Bermondsey’s Kirby Estate has once again got football fever, with the blocks bedecked with England flags and bunting ahead of Euro 2020.
England are due to play their first game against Croatia on Sunday (June 13) and the residents of the estate off Jamaica Road have pulled out all the stops again to show their support. It is the biggest display yet with nearly 400 flags and took four days to complete. The residents first covered the estate in St George’s Cross flags for Euro 2012, and the move hit the national news at World Cup 2018.
This tournament was delayed a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and estate residents say it makes their patriotic tradition even more important.
“It’s obviously been a tough year for everyone and people have sometimes kept to themselves but it’s amazing, as soon as you get the flags up it makes such a big difference,” said Chris Dowse, who helps organise the flags. “Suddenly people are out and talking to each other, you see the barbecues getting going – it’s great.”
Although England flags dominate the view, Chris pointed out that on the estate there are several fans of other countries competing in the Euros – including French, Portuguese, Spanish and German supporters. A Scottish flag is also visible, belonging to a man with an English father and Scottish mother who both passed away recently.
“We’ve always said if you’re from another country, it’s not a problem, we’ll get [their flag] for you and we’ll put it up,” Chris added. “This year it’s a little bit different, if you want to get your flag we’ll put it up but not buy it because it costs too much money!”
In a further mark of community spirit, Chris’ partner printed memorials to two people on the estate who died last year, and put them on flags outside their former flats.
At World Cup 2018, where England famously reached the semi-final at a major tournament for the first time since 1996, estate residents screened matches communally. Colombian people living nearby joined for the second round game between the two countries.
This year the matches are not going to be screened communally in the estate to keep to social distancing rules. And with ‘Freedom Day’ – the end of social distancing – possibly set to be pushed back two weeks, England might have been knocked out of the tournament by the time Covid-19 rules are finally scrapped – or could be pushing for glory.
“It’s just my biased football fan view but I think that’s Boris’s way of keeping the England fans separated,” Chris added. “I know it’s ridiculous and it’s probably not true but it makes sense in a way.”
As well as the Croatia game on Sunday, England’s other group stage matches are against Scotland the following Friday (June 18) and the Czech Republic the Tuesday after that (June 22).