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Spectacular poppy display to mark VE Day 75th anniversary

Pendine Park residents celebrate the 75th Victory in Europe Day anniversary. Pictured is Resident Tony Ithell and artist in residence Sarah Edwards. Picture Mandy Jones

Artistic care home residents have created a spectacular display to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

They have made a giant number 75 – five feet high and six  feet across – adorned with bright red poppies which will form the centrepiece of the celebrations at the locked down Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham on Friday (May 8).

Guided by artist-in-residence Sarah Edwards, the residents of the Penybryn and Bryn Bella care homes made more than 600 poppies as part of the project.

The art installation will go on show at the main entrance of Pendine Park’s site in Summerhill Road to commemorate Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945, bringing an end to years of conflict in Europe.

There will also be a sing-along of the wartime Very Lynn classic, We’ll Meet Again, and other favourites, along with a toast to Second World War veterans, including the newly-promoted Colonel Tom Moore, at 3pm on the big day.

Across town at Pendine’s Hillbury and Gwern Alyn homes, they are  planning a VE Day socially distanced “street party” in the grounds with music, a quiz and food including corned beef hash.

According to Sarah, there were always plans for an art project to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day but, with the care homes in lockdown, keeping residents engaged and busy became even more important.

She said: “It’s been tough as families can’t visit their loved ones and we have had to cancel music and other projects as we can’t allow musicians and singers to come into our care homes.

“However, what we can do is work with residents on art projects. It was the residents themselves who came up with the idea of creating an art display. I asked our maintenance team to cut out a big plywood figure seven and a five.

“Penybryn resident Tony Ithell then sanded the figures, painted them red and varnished them. While Tony was doing that other residents were busy cutting out poppies which Tony then stapled to the figures.

“The figures look amazing and will make a wonderful 75 sign that will now be installed at the entrance to Pendine Park.

“Residents made and cut out more than 600 poppies which was an incredible effort. They have also made enough to make a poppy wreath which will be part of the display.”

Former Shotton Paper forklift truck driver Tony Ithell, 61, a resident of Penybryn, a centre of excellence for people with brain injuries and neurological problems,  suffered a massive stroke in 2014 that left him needing round-the-clock care,

The married father of two said: “I like doing art work. I sanded down the figures which took a long time and then painted them red.

“Then I had to varnish them. After that I carefully stapled the poppies to them to finish the job. It looks good and will remind people of why we are celebrating the end of the war.

“We should never forget. It’s been hard since the virus began but we are keeping busy with lots of art and other projects. You just have to keep active.”

Fellow resident Mike Blakely, 60, a former cabinet maker of Bagillt, Flintshire, also thoroughly enjoyed the project.

He said: “My mate Tony did a great job on the figures while we made the poppies. It will look great at the entrance. It’s something we should celebrate although we can’t have the big party we had planned.

“Keeping busy is the important thing and we always have something to do. I like art work and just making things.”

Bryn Bella Care Home resident Sian Ferrier, 49 , says no one should forget the sacrifice people made during the Second World War.

She said: “They gave their tomorrows so we could have our todays. It’s really important to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

“We can’t have a party like we’d planned but making the 75th anniversary figures has been something we could all do together.

“It looks really good and will be an amazing sight at the entrance to Pendine Park. It makes me proud to think we made it between us.”