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On the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday, 8 May, North Yorkshire residents are being encouraged to reflect on the togetherness and community spirit that they share with those who celebrated the end of the Second World War in Europe in 1945.
The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Jim Clark, has been at the forefront of events to mark the anniversary in the county and while these are now on hold, he believes the messages behind the celebrations remain as relevant as ever.
While people can’t gather because of Covid-19 restrictions, County Council services are helping people to mark the day, including creating a virtual children’s choir, staging digital library activities and investigating the Second World War at home with the County Record Office.
Cllr Clark said:
This anniversary was never just about looking back at something that happened 75 years ago, and the situation in which we find ourselves today makes that even more pertinent.
Then, as now, it is about community spirit. The theme of Holocaust Day this year was Stand Together. While we can’t do that physically, we can in spirit. We can stand together in remembrance and thanksgiving, against hatred and prejudice and for building stronger communities.
I encourage people in towns and villages across North Yorkshire to take time to reflect and to remember in their own way.
Cllr Clark will give a reading at a virtual Ripon Cathedral VE Day service at 11am on 8 May. The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, will lead the service. The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, will speak and the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mrs Jo Ropner, will also give a reading. Dishforth Military Wives Choir and the Black Dyke Band will also take part. The service can be accessed via the cathedral’s website, www.riponcathedral.org.uk
Planned events that will now be rearranged include a celebratory concert organised by the County Council’s Music Service. This would have involved more than 400 school children and have featured the County Youth Choir, County Youth Symphony Orchestra, County Youth Big Band and the Army Band, Catterick.
Instead, the Music Service has invited children that were to sing to record themselves singing along at home to two wartime Vera Lynn songs, We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover. The recordings will be edited to feature the choir in a video that will be posted on the County Council’s social media channels over the coming weekend.
The County Council’s service pupils’ champions were also to have hosted two large children’s street parties and, in libraries, intergenerational events showcasing memories of VE Day were planned. Some library events have now moved onto social media (see below). The County Record Office has compiled an online collection recalling VE Day and wartime on the home front in North Yorkshire. This can be viewed at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/celebrating-ve-day
Through his locality grant, Cllr Clark is also supporting creation of a video archive of reminiscences of those who lived through the war by students at Harrogate High School. The students began this before the Covid-19 restrictions came into place with interviews with Arek Hersh, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, and Sheila Pantin, who was involved in the British liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April, 1945.
Cllr Clark said:
VE Day was a time of hope for the future and this anniversary should be the same. I am very much looking forward and want to concentrate on young people.
A lot of work has been done by and for young people in terms of organising concerts and street parties and these efforts will not be wasted. We will go ahead with these things after we get through this pandemic.
This may be a time for young people to reflect on and record their experiences of living through this pandemic. While it is not a war, it is a different situation and requires the same spirit of fortitude and community.
Across the country, the Royal British Legion is inviting people to join a two-minute silence for reflection and remembrance at 11am on 8 May. This will honour the service and sacrifice of the Second World War generation and be an opportunity to reflect on the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on many lives across the world.
VE Day activities from North Yorkshire libraries
Libraries will use their Facebook pages to invite wartime memories from library members. They will also promote digital resources, including family history sites Find My Past and Ancestry, as well as relevant e-books, e-audio and e-magazines.
Filey library will upload wartime archival pictures to its Facebook page.
Harrogate library will use its Facebook page to present a town photographic slideshow trail to be displayed as a slideshow, tagging in participating shops.
Malton library will use its page for a “we recommend…” Second World War-inspired reading list. It will also take a look back at last year’s Wartime Weekend in Pickering; share a tutorial for 1940s’ dances; highlight 1940s’ fashion, the Imperial War Museum’s VE Day photo gallery and the BBC’s bunting making guide; and share relevant local posts on the day.
Pickering library will post a recording by Musical Memories of a medley of wartime favorites on VE Day.
Ripon library plans a Facebook promotion including showcasing Newby Hall Archive in partnership with West Yorkshire Archive Service; and Ripon Gazette articles.
Scarborough library will invite people to share VE Day or Second World War stories over Facebook. They’ll also use Junior Britannica to link to what children have been learning and information about the Second World War and VE Day.
Selby library will host:
- staff and volunteers baking wartime recipes and sharing them on Facebook, as well as inviting people to send in their recipes;
- a How to Make a Medal craft session via Facebook;
- a live VE Day quiz;
- a collection of memorabilia, inviting contributions from the public, such as photos of relatives;
- James Nicol will read from the children’s novel, When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll;
- inviting people to share photos of decorated homes and gardens.
Thirsk library will share ideas on Facebook of how to run stay-at-home celebrations. The library will promote May’s Local and Community History Month and ask for volunteers to help with planned projects (when the library reopens), including creating an art work for the library and creating a local history archive.
Whitby library will post photos of war memorials that can be found on the outside of buildings locally.