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Ashford: Celebrating VE day in isolation

Residents of Ashford are preparing to commemorate VE day in isolation next Friday.

It’s the 75th year of celebrating Victory in Europe day after Germany surrendered its troops to end World War Two and communities around Kent are preparing to commemorate the significant weekend during social distancing.

Many events across Ashford have been cancelled and some adapted due to the Coronavirus outbreak but residents are harnessing the wartime spirit to ‘make do and mend’, acknowledging the poignant mark in history from the safety of their own homes.

Kingsnorth Parish Council are holding a ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’ via Zoom video call in order to raise a glass together and toast the bravery and victory of those in WW2. The event will take place on May 8 at 3pm, joining many throughout Kent in response to ‘VE Day 75’ who are calling for all communities across the UK to toast together.

Street parties across Ashford have been cancelled due to the social distancing guidelines but some in Shadoxhurst are preparing to have a socially distant street party, following distancing guidelines from their front gardens, complete with bunting and individual picnics.

The community are also thinking of other ways to find solidarity including Radio Ashford 107.1fm which will be airing an hour special on May 8, featuring local artists performing authentic music from the era.

Featured creator at the Made in Ashford shop, Danielle Williamson aka ‘Tinybeegle‘, has illustrated fantastic colouring packs for all to enjoy. The activities include bunting templates and DIY designs as well as a Spitfire glider template and spy-themed VE Day word search.

Speaking about her creations, she said: “We are all struggling at the moment with our little shop being shut so trying to think of ways to keep engaging with the public and sharing some of the craft activities and workshops that we can’t do in store at the moment.

“Pre covid-19 we [Made in Ashford] had been planning to host a big event for VE day celebrations including a Buntathon (bunting sew along) in the town centre. When we realised this could no longer happen we had to think differently and create something for people to do at home.

“I knew I wanted to feature a Spitfire as living near to Headcorn Aerodrome, now the Covid-19 Ridge Assessment Centre, they fly over my house as a regular occurrence and are a poignant reminder of the events in our skies 75-80 years ago.

“It was also important to me to include a poppy as remembrance for all those who lost their lives and a dove to symbolise peace and hope.

“Most of our makers are women so I wanted to include a female officer waving flags as a reminder of the important part they had to play in the war effort and was inspired by photos of them from the original VE day celebrations in 1945.”

The activity packs are a fun way for everyone to learn and remember the significance of VE Day and the events that lead to the weekend which will be celebrated on a bank holiday this year. Click here to download yours from Made in Ashford, which strives to make craft accessible to all.

With many across Ashford and Kent homeschooling their children during the pandemic, the packs and commemorations are a good way to incorporate history into their Friday lessons.

Kent’s popular War and Peace Revival festival is still planning to go ahead in August this year but organisers will be closely monitoring the government guidelines.

Despite the VE day celebrations being socially distanced this year, Ashford residents are taking comfort in Vera Lynn’s wartime ditty ‘we’ll meet again’ sharing hope with others in this difficult time.