Baking marathons, extra bank holidays, cracking open the Pimm’s – the Platinum Jubilee has lots of perks. But for Russell Kane, it’s a handy opportunity to break the ice with his new Cheshire neighbours.
“I haven’t really met any of them yet,” says the comedian, who recently moved onto a new close in the county with wife Lindsey and their daughter, Mina. “But we have joined the Neighbourhood Watch group. And our close is planning a Jubilee party, daytime sandwiches and drinks, old-school long table in the middle of the road, the works.”
Kane, who grew up in Essex but made the move to Cheshire a few years back, has teamed up with online community network Nextdoor to help break through the stereotypical ‘British reservedness’ and invite neighbours to get together for the Jubilee. The writer and stand-up has created a video, to nudge us in the right direction.
“We made several small sketches and then knitted them together to make one long sketch,” explains Kane, 46 – agreeing that clichéd British awkwardness makes great comedy material. “The reality is, British people very rarely make new friends when they’re sober. You make friends if you’re down the pub, drunk, it’s the British curse,” adds the comic, known for his wry observations and send-ups.
The tongue-in-cheek video was right up his street – and some of it’s inspired by real experiences. For example, the sketch of Kane forgetting the name of a friend’s child really did happen.
“Some friends came over, and I just could not for the life of me remember the names of their children. People take it really personally – if you’ve known someone a long time and you don’t know their child’s name, it’s like an insult, isn’t it? Lindsey had no clue either,” recalls Kane, who also heads on tour this month.
He came up with the “clever idea” to pop upstairs and stalk their Facebook page, to try and dig out the kids’ names. “But my laptop was in the same room that we were putting people’s jackets in, and unfortunately, this woman had left something in her coat pocket – and walked into the room while I’m on a laptop looking at pictures of her kids. That’s just about the most awkward thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Jokes aside, the campaign is a cause he can get behind too. He said: “To try and get people knocking on each other’s door… it’s a heart-warming thing to be involved in. The Queen’s Jubilee is the perfect excuse to get people mingling.”
So, why does Kane think we’re such a reserved nation?
“It’s not just reservedness, there is a bit of unfriendliness – or if you wanted to be kind, sort of asocial, rather than anti-social. We’ve all had that experience with an Amazon parcel that’s gone next door, you really need it, and the neighbour is coming over to help and knocks on the door and give it to you. But you can’t be bothered to have a conversation – so you do without the thing you desperately need, rather than have five minutes of conversation.
“I mean, we could be the only culture on earth that’s that unfriendly to each other,” adds Kane, now on a roll. “But it’s because we’re reserved, it’s not like we’re bad people. We just like to keep ourselves to ourselves, behind our net curtains. And that’s why we’re such drinkers on these islands. Because once we drink, we become the exact opposite.”
That’s also, he suggests, why we love it when there’s something that ‘brings’ us together – “whether it’s the football, the Jubilee or whatever, then we will get behind it. Even Covid, to a certain extent, brought us all out – even though we were all in [due to lockdown!] – sort of unified us. It was amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like that in this country before.”
He quips that moving more north has made chatting with neighbours and strangers easier. “[Cheshire] is up north, which has different rules straightaway. You can say hello at the bus stop, and they don’t think you’re going to kill them.”
Russell Kane has partnered with Nextdoor, the online community network, to help encourage the UK to get together with their neighbours and celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. To find events near you, visit Nextdoorjubileemap.co.uk. For Kane’s tour dates and tickets, see russellkane.co.uk