Against all the odds of Lockdown, BH managed to organise and stimulate a very memorable VE Day in Bishopsteignton. The original idea of involving as many as possible of the village activity groups to create their own projects for the celebrations was carried through online instead of physically. Many of our researchers and the leaders of the groups had gone into a degree of slumber due to the Lockdown, but we managed to rouse them to produce a whole raft of material including a knitted Spitfire, produced by the knitting group, which has been on display on the high pavement in Fore St., and made it onto the BBC Spotlight programme.
We also involved the WI, the Lunch Club, Singing for Fun, Digging for Victory, articles about nursing in WWII and the Battle of Britain.
We decided to produce a series of Countdown articles on the website to lead up to VE Day itself, highlighting the fun and party aspects of the occasion as well as the more serious stories. They included Music, Food, Dancing, Dressing Up, Heroes, Evacuees and Women at War. This last category proved extremely enlightening when one of our researchers sent us a photograph of her 98-year-old mother, who lives in the village, in WAAF uniform in WWII, along with the story of her work during wartime. The Heritage Lottery Fund office had sent out an email enquiring what various organisations were intending to do, if anything, on VE Day, and I replied with our plans. They then looked at the Women at War article and asked if they could use it for their national publicity, which they duly did. So our very own Mary Overill became their poster girl for VE Day as well as ours. This also stimulated various members of the community to come forward with photographs and stories of friends and family connected to the village, who were also part of the war effort, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve.
As well as the articles we encouraged the village to dress up and party in their gardens. To provide a soundtrack to the afternoon and so that the speeches could be heard around the village, Jason McMurray organised a total of 24 PA systems to be set up in the gardens of their owners with coverage for pretty much the entire village. The soundtrack consisted of 2 hours of music of the period, official speeches from the day and the Toast to the Nation’s Heroes, as well as other specific speeches designated by the Veterans’ Charities. All finished with a soundtrack of ‘We’ll meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ for people to sing along to. The effect was phenomenal and everyone came out to promenade and enjoy the day. A gallery of photographs and videos is now displayed on the website.