Pearly Kings And Queens Harvest Festival - Have A Right Old Knees-Up At This Legendary Event

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 9 months ago

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Last Updated 11 August 2023

Pearly Kings And Queens Harvest Festival - Have A Right Old Knees-Up At This Legendary Event

Did you know there's a museum dedicated to all things cockney — including plenty of pearly razzle-dazzle?

A pearly king in an outfit covered in sequins - with a pearly taxi cab in the background
Each pearly jacket is covered in thousands of buttons, and is properly heavy to wear. Image: iStock/Casarsa

Dust off your best button-smothered jacket — the London Pearly Kings and Queens Costermongers Harvest Festival is back.

Pearly kings and queens have been a fixture of London since road sweeper Henry Croft decided to pimp up his threads in the 1870s, and the annual harvest festival — held on the last Sunday of September — is probably the most famous pearly fixture on the calendar.

From 1.30pm on Sunday 24 September 2023, pearly kings and queens from across London and beyond will assemble in Guildhall Yard, in the City of London — where there will almost certainly be hearty renditions of cockney standards like The Lambeth Walk and Knees Up Mother Brown. The pearlies will be joined by various mayors, dignitaries and Chelsea Pensioners — and if previous years are anything to go by, frivolities such as maypole and morris dancing — possibly even folks dressed in Dickensian garb — will unfold.

The backs of two pearly queens - their jackets with buttons: 'pearly queen of Tower Hamlets' and 'Newham Pearly Queen'
Image: Adrian Murphy

At 2.30pm, the pearlies — laden with harvest goods to donate to charity — process to St Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside (home of the famous Bow Bells), where a special harvest festival service takes place from 3pm. (Members of the public can attend the service, although it gets packed.) There's obviously another chance to catch the pearlies when they file out of the church later on. Pearly kings and queens are renowned for their charitable work, so while the whole event is free, have some cash handy to place into a pearly cap or two.

Says Clive Bennett, Pearly King of Woolwich, "This event is a testament to the enduring spirit of our city and the diverse communities that make London so vibrant. We invite everyone to join us for a day of entertainment, cultural heritage, and unity."

Here's a lovely write up of 2019's event by the Gentle Author.

London Pearly Kings and Queens Costermongers Harvest Festival, starts 1.30pm in Guildhall Yard on Sunday 24 September 2023. It's free to attend.