Arise, the Royal Borough of Greenwich

I forced my reluctant, bone-chilled body out into a frozen London night to head over to Woolwich. What induced me to leave my warm flat to head all the way over the river to zone 4? Fireworks. Pure and simple – I love fireworks.

 Maybe it is because I didn’t get to go to many bonfire nights as a kid or maybe I just love the magic of the night sky erupting in a blaze of light and a cacophony of bangs. Whatever the reason, it was the lure of pyrotechnics that drew me to wintery Woolwich.

A second reason, almost as potent as the lure of fireworks, also explains why the display was being held. It was to celebrate the London Borough of Greenwich being granted royal status and becoming the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It kicked off a weekend of events that will culminate in another grand display in Greenwich’s royal park on Sunday.

Three sets of civic honours are being dished out to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The grant of royal status for Greenwich allows it to join an elite group of royal boroughs. There are officially only three others – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Three of the four are in Greater London and all four are in the south east of England. The rest of the country may see royal favour in the other two civic honours competitions. One town will become a city and one city’s mayoralty will be elevated to a Lord Mayoralty.

Amongst the places bidding for city status are Reading, Luton, Milton Keynes, Stockport, Middlesbrough, Bolton, Gateshead, Dudley and Perth. Two London boroughs are aiming to become Greater London’s third city – Tower Hamlets and Croydon.

The Lord Mayoralty is being sought by 12 cities, including Cambridge, Derby, Lancaster, Salford and Southampton. If Salford is successful, the mayor of Salford will be the equal of his Mancunian neighbour across the Irwell.