Flags, bunting and lots of community spirit come together in Portsmouth to celebrate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
The 8th of May 2015 marked the 70th Anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) and the end of the second world war in Europe. The UK government with the help of the Royal British Legion organised three days of events across the country. Many of the services and events were held in London, however local communities were also encouraged to take part. Remembering the old black and white photographs taken at the time I wanted to document a community street party for myself and so I headed along the coast to Portsmouth in Hampshire to see if I could find one.
Portsmouth is home to the Royal Navy who has had a presence in the city since 1194. As you can imagine during WW2 this made the city and it's docks a prime target for the German Luftwaffe and it was heavily bombed. Over a 4 year period from 1940 - 1944 the people of Portsmouth endured 67 air raids resulting in 930 deaths and thousands of people were injured. Read more about The Portsmouth Blitz here. I can't even begin to imagine the effect this had on the community in the area. Night after night of bombing must have been horrific and terrifying. On the BBC's WW2 People's War website you can find a very powerful article called The Bombing Raids Over Portsmouth by Sydney Johnson here. This first hand account of what it was really like, I think will stay with me forever! Hopefully after reading Sydney's account you can understand why I decided to choose a community in Portsmouth to photograph for my project.
My search started as I headed into the city with a list of road closures that had been allowed by the local council for the day. After several stops I parked my car and walked onto Nettlecombe Avenue in Southsea, a district of Portsmouth. I was warmly greated by Liz and her family who were busy hanging balloons and bunting outside their house. As we talked it soon became clear how much effort and hard work these residents had put in. The entire street had pulled together with games and face painting organised for the children and even a VE Day cake bake off competition planned! The community spirit was inspiring and I quickly decided I had found exactly the right street party to photograph. I started taking my photographs, stopping every now and then to talk with a resident about the day or ask permission to take their photo. As midday approached, the street filled up as more neighbours helped one another bring out large tables, chairs and plate after plate of party food from within their homes. With the road closed off to all traffic, these were quickly set up right in the middle of the road with one resident even managing to supply 1940s music via an old Hi-Fi speaker balanced precariously from a upstairs bedroom window. With the street party in full swing I decided to create a photo showing all the residents in the street. Something that would capture the party atmosphere! I made some enquires and soon a ladder appeared from a garage allowing me to get the height I needed to really make the photo work. You can see the photo further down the page.
With a large group photo like this, I often like to bring two people slightly forward to make it look more interesting and less of a 'grip and grin' affair ;) After a little persuasion I managed to convince the two main organizers, Liz and her friend Kathryn, to stand at the front and wave flags. I was really pleased with the photo and after clambering back down the ladder was rewarded with an ice cold lemonade drink from the lady at number 54 I believe! I had a really great day and even managed to get a photo used the following morning in The Times newspaper.
Thanks to all the residents of Nettlecombe Avenue. Thank you for your hospitality and allowing me to be part of your community for a few hours. I hope you like your photos.
Till next time and don't forget however dark your world is, it only takes one idea to change the world for the better. Scott the photographer.
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