This is what happened on VE Day - and how to celebrate the 75th anniversary in lockdown

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 3:41 pm
Updated Monday, 4th May 2020, 4:19 pm
People are being encouraged to host their own ‘stay at home street party’ on 8 May (Photo: Shutterstock)

Plans for important events don’t always go to plan, and with the UK still under lockdown, there is still a way to go before life inches back to normality.

A string of major events have already been forced to cancel this year, including Wimbledon, Glastonbury, Euro 2020 and the Olympics. Now VE Day will be the latest victim of the coronavirus outbreak.

But while planned celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day have gone astray, there are still ways to mark the occasion from home.

What is VE Day?

VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, is a day dedicated to commemorating the official end of the Second World War.

The day celebrates the formal acceptance by the Allies during World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of armed forces, on 8 May 1945.

Millions of people rejoiced the news of Germany’s surrender, and took to the streets in celebration, with parties, singing and dancing.

Crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square in London and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth appeared on the balcony, overlooking the masses cheering below.

What celebrations were planned for VE Day 2020?

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the government announced that 2020’s early May bank holiday would be moved for only the second time in history, to the VE weekend of 8 May, in order to allow for a three day celebration.

Pubs across the country were due to remain open later, until 1am, on 8 and 9 May, while people were also encouraged to host their own street parties to get involved in the VE Day spirit.

In the capital, a procession was due to take place down The Mall, while St James’s Park was to be turned into a Victory Park, featuring examples of what Britain was like during the Second World War.

A display by the Red Arrows and a Battle of Britain memorial flight was also to take place, while Winston Churchill’s iconic speech announcing the end of the war was to be broadcast across the country in public spaces at 3pm.

The 75th anniversary celebrations were set to culminate in a special VE Day concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Have all celebrations been cancelled?

At present, all scheduled plans for VE Day are to be moved later in the year, to the weekend of 15 and 16 August, coinciding with VJ Day.

Victory in Japan Day commemorates the day on which Imperial Japan surrendered in World War II, on 15 August 1945.

Members of the public have also been advised to temporarily cancel all planned VE Day celebrations.

In a statement on the VE Day website, Pageantmaster Bruno Peek said, “I am afraid that the terrible Coronavirus emergency and consequent Government guidance means that we must advise participants to cancel or postpone the majority of the VE Day 75 community celebrations due to take place on the bank holiday weekend of 8th – 10th May.

“It is right and proper that people should be kept safe and healthy.”

How can I celebrate VE Day from home?

Members of the public are still being encouraged to take part in the ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’ from the safety of their own home.

The toast will take place at 3pm on 8 May, and will serve as a thank you to those who gave their lives to ensure the freedom the country enjoys today.

People can also get involved in celebrations by joining their BBC Local Radio Station initiative and making their own VE Day Great British Bunting. If you would like to take part, you can download some templates from the BBC website.

UK residents are also being encouraged to host their own ‘stay at home street party’ on 8 May, to mark the occasion with a socially distant celebration.

Organisers want people to decorate their homes in red, white and blue, and enjoy a picnic in their front garden.

The idea is that neighbours in streets across the country will come out to drape their homes in flags and bunting, and enjoy the festivities while still observing the government’s social distancing guidance.

If you are looking for recipes, decoration ideas, or a playlist for your party, there are some tips for planning your VE Day party online.