They are the knitting and crocheting enthusiasts who secretly craft themed decorations for British royal weddings and jubilees, then put them out in public places under the cover of darkness.
Now the country’s small army of unassuming “yarnbombers” has swung into action for King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday — and no postbox is safe from their tea cosy like creations.
Decorations have been popping up on the country’s distinctive red postboxes in recent days, featuring everything from knitted horse-drawn coaches and crowns to Charles and Camilla dolls, Union Jack flags and bunting.
In the towns of Hertford and Ware, just north of London, a group of knitters and crochet enthusiasts calling themselves the Secret Society of Hertford Crafters have just finished decorating 37 postboxes for Saturday’s coronation.
Member Marge Ellis, who has been knitting since she was a child, said townspeople had been delighted with the arrival of the quirky decorations.
“One woman pulled up as I was putting one out. She said she hadn’t had much interest in the coronation until now, but seeing the topper had suddenly made her really excited about it,” she told AFP.
The now 160-strong group of crafters got started in 2017 at the beginning of the postbox topper trend in the UK and hasn’t looked back.
They produce decorations regularly to mark anniversaries and national events as well as at Christmas and Easter.
Ellis, who declined to give her age stressing that the group spanned the generations with members aged 19 to 99, said true “yarnbombing” involved putting the decorations out in secret so they were a surprise.
– ‘Kind of magic’ –
Members had been “creeping around” at three and four in the morning to put out toppers for previous occasions like Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee last year.
“This time we actually put them out in the evenings which was nice because people could actually see us doing it.
“It brings a kind of magic to people’s lives and people love it, especially children,” she said.
Yarnbombing is thought to have started in the United States nearly 20 years ago but has since spread worldwide, with enthusiasts using their creations to decorate everything from statues to bridges.
One yarnbomber in the central English town of Syston styles herself the “Syston Knitting Banksy”, after the British graffiti artist whose anonymous murals began appearing on buildings in the early 1990s.
The Syston knitter’s coronation offering is a woolly version of the king wearing the St Edward’s Crown and sitting in the coronation chair.
Although she chooses to remain anonymous, she told a local newspaper last year she had lived in the town for around three decades and was a lifelong knitter.
The crafted decorations for King Charles’s coronation have generally been a source of local pride, although in one village in southern West Sussex, a topper was stolen.
Cheryl Hayward, the creator of the large bejewelled crown, complete with orb and sceptre, wrote on Facebook she hoped “whoever has done this has taken it home to enjoy, rather than mindlessly destroyed it”.
“However I would much rather you had messaged me and asked for me to make one for you — which I would have been happy to do,” she said.
Operator Royal Mail has itself redecorated four postboxes in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, to mark the coronation.
But the repainted postbox in Cardiff has not gone down well with locals, mostly because it is next to the Owain Glyndwr pub, named after the icon to Welsh nationalists.