We recently had the sad news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away on Thursday 8th September 2022.

With the announcement that the day of the funeral would be a Bank Holiday, we decided to keep our doors open and allow the local community to celebrate her life and watch the funeral in the company of others. We provided refreshments on the day and those that attended appreciated being with others. We would like to thank Black Country Touring who let us use their equipment for the day and Chris for baking some delicious cakes.

We were contacted by the Guardian newspaper prior to the day and a reporter and photographer attended the centre. The write up said:-

"As most community hubs closed for bank holiday, Dorothy Parkes centre says staying open was a ‘no brainer’

Watching the Queen’s funeral brought back difficult memories for Craig Wilkins, 53, whose parents died from Covid three weeks apart last year aged in their 70s. That was why he decided to join about 30 people at Dorothy Parkes community centre in Smethwick, West Midlands, to watch the funeral on Monday, rather than watching it at home. “It’s really helped me today. Mum and Dad were Queen mad basically, so it has brought back a lot of memories I had with them,” he said. “I did get a bit emotional at certain points. Being with other people brought me a lot of comfort. I didn’t want to be watching it alone at home.”

Most community centres closed their doors for the bank holiday, but Robert Bruce, the CEO of the Dorothy Parkes centre, said keeping it open was a “no-brainer”. “After Covid, we saw the impact bereavement had on people, especially not being able to grieve in the usual way because of all the restrictions,” he said. “I think watching something like this, for some people it will bring it all back home. “We knew there would be people out there watching it on their own and probably finding it quite upsetting, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to come together.” Staff and volunteers set up a projector in the main hall and laid out a spread of tea and cakes, alongside some boxes of tissues in anticipation of tears being shed.

“I don’t think the Queen’s death has sunk in until today, I feel really sad today,” said Christine Tanner, 75, a volunteer. “I found [the funeral] very emotional, I choked up at a couple of points.” She said it did not feel like five minutes since she had been making cakes for the Queen’s platinum jubilee party at the centre, and she had never expected everyone would be gathering again so soon in such different circumstances. “I was born in 1947, so I’m a year older than Charles, and I was five when the King died,” she said. “I remember his funeral, we didn’t have a television but I remember the newspapers. So the Queen has been there basically my whole life.”

Judy Patel, 73, said she could remember the Queen visiting her home country, Kenya, when she was a little girl. “I remember her coming there with the Queen Mother, we saw this Rolls-Royce driving down a country road towards Nairobi, with so much security,” she said. “But I’m conflicted; I’m not sure if I’m a fan of royalty because they are so wealthy and other people around the country are so poor. But I have nothing against the Queen, she really worked hard and this is a historical moment.” She wanted to watch the service with others at the community centre, which fell to a hushed silence when the Queen’s coffin was carried out of Westminster Hall.

Many people joined in during the prayer and hymns, the room rose for the national anthem, and chat only resumed once the service was complete. “I just wanted to be here with people to mark the occasion,” said Patel. “I heard people on the radio saying they were camped out in London to get a good spot. It’s almost unbelievable how much trouble people have gone to. I know I’ve just come down the road, but it’s nice to see people come together.”

Words: Jessica Murray, Photographs: Christopher Thomond / The Guardian