This VE Day, Friday 8 May, the Bluebird Bus made its debut tour of Ilkley's streets bringing nostalgia, music and treats to some of the town's elderly and vulnerable residents. With VE Day Bank Holiday celebrations sadly cancelled, and everyone urged to mark the event at home, a group of enterprising Ilkley residents took up the challenge to bring VE to the 'home front' by touring the local care homes, retirement homes and socially distanced' street parties' delivering treats and gifts.
The idea for the Bluebird bus and the VE day tour came from Councillor Anne Hawksworth and local residents, Richard Bradley, Dan Gray and Nick Winterbottom. They recognised the need to mark the 75th anniversary of VE day in a safe way for those shielding and isolated from friends and family.
Decorated and modelled on the famous WW2 icon the Willis Jeep, the Bluebird bus also transported Amy Whitely from Ilkley Upstagers as she sang a selection of wartime anthems including White Cliffs of Dover, We'll meet again, and of course, You'll never walk alone. Dressed in period costume, the bus toured 14 care homes and with safety at the forefront of everyone's mind at the moment the team took care to ensure that they maintained a safe distance from one another and the residents and carers.
Local business supported this very special VE day tour by donating gifts: Cakes, Biscuits, Brownies, Tea & Chocolates from Addingham Coop, Betty's, Booths, Ilkley Town Council, Love Brownies, Marks & Spencer & Tesco: Costumes from Ilkley Upstagers: Potted plants from Cosmos Flowers; PA system and radio microphones from Nick Babb at NJB Entertainments; Bunting from the Ilkley Sewers; Balloons & Bunting from Addingham Balloon World.
Richard Bradley said "In these very tough times it is sometimes difficult to appreciate how the Coronavirus outbreak is directly affecting us as a town. All 3 of us have direct contact with what is going on through our work, volunteering or family members who work on the front line in the NHS, and we thought Anne's idea was fabulous. Ilkley has a very large number of over 70's self-isolating, which we appreciate is extremely tough. Still, we wanted to reach out particularly to those residents & carers in the town's Care Homes/Sheltered Accommodation. Residents & staff alike have never experienced anything like what has been going on for the last seven weeks. Through the very kind donations from the local business, who themselves are facing difficult challenges, we were able to bring some cheer to these important 75-year VE celebrations.
It was terrific to wave up to so many smiling faces and let them know we are thinking about them. This wasn't an easy task to organise with the current restrictions. Our thanks again go out to all those who donated food & gifts and especially to Amy for giving up her time to sing so beautifully.