This year’s 75th VE Day celebrations on Friday 8 May were set to go off with a bang, with the early May Bank Holiday even being moved from the first Monday to the second Friday of the month to coincide with the landmark anniversary. The current coronavirus pandemic may have put paid to that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still show your appreciation for the armed forces during lockdown. From spine-tingling virtual concerts to broadcasts from the Royal Family, we’ve rounded up the best events and activities to celebrate VE Day.
Tune in to Katherine Jenkins’ special performance from the Albert Hall
In honour of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Katherine Jenkins will be performing a one-off concert, streamed live from an empty Royal Albert Hall. This marks the first time the Royal Albert Hall has ever hosted a behind-closed-doors performance and follows on from the phenomenal success of Andrea Bocelli’s Easter Sunday virtual concert at the Duomo of Milan, which drew almost 3 million viewers. The mezzo soprano will take to the stage for a 30-minute concert, singing wartime classics including The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again, the latter being performed as a virtual duet with Dame Vera Lynn. The song has received particularly poignant recognition lately after being referenced in the Queen’s moving coronavirus speech last month. The performance will support the Hall’s own fundraising appeal, as well as the Armed Forces charity SSAFA’s Emergency Response Fund.
The concert will air at 6pm on Friday 8 May
Marvel at the London Eye’s latest transformation
The London Eye is no stranger to a colourful makeover in honour of a worthy cause, most recently turning blue as a touching tribute to the NHS and to celebrate Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday on 30 April. Now, in honour of VE Day, the wheel will be illuminated to resemble a Union Jack flag, turning red, white and blue for one night only. With so many other VE Day celebrations on hold this year, it’s set to be London’s most vibrant and visible tribute.
The London Eye will turn red, white and blue from sunset on Friday 8 May
Watch the Queen’s VE Day address
Just a month after her last unprecedented appearance, the Queen will be taking to our screens again to deliver a special television message to mark the momentous 75th anniversary. Her speech on the significance of VE Day will take place from Windsor Castle, where she is currently self-isolating with the Duke of Edinburgh, and will air at 9pm, at the exact moment that her father, King George VI, gave a radio address back in 1945. The Prince of Wales is also set to read an extract from the diary of George VI written on May 8, 1945, which describes the day on which victory in Europe was declared. After the speech, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is encouraging the nation to take place in UK-wide a singalong of Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, designed to “allow members of the public to remember and give thanks to the Second World War generation”.
The Queen’s VE Day speech will air on BBC 1 at 9pm on Friday 8 May
Join the ‘Tommy in the Window’ campaign
By now you’ll have noticed the numerous rainbow tributes to the NHS appearing in people’s windows, some even designed by famous artists like Sir Quentin Blake. Now, to mark VE Day, the Royal British Legion Industries charity has launched a new campaign to celebrate national heroes past and present, with members of the public being asked to place a specially designed image of a Second World War soldier, Tommy, in their windows. Bespoke commemorative military figures and stickers are available from their website, with proceeds going towards helping military veterans find employment.
Pay a virtual visit to the Imperial War Museum
While we may not be able to visit the Imperial War Museum at the moment, the London institution has flung open its virtual doors to allow members of the public to ‘visit’ from home. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day the museum has created a special soundscape to transport listeners back in time. Entitled ‘Voices of War’, the four-minute recording features first-hand accounts of VE Day, from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to prisoners of war and civilians, selected from IWM’s vast sound archive.
The recording will be available to listen to on Friday 8 May
Hold your own 1940s afternoon tea
To get into the VE Day spirit, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has produced a special template pack for families at home looking to recreate their own 1940s-style afternoon tea party, complete with original recipes, games and homemade bunting. And to really get the kids’ involved, the Royal British Legion have also issued a VE Day learning pack, to help teach children ‘why, how and who we remember.’
Explore Bletchley Park’s virtual exhibits with Google Arts
Bletchley Park was once the top-secret home to the Second World War’s most skilled codebreakers. Now you can experience what life was really like at the mysterious English country estate with a series of online experiences created with Google Arts and Culture. You’ll find a thrilling account of German messages cracked on D-Day, taken from Bletchley transcripts, as well as get the chance to learn about the top-secret intelligence the women who worked there helped produce, shared through archive photos, sketches and their own words.