Market Square celebrations of Victory in Europe Day, May 8th, 1945. Nottingham Evening Post and www.picturethepast.org.uk

Victory in Europe Day 1945

Originally published in 2012 as part of theSpace arts project funded by Arts Council England and the BBC

Derrick Buttress, a contemporary of Sillitoe, revisits Old Market Square during the Second World War.

Victory in Europe Day, May 8th 1945, was the occasion for a huge party held in front of the Council House and in the Market Square. Thousands of people crowded the streets, all of them happy to be relieved from the overwhelming strain of the previous five years.

I joined my school pal, Billy, to witness the unusual sight of serious adults in a determined mood to enjoy themselves now they had something to celebrate. Billy and I jumped off the bus from Broxtowe and threw ourselves into the melee of revellers jammed into the Square. Swing music blared from loudspeakers fastened to the classic columns of the Council House balcony. Couples danced in an area cleared for them in front of the entrance. Any man in a uniform got a kiss from any girl they smiled at. Billy and I tried that, but all we got were dirty looks in return. Probably because we were only 14 years old.

We couldn’t drag ourselves away to go home for tea, or supper, because the music was endless, like the dancing, the casual kissing and the laughter. How could we leave in the middle of our first party, one to which the whole of the town had invited itself? We laughed just because we were there, caught up in the wonder of it all, and knew we witnessed something special. “I’ve never seen so many girls!” Billy shouted. “There are millions of them!” And we tagged on to a long, conga snake of dancers hopping and kicking through the crowds, circling the Square and recruiting dancers reeling out of the Bell and Yates before returning, puffed out, to the Council House steps.

The day was hectic enough, but when the servicemen and their girls spilled out of the pubs in the evening, the laughter grew louder, the kissing more passionate and the dancing more intimate. It seemed as if the revelry would go on for ever. Billy and I were transfixed by such huge happiness. How could we leave such unbridled joy, and the chance that we might get to kiss a girl? We searched so long for that chance that we missed the last bus home, but didn’t care. We walked the four miles back to Broxtowe with the music from the Council House still echoing in our ears, knowing that our world might be different from that moment on.

Derrick Buttress (1932-2017) author of Broxtowe Boy and a contemporary of Alan Sillitoe.

Victory in Europe Day 2020 – Paul Fillingham and Justyna Hodur
From victory to virus. Comparing the Market Square of  VE Day 1945 with the Covid-19 stricken city of 2020.

A Strictly British form of Victory – Adrian Reynolds
As Britain celebrates Victory in Europe Day, it’s getting hard to tell what real is.

 

The Sillitoe Trail

Take your own interactive tour of the author’s city and follow in Arthur Seaton’s footsteps around Nottingham, exploring the real locations of key scenes from the novel. You can go back to the Old Market Square or visit The White Horse pub, the Raleigh factory, the River Trent and Goose Fair.

Follow: Arthur Seaton @Thespacelathe on Twitter

Download: Sillitoe Trail Factory Handbook (17MB PDF)

 

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