Telford marks VJ Day with socially distanced ceremony and Japanese tour

Telford paid tribute to fallen soldiers at a socially distanced VJ Day service followed by tours incorporating traditional Japanese performers.

Doves were released as part of the civic ceremony. Photo: Rob Finney
Doves were released as part of the civic ceremony. Photo: Rob Finney

For the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began, the Maxell and Chelsea gardens in central Telford were open to visitors. To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and in the spirit of peace and reconciliation, the gardens were decked out in origami figures, streamers and parasols.

A small Telford & Wrekin Council service was held outside the gardens, including poems, readings, a bugler and the release of doves to signify peace.

The borough's mayor Amrik Jhawar led a two-minute silence after bugler Matt Johnson gave a rendition of The Last Post.

Shropshire's High Sheriff Dean Harris was among the dignitaries present and she read out Lemn Sissay's poem Let There Be Peace from the bandstand.

Shropshire's High Sheriff Dean Harris read a poem

Council leader Shaun Davies then paid tribute to the "tens of thousands... who fought and died, and those who were held prisoner".

After the service he said he was glad the council had been able to organise a memorial, albeit a small-scale one, after the coronavirus pandemic curtailed much of its plans for VE Day earlier this year.

Officials and dignitaries observed the socially distanced service

He and other officials embarked on a tour around the garden, which had been decorated and also hosted traditional Japanese musicians and a dancer, as well as British players of the taiko drum and the shakuhachi.

Among those on the tour was Jacob Chandler, a 25-year-old artist who has been commissioned to produce a sculpture for the occasion, which will be dedicated later this year.

He said: "There's only so much I can say at this time. I want it to be quite solemn and a reminder, but I also want it to be a celebration of the end of the war.

"A lot of memorials are like monoliths. I wanted to do something quite different."

Cllr Jhawar said that it was important to continue commemorating VJ Day to remember the lessons learned from the Second World War and to make sure the atrocities of the last century are not repeated.

A sculpture by artist Jackie Coyle, with help from others, was unveiled by herself and Chris Pettman, the chair of Friends of Telford Town Park.

The sculpture is of a fish, with each scale made from an individual can which has been flattened and embossed.

Jackie Coyle with her fish sculpture. Behind her is Chris Pettman and opposite is Cllr Amrik Khawar

After the tour, members of the public were able to visit the garden, following the Covid-19 guidelines including the use of hand sanitiser and complying with 'track and trace' rules.

Visitors had the opportunity to write messages of peace and commemoration and hang them in the gardens.

In addition, HotBuckle Theatre carried out a 45-minute performance of their 1940s show in the teenage amphitheatre.

Tina Herbert from Telford was among those who was impressed by the entertainment on hand.

"It was lovely, a bit different but very appropriate.

"I'm glad Telford has done something, it was nice to see it 'in your face' in these difficult times."

The day was punctuated by traditional Japanese performances

The Fernstone family, also from Telford, came along after Isabella, nine, and Sebastian, seven, learned about the Second World War in school and were keen to mark the occasion.

Isabella said her favourite part of the garden experience was the traditional Japanese dancing, while Sebastian particularly enjoyed the booming taiko drum.

Their mother Hannah said: "It's nice to see a little bit of normality."

Her husband Paul said: "The children are going back to school in September, we need to do things and make sure it's not as difficult for them.

"Well done to the council for organising it."

Towns across the borough and the county also held their own small ceremonies to mark the end of the war.

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