Two iconic planes from World War II will take centre stage in Colwyn Bay this weekend, as the town gets into the swing with its popular Forties Festival.
The family-focused event on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21 celebrates the town’s strategic war-time role in keeping Britain fed, when the Ministry of Food set up its HQ there.
This year’s festival features full-sized replicas of a Spitfire and a Hurricane, with the town invaded by fans of the era, dressed in vintage style or military uniforms.
There will be re-enactments of battle skirmishes at Eirias Park on Sunday, May 21, plus displays of military vehicles, Llandudno’s tram and war-time weapons along with heritage tours.
Colwyn Bay’s streets will host performances by Forties style performers, with vocal harmony group The Glamophones on Sunday, plus local food producers, wartime ephemera and nostalgia items thanks to UK Home Front.
Saturday will see a Ballroom Blitz at The Barn in Eirias Park, featuring Paul Caspar, the UK’s top George Formby tribute act, and DJ Major Swing and Kitty. The husband and wife team are passionate about dance music from the Thirties and Forties, both American swing and English ballroom, and have a huge collection of dance music from the era.
The festival, the sixth to be held, has been organised by the Bay of Colwyn Business Network (BCBN), and is backed by Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID), which is aiming to revitalise the area.
Anna Openshaw, project manager of Colwyn BID said: “It is thanks to the persistence of local history groups that Colwyn Bay is at last receiving recognition for its momentous contribution to the war effort and the Forties Festival is a real celebration of that fact.
“It attracts visitors from all over the UK who come here specially to join in the fun and even dress up in true Forties style. For this year’s event we are anticipating an even larger crowd than ever, as it is being held a little later than previous festivals.”
The non-for-profit social enterprise is aiming to revitalise the business communities across the Bay of Colwyn and to attract more visitors, investment and shoppers to the area.
The Forties Festival will be a trip down memory lane for many of the town’s visitors and residents, from when Colwyn Bay played a key role in keeping war-time Britain fed.
The town became home to the Ministry of Food’s HQ with its head, businessman Lord Woolton, setting up his office in Colwyn Bay Hotel on the Promenade.
More than 5,000 staff moved to the town, launching campaigns such as Dig For Victory and overseeing the supply of food on the Home Front through ration books.
In 1940 the Ministry’s civil servants were moved from Whitehall to North Wales to escape the German bombing raids and free up space in London for the War Office.
They requisitioned 38 hotels in the town, including the fashionable Metropole, and The Queens, along with large houses as offices or places to live for the staff. At the Imperial officials monitored ships going into and out of Liverpool.
The Ministry’s bread division was based at the Edelweiss Hotel, the bacon and ham division at the Mount Stewart Hotel and the cocoa and chocolate department at the Colwyn Bay Hotel. The workers also took over Rydal School, which was evacuated to the Sychnant Pass in Conwy, and Penrhos College, with pupils moving to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
The last department – the Bakery Finance Division – left the town on 29 September 1956.
More about the Colwyn Bay Forties Festival at facebook.com/FortiesFestival