Witney Plans for a Virtual VE Day 75 commemoration

Witney vows to Commemorate 75 Years of Peace even during Lockdown

In order to comply with government regulations in force and to keep everyone safe during the Covid 19 emergency, Witney Town Council has reviewed its plans for marking the historically important 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday 8th May.

With the town in lockdown and people unable to do as they did in 1945 and gather in the Market Square to fill the streets with music and dancing and parties, the council has sought an alternative way to bring people together while remaining safely at home.

Mayor, Duncan Enright summed up the determination of the Town to make the most of things;

“Witney Town Council has been making preparations for our VE Day 75 celebrations for some time, though things are no longer possible as they were originally planned. We will be remembering the sacrifice of those who won our peace, at a time when we are all making sacrifices for the health of our world and marking this anniversary in our own homes instead of out together in the streets.

But we all know Witney likes a good party! I am confident that the people of Witney will be celebrating VE Day with a mix of characteristic good cheer and respect, while maintaining social distancing, keeping themselves safe and looking forward to when we can all get together again.”

Working with local FM radio station, Witney Radio, we have contributed some of the planned elements of our VE Day celebration to form part of an exciting radio broadcast that includes the best local and national events. Voicebox Choir who would have been leading an enthusiastic ‘big sing’ in the Market Square have now recorded a special concert as part of the content of Witney Radio’s programme and the Mayor and Town Crier are also recording their sessions for that.

Alongside this we have created a dedicated web page and together these mean we get to share with you a packed VE Day programme that you can enjoy at home. Our talented Town Band are putting together a video made of individual clips by the social distancing musicians and that will feature on our VE Day web page.  Witney Town Council is  determined  that although the day will not be as exuberant and interactive as planned it will still be an appropriate commemoration of the spirit of the time and tribute to the sacrifices made by so many. While it is a time to remember, reflect and pay tribute to the millions who played such a vital part, both here at home and overseas, it is also a celebration of 75 years of peace.

What’s on the Radio? You can tune in throughout the afternoon to hear the following:

  • 2.55pm The Last Post
  • 3pm Battle’s O’er
  • 3.05pm Winston Churchill’s Speech
  • 3.10pm The Nation’s toast to the heroes of WWII read by Mayor Duncan Enright followed by the National Anthem
  • 3.20pm Squadron Leader Allan Scott DFM, who now lives and enjoys life in West Oxfordshire speaks of his time as a spitfire pilot
  • 5pm A Voicebox VE Day concert – A special concert recorded by members of Voicebox Choir
  • 6.55pm A cry for peace around the world from Witney Town Crier, Jean Postlethwaite-Dixon
  • 7pm Ringing out for peace – a selection of Church Bells ringing out for peace from Church Towers across Witney & West Oxfordshire

You can find Witney Radio on 99.9 FM

Barry Clack, Director of Witney Radio said,

“The Coronavirus emergency and consequent Government guidance means that we won’t be able to see the type of celebrations that Witney deserves this VE Day. Witney Radio feels strongly that we should not miss out on these celebrations but instead stay at home and celebrate this historic day. Witney Radio will be broadcasting content which residents can listen to and enjoy on Friday 8th May to honour those who served us in the past and allow those of us unable to be together to share in this celebration. Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR Pageant master for VE Day 75 supports Witney Radio’s broadcasts for the day and asks people to take part in celebrating VE Day 75 whilst observing guidelines and staying safe ”

Our special VE Day page is  at http://www.witney-tc.gov.uk/ve-day-75/

You can read a first-hand account of that day in 1945 when Victory in Europe was declared, by author Phyllis Ransome.

We will also be inviting residents to submit their personal family history pictures of VE Day electronically in order to try to build a picture of Witney in 1945. These will be posted in a gallery on the VE Day page.

Witney Town Band will share their video of them giving a very special virtual performance.

The page also has details of a competition being run by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. They are asking people to get to create a piece of artwork, celebrating VE Day 75 in any medium and submit a photo of it by midday on the 27th April.

https://www.ssafa.org.uk/news-articles/ve-day-75-art-competition

If you enter and send us a copy of the photo electronically, we will post as many as we can in the windows of the Corn Exchange foyer.

We will also have a template to make some really easy  paper bunting so you can decorate your garden or living room to give a little more atmosphere while you tune in and enjoy everything on offer on VE Day.

Although this is not going to be quite the celebration anyone had hoped for, there is an opportunity later, for us to commemorate VJ day in August with you, hopefully in a much more boisterous way, but for now, the safety of everyone in our town is a priority.  We hope you have a great day on 8th May and raise a glass (or a teacup with us) and toast our World War II heroes and drink to that moment when we can ‘meet again’.

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