Major changes to Leighton-Linslade’s May Day Fayre format will see it morph into a “gentler” VE Day anniversary Saturday event in 2020 instead.
In order to mark 75 years since Victory in Europe (VE) Day, the government has moved the early May bank holiday from May 4 to May 8.
The Rotary Club of Leighton Linslade in partnership with Leighton-Linslade Town Council is going to be holding a ‘VE Day Fayre’ in Parson’s Close Recreation Ground on Saturday, May 9.
Residents are invited to step back in time, as the day will have a 1940s theme, including historical exhibits and activities, complete with a performance from a cohort of the Military Wives Choir who are based at RAF Halton.
The May Fayre usually yields profits which are donated to local causes. However, Rotary says the VE Day event will be less commercial and gentler in its format, which it accepts will affect the scale of donations it will be able to make next year. They say: “The VE Day Fayre is a special occasion and is neither a better or worse version of May Day, it’s just very different.”
Richard Johnson OBE, of the Rotary Club of Leighton Linslade, said: “I think it’s important because 75 years ago [May 8, 1945] was a huge milestone in the country’s history.
“Things have changed so much, but we wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for these soldiers 75 years ago, and I think we would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t honour their memory by celebrating what they celebrated.
“The day will not be a replica of the normal May Day Fayre, but it will have a bit more empathy with the 75th anniversary.
“We will start by having a 40s theme and then as it gets later it will become strictly more modern, reflecting across the years.
“We will probably start at 11am, but it will go on later into the evening and run past 4pm.”
The Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and Historical Society will have a marquee focussing on ‘Q Central’ - a time when the town was a centre of communications during World War Two - and there will also be a 1940s Leighton-Linslade ‘Memories’ marquee, with old photos of a non-military nature and other memorabilia such as news reels and recipes.
The Rotary Club also wishes to invite some local residents to go and talk to visitors about what life was like during the 1940s, and to include a ‘Make Do and Mend’/ ‘Waste Not Want Not’ theme to highlight pollution and climate change, while it hopes to secure a Home Guard re-enactment group who can perform some demonstrations.
It has applied for an RAF flypast, too.
Richard added: “The clear message is that it will be different to the May Fayre, slightly gentler. We are pretty sure we will have the fair at the south end of the park, although we haven’t got into the details of what the rides will be yet.
“There will be the food village as well as charity stalls.
“It won’t be as commercial as normal, but the VE Day Fayre means we can be far less prescriptive than normal and far more flexible.”
The decision was taken to hold the event on the Saturday, because the Rotary Club didn’t wish to clash with Sunday church services and it would be difficult to hold the event on Friday, May 8, because it would mean setting up on Thursday, a normal working day.
Furthermore, national celebrations on the Friday don’t officially start until 3pm - the time Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast from the War Cabinet Office to announce the surrender of Germany in Europe. It is being held in Parson’s Close Recreation Ground so as not to interrupt Saturday trade and access to the town centre.
Leighton-Linslade Town Council will also contribute up to £7,000 to the event, some of which will go towards a special activity that recognises residents who are 75 years of age and above, giving them a mock ration book, which will allow them to have free tea and cake.
Richard said: “On behalf of the Rotary Club and everybody in the town, we would like to thank the town council, as some of the things we are planning wouldn’t be possible without their support.”
The Rotary Club also told the LBO that it will match what it normally spends on the May Day Fayre, and it would like to invite organisations that would have been around during World War Two, such as the WI, Lions Club or Red Cross, to get in touch and take part in the event.