On Bank Holiday Monday, I went to a magnificent event which is held annually in Nottingham. The 1940s Knees-Up was so much fun, filled with music, dancing, stalls, vintage vehicles in beautiful condition and so much more.
It was a throwback to 1940’s wartime Britain and felt extremely nostalgic.
Based at Nottingham Castle, as soon as I paid my £8 entry fee and was handed a programme for the day, I was astounded at just how much had gone into the event.
There was music from Johnny Victory, dancing of all kinds, stalls selling vintage reproduction clothes and accessories (where I FINALLY got my hands on some cat eye sunglasses), a school room with lessons from the 1940’s, a grocer’s and sweet shop (where everything was rationed), vehicles, reenactments, an anderson shelter, laundry area (showing how women would hand wash and dry laundry), a doll exhibit and I’m sure even more that I’m forgetting.
I started off by walking round the main area, picking up the sunglasses and looking at clothes, before looking at the cars and war vehicles, then a stand with male ‘soldiers’ explaining their weaponry to crowds.
All staff of the event in costume and character, it felt pretty accurate and real of wartime Britain.
I could hear live music, so, as a particular fan of older songs, I followed the sound and found myself at the marquee for Johnny Victory, a fun and charismatic performer of 1920’s – 1960’s music. He had everyone singing along, from nine years old to ninety years old, and knew how to work the crowd. Also throwing in some moves and putting on an overall great show, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everyone knew at least some of the songs, too.
As I walked up the steps on the side of Nottingham Castle, I peeked into the 1940’s classroom, seeing adults and children alike crammed in to tiny rows of desks, being handed slates and educated on the difficulties schools and children faced in wartime Britain, the teacher comedic but slightly scary.
Inside the castle buildings, I kept finding more and more rooms, to my delight. They’d managed to fit so much in there!
From a grocer’s-type shop to a sweet shop, where the shop owners were telling people they had to make their rations last, as well as an Anderson shelter built into the caves under the castle and a room for laundry, demonstrating how it would have been hand washed and hand dried.
Around the event, there was plenty of signs and decoration, including even the smallest of details, which made it feel so very nostalgic and special. An awful lot of thought and planning had gone into it. All I missed was a tea room, with vintage cups and saucers and Victoria sponge cake, but honestly, I’m just kind of obsessed with tea rooms…
One of the things I noticed most about the event was just how educational it was. At most of the stands or activities, there was endless information. Children of all ages were asking questions, getting involved and enjoying it too.
In fact, there was a great sense of many generations coming together. There was this moment under the marquee, when Johnny Victory was singing some real patriotic numbers, that I looked around me and took in the sight of children as young as nine and veterans over a hundred years old, singing together, uniting in a sense of patriotism and nostalgia and experiencing a (in some ways) simpler time.
People of all ages were swing dancing, lindy bopping and more.
Winston Churchill even came out at 2 o’clock to do his famous speech and got crowds cheering, which was a really nice touch.
I loved the event completely and spent most of it grinning from ear to ear. I was in heaven – as any person fascinated with such an era would be, by an event so well thought out, so detailed and varying in its activities and exhibitions. I’ll be sure to go next year.
I unfortunately didn’t realise that there were two sites for the event, so missed some of the displays. But what I did see easily filled a few hours anyway.
It was like being transported back in time. I didn’t want to leave!
I also picked up a few things, including this ration book, an Oxo magnet for the fridge and a birthday card for a friend.
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