Stay at home street parties and decorating the house - VE Day celebrations take a different route in the lockdown

By Jamie Hill - 5 May 2020

CommunityHeritage
  • Option 7 by David Bent. Option 7 has been exhibited at: The Royal Air Force Museum in a year long solo retrospective of David’s work (fresh Air 12/13 ), The exhibition inspired over 800 children to create their own art. The Royal Air Force Club, The Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, The National Memorial Arboretum. A number of iconic aircraft are included - you might like to see how many can be seen.

    Option 7 by David Bent. Option 7 has been exhibited at: The Royal Air Force Museum in a year long solo retrospective of David’s work (fresh Air 12/13 ), The exhibition inspired over 800 children to create their own art. The Royal Air Force Club, The Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, The National Memorial Arboretum. A number of iconic aircraft are included - you might like to see how many can be seen.

This Friday was meant to be a country-wide celebration for VE Day's 75th anniversary but plans have had to change because of the lockdown. The May Day Bank Holiday had even been moved to this Friday to make sure that the country celebrated properly.

Now plans are in place for the country to honour the momentous day by having stay at home street parties by decorating their homes red white and blue and where possible having a picnic in the garden.

Andy Ormston, Events Organiser for RAF Association in Swindon, said: "Late last year a few of us set up a monthly Veterans coffee morning at the RAF Association for all Armed Forces Veterans and it grew over a few months amazingly. Then COVID hit and we had to stop overnight.

"We had planned an afternoon tea for VE Day for our Veterans but sadly this cannot happen due to this pandemic. True to our military spirit, we decided to look at other ways and the Royal British Legion came up with the great idea of a stay at home street party. I had looked to run this with our neighbours in our local street – everyone stays on their own lawn with those they live with so observing all government guidelines, and before I knew it, I had been interviewed on the radio, and on the phone by local media.

"Times are tough for many, so to spread a bit of positivity and celebrate VE Day seemed a great idea. We have also suggested using it as a thanks to our many local keyworkers and to remember those who COVID has taken from us as I work in the NHS.

"With that, and the inspiration from Captain Tom Moore, we hope to see many houses decorated red, white and blue and having picnics on their lawns.

"Last week local veterans will also be putting on blazers, medals and ties to sing Happy Birthday to Captain Tom Moore."

In line with government guidance, Swindon Borough Council has postponed all VE Day events and is actively discouraging residents from visiting Swindon’s Cenotaph and other memorials across the borough. 

Residents must continue to adhere to social distancing and travel guidance throughout the day and cancel or postpone any street party celebrations that have been previously arranged.

Despite the measures in place, there are still many ways residents can get involved in the celebrations at home.

The Government and English Heritage, among others, have created toolkits and party packs to help the public mark the day. The packs contain printable bunting and posters, 1940s recipe ideas, playlists from the era, colouring work sheets for kids and dance lessons. Find out more at ve-vjday75.gov.uk.

As part of an initiative between the Government and Ancestry, from Monday, 4 May to Sunday, 10 May, ancestry.co.uk will be available to the public free of charge. It is hoped that this will enable families to connect with their past and discover their families connections to the Second World War.

At 11am on VE Day (8 May), Swindon residents are encouraged to join the nation and observe a two minute silence to honour those who served and sacrificed their lives during the war. 

Councillor Matthew Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “Despite being apart, the nation will come together on 8 May to commemorate those who fought and served during the Second World War. 

“This year it is more important than ever to learn from the experiences of the Second World War generation and draw strength from their resilience.

“In many ways we find ourselves facing similar difficulties to our ancestors, but much like them we continue to put on a united front.

“I would encourage everybody to use the day to reflect not only on those who came before us, but on those who have lost their lives over recent months to COVID-19 and those who continue to serve our community. 

“For them we must stay indoors and follow government guidance.”

For the latest advice on VE Day visit the Government website.

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