Week of parties followed VE Day in Islington
- Credit: Archant
Victory celebrations were not confined to May 8. As Jon Dean discovers, the streets of Islington and Finsbury hosted events for children and adults over a week or more as everyone was keen to join in the fun
The streets of Islington were “gay for kiddies’ parties” across the borough, with fun and games, paper hats, toys, ice-cream and “all the other treats children love best.
And the grown-ups weren’t left out, with dances organised for them.
A victory bazaar in aid of St George’s Church, Crayford Road, Holloway, was opened by Lieutenant Commander on May 3 – a good few days before the official announcement.
In Magdala Road, which used to be in Archway, 60 children attended a party where the tables were laden with good things and each child was presented with a savings stamp card, on which were affixed three 6d stamps.
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Later in the evening the adults danced and sang and thoroughly enjoyed themselves – all good neighbours, which they had been throughout the Blitz.
The North London Press reported that Offord Road, in the “Cally”, saw about 80 children gather for a tea party in glorious sunshine. Singing and dancing took place, after which “tired, but happy, they went home”.
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Granville Square, Finsbury, held a victory party for 110 children from the square and neighbouring streets. They had a lovely tea, and afterwards ran races for prizes of chocolate and money. Each child also received ice cream, lemonade, and a bag of sweets.
On Whit Sunday [May 20, 1945] 70 children were entertained to tea at Chatterton Road, Highbury.
The newspaper reported: “A stage having been erected, the evening passed on merrily with the assistance of an orchestra.
“At dusk the street was illuminated and dancing continued until the early hours. It is hoped that a further party or an outing will be arranged for the children at the final conclusion of the war.”
Nearly 100 children from Halsbury House, Holloway Road, enjoyed a mammoth tea provided for them by residents.
For hours the sound of laughter and singing caused neighbours and passers-by to stop and watch.
A nearby restaurant supplied them, free of charge, with buns and cakes and a local greengrocer presented them with a box of oranges for nothing – apart from having their ration books marked.
Meanwhile, a firework display was the climax of a May 19 victory tea party in Cloudesley Street, Islington, where 100 children were entertained with a huge tea.
So generous were the contributions of residents in Cloudesley Street and Cloudesley Place towards the expenses that there were sufficient funds left over to provide a ticket to the cinema for everyone.
On May 13 civic services were held at St Mary Magdalene Church, Holloway, with a procession, headed by a military band, marching to the church to attend the service.
Enthusiastic crowds lined the streets of Islington to witness the victory parade – the largest procession ever held at the borough at that time – as it passed en route to the church, Holloway Road.
On arriving the marchers filed into a church which was already half full and very soon it was necessary to close the doors as the church was filled to capacity. Loud speakers were fitted outside the church for the benefit of those unable to find accommodation.
More than 900 people aged 65 to 90 were treated to a tea and concert at Finsbury Town Hall, Rosebery Avenue. Some said it had been 11 years since they had been out to a party.
The Mayor told them: “It is your sons and daughters, born and bred in Finsbury, who have formed part of the British fighting services, gaining honour and distinction in every theatre of war.
“Thanks are due to you for the way you brought up your children who, after spending their childhood days in ways of peace and happiness, proved themselves, when the testing time came, not merely equals but masters of a nation where every boy and girl was brought up to believe in war as the only thing worthwhile in life.”
Finsbury’s celebration also included an open-air thanksgiving service at Wilmington Square on May 13, attended by more than 1,000 people.
May 16 saw entertainment at the Town Hall for repatriated prisoners of war, members of the forces on leave, families of prisoners-of-war and veterans of the previous war.
A surprise party in Kingsdown Road, Upper Holloway saw a Mrs Waterman playing the piano, keeping people dancing until 2am.
While the skies might have been dull, in Frederica Street, “Cally”, they could not have been brighter, as flags and fancy dresses, paper hats, streamers and all the carnival colours came out for the children’s victory tea.
More than 130 youngsters came to dance to Sonny Elder’s accordion band, then play games, to eat a huge tea, with jellies and cakes and ice cream, and generally to the spend time of their lives.
The grown-ups did things in the real “Cally” way, which meant bigger and better than anywhere else, with a 10s [50p] note for every child.
There was a Fire Guard party in Hornsey Road, Holloway, and another in Dillon Place.
About 80 children were entertained to a victory tea in St Luke’s Hall, Goodinge Road, Holloway, at the invitation of the vicar.
The people of Ashburton Grove, Holloway, near Hornsey Road, staged a jolly party for 40 or 50 children from the street.
A piano was fetched out, and an amplifier rigged up so that there was plenty of noisy fun and games.
There were “lashings of ice cream” at Thornhill Square, Barnsbury, for children and parents alike.
And in an early “karaoke”, many of the 116 children at the Elthorne Road party tried singing into a microphone for the prize of a shilling a time.
The strains of many popular songs could be heard some distance away.