Gazette letters: Coronavirus and VE Day celebrations

Have a walk around Abney Park Cemetery during isolation, but remember to keep your distance. Picture

Have a walk around Abney Park Cemetery during isolation, but remember to keep your distance. Picture: Will McCallum - Credit: Archant

It’s confusing, isn’t it? writes Will McCallum, Greenpeace, Newington Green.

On the one hand we’re being told that getting out into parks and green spaces are essential to our mental and physical health, and on the other we’re seeing photos circulated in the national media shaming some open spaces in east London rammed with people.

The guidance could certainly have been clearer – such as, perhaps don’t visit parks at busy times, and don’t frequent markets.

Regardless, it seems now the message is getting through and so I thought a quick run down of some of my preferred secluded spots in the neighbourhood wouldn’t go amiss – if you’re visiting make sure to be sensible, if it looks too busy try somewhere else rather than assuming it will be fine. Getting outside and being around nature has well proven benefits for our mental health at a time of anxiety, and having this privilege removed because we cannot keep our distance would be a terrible consequence:

• Abney Cemetery – right next to Clissold Park with plenty of paths through the undergrowth to explore.

• St Paul’s Shrubbery – gorgeous little park set back from St Paul’s Road, perfect for a bit of light calisthenics.

• Allens Gardens – between houses and the railway track you can really feel the secret garden vibes here.

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• De Beauvoir’s front gardens – it may not always be possible to go to parks and keep your distance, in which case the front gardens along Northchurch Street, Englefield Road and the streets running north to south between them are filled with all kinds of horticultural delights.

In these difficult circumstances, it is terrible to see that the most vulnerable in our community are set to be hit the hardest, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member, North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

And yet, it has been incredibly encouraging to see our community reaching out.

Right now, foodbanks are struggling under the weight of increasing demand. Where possible, we can help out with our time, donations and financial support.

Help is also coming from City Hall, which has already launched a £2 million emergency support fund for community organisations and set up a dedicated online page for volunteers. The mayor is also working to ensure homeless people can self-isolate, securing an initial 300 hotel rooms for this purpose.

The congestion charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) have been suspended to provide an extra helping hand to those in key frontline services who drive to work. On top of this, all businesses on Transport for London’s estate have been granted full rent relief for three months. And the mayor has strengthened London’s Culture at Risk office, to help stop the closures of entertainment venues in the capital.

Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster for the VE Day celebrations this year, wrote an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson:

Due to the necessary cancellation and postponement of the VE Day 75 Community celebrations because of the dreadful virus circulating the planet at the moment I believe the following provides us all with a simple alternative that could still take place, paying “tribute” to the millions at home and abroad who gave so much to ensure we all enjoy and share the freedom we have today.

What I propose still provides the whole of the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man with the unique opportunity of coming together at one moment in time to celebrate and commemorate this important anniversary on May 8 - VE Day 75 this year without putting the public in any danger whatsoever; especially as there are two elements of the already planned VE Day 75 celebrations that could continue without problem if the media and Her Majesty’s government, led by our prime minister would assist us in making this happen on the 8th May this year.

Friday May 8: VE Day 75

• 2.55pm – Battle’s O’er: Live on TV, radio and through social media, a pre-recorded lone piper plays Battle’s O’er, the traditional march played on the pipes at the end of a battle, and VE 75 Years, the new march I had commissioned in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.

• 3pm -– Speech by then Prime Minister Churchill. Live on TV, radio and through social media, the recording of the famous speech made by Prime Minister Churchill, announcing the end of the war in Europe which was broadcast to the nation in 1945.

• Following the speech, and led by you as our prime minister from wherever you may be at this time, you would invite the many millions of individuals and families throughout the UK to stand and raise a cup of tea, soft drink or another of their choice and undertake the attached ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW II,’ from home, paying ‘tribute’ and saying ‘thank you’ to the millions at home and abroad that gave so much to ensure we all enjoy and share the freedom we have today.

• National Anthem: Following the Nation’s Toast all would be invited to remain standing while the National Anthem is played.

I strongly believe the above would be the sort of alternative that Churchill would have undertaken during these uncertain times, providing our country with the unique opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to those who won our freedom should we still be in the position that local community VE Day 75 events throughout the country have to stay cancelled or postponed.

I wish you and your family well over the next few difficult months.