Woolwich’s big screen coronation is a washout as locals stay away

Coronation big screen in Woolwich
Just a handful of royal fans stuck it out in the rain in Woolwich town centre

Greenwich Council’s free screening of the King’s coronation was washed out in yesterday’s rain as ticketholders failed to show up in Woolwich town centre.

Just a handful of people braved the weather to sit in deckchairs in General Gordon Square to watch the BBC’s coverage of the ceremony live from Westminster Abbey.

Rather than open the square to all, the council fenced it off and offered free tickets to watch the ceremony. But with drizzle descending over SE18 as the pageantry got under way, most did not show up – with a few passers-by left to stand outside the fence to look across rows of empty seats.

With the pictures coming from a web feed rather than broadcast television, the brave few that stuck it out even had to put up with council staff’s inability to switch the image to full-screen, meaning they could see a web browser around the pictures of the ceremony.

One royal fan told 853: “You couldn’t even hear the sound properly at first until they turned it up.”

General Gordon Square big screen with inset showing picture on web browser
Stewards put a brave face on the washed-out event, but council staff failed to put the BBC coverage on full screen (inset)

The screen has been a fixture of General Gordon Square since 2009, when it was first installed as part of a BBC initiative in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, with Walthamstow the only other London town centre to get one.

Critics have branded it an eyesore, but the screen, which usually plays promos for the council, was refurbished in 2020 at a cost of £123,000, with the town hall saying that it was “a key focal point for Woolwich”.

The council has not publicised any details of street parties in the borough, but coronation-themed events are taking place at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich across the weekend.

Free events include a parade of 450 sea cadets from across the UK on Monday, which is being held as a tribute to the King. The event, in the grounds of the college at 1pm, will also feature the Army Cadet Force, the RAF Air Cadets, the Volunteer Police Cadets, St John Ambulance, the Fire Cadets and scouts.

A shortwave radio station has also been set up in the grounds of the college, giving visitors the opportunity to send coronation messages to thousands of amateur radio enthusiasts across the world. The station has been in operation since Thursday and aims to make 14,000 contacts by the end of the long weekend.

More details of other events at the Old Royal Naval College this weekend are at ornc.org.

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