be in America on the tail end of that trip mentioned above, meeting old and new friends alike, but I know it will be a fabulous occasion and I hope many of you who couldn’t make the picnic are able to go to this instead. If you want to be kept up to date on this and future British Belles events–we plan to have other smaller, more casual local events in the near future around the country–then follow @thebritishbelles on Instagram or ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/thebritishbelles.
Much love, little muffins.