The British tradition of Queueing is legendary they pride themselves on being exceptionally good at it, and the Wimbledon Queue is no exception. As much a part of Wimbledon as strawberries and cream, camping overnight for a chance to purchase coveted Center Court tickets has become the highlight of many fans year.
I spoke to two women in the queue who have been lining up for tickets for thirty-five years! They originally met in the queue and have made it a tradition to meet every year for a chat, card game, and the fun of camping out.
Sort of a cross between music festival and Scouts Camp, the overnight adventure is as much fun for most as actually getting inside the wrought iron gates of the AELTC.
Up until recent years the sidewalk along Church Road was the scene of the festivities. People gave up the comfort of their beds to sleep on the hard concrete of SW19. A party atmosphere prevailed and part of the fun of it was the outrageous idea of sleeping on a public sidewalk. People brought portable barbecue setups, music, and games. They drank a lot alcohol, had a lot of fun, but never really got out of control.
It was colorful and cool. Enterprising peddlers would roam the queue selling umbrellas, burgers cold drinks and the local takeaway places would even deliver to your spot! I always enjoyed walking back to my rental in Southfields and stopping along the way for a chat or a beer .. yes, they were very friendly and always invited you to join the party.
Then a few years ago the residents of Wimbledon decided they had enough of the campers, and protests moved the Queue across the street to Wimbledon Park. Still nice, still fun, but a totally different atmosphere, much more civilized. Spontaneity has been replaced with organization. Sleeping on the street has been replaced with sleeping in tents on the grass. It’s much more Scout camp than Mad behavior.
Burger and cappuccino Vans give an alternative to those that don’t bring or run out of food. There are even Port-a-Loos. The stewards give the wakeup call at 6AM when tents and camping gear must be packed up.
The lines when I crossed the park on Monday were unbelievable. snaking up and down the park there seemed to be no end. I ask one of the Honorary Stewards how many people were in the Queue and he told me around 8,000. EIGHT THOUSAND! I couldn’t believe it. Plus it was only 9:30 AM and the line would surly increase with people who hadn’t camped overnight in the park. Would everyone get in? Yes, probably but for many not until around 5PM. This means that a good number of the fans would have been waiting in line for more than 24 hours. There is no way any American would do this .. or French for that matter .. the Aussie’s, well maybe, they’re mad enough and they do have that English history.