A new exhibition that gives people the opportunity to immerse themselves in the joyful experience of Liberation Day in 1945 opens at Jersey Museum & Art Gallery this week.
A Day to Remember – Liberation 75 takes the form of a ten-minute projected film, including crowd scenes from the Royal Square and outside the Pomme D’Or Hotel filmed 75 years ago. It tells the story of those heady days celebrating freedom from the perspectives of those who lived through them in Jersey, as well as deportees and political prisoners in Germany, and evacuees in England.
The exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary this year of the Island being liberated from Occupation and also considers how values, such as endurance and compassion, shown by Islanders during the Occupation years have meaning and relevance in the future.
A Day to Remember, which is kindly sponsored by Alex Picot Trust and supported by the Bailiff of Jersey and Jersey Heritage Patrons and Benefactors, opens to the public on Friday (24th) in the John de Veulle Gallery, adjacent to the Museum concourse. Entry to the exhibition is free.
The new exhibition was originally due to open in May, ahead of Liberation Day. However, the opening was delayed when Jersey Heritage had to temporarily close all of its sites, including Jersey Museum, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The creation of A Day to Remember was overseen by Chris Addy, Jersey Heritage’s Sites Curator, who explained that it draws upon a wealth of archive material and new interviews with Occupation veterans and their descendants, sharing their thoughts and feelings about the significance of those times to them and their families, and how the message of the Liberation and freedom is as important today as it was 75 years ago.
The exhibition follows the timeline of the Liberation from 8 to 15 May, beginning with the conditions in the Island in the final weeks of the Occupation, before moving on to the events of 9 May. Chris said: “The exhibition includes Stan Keiller, who was there as a 17-year-old and who told me: ‘The [Royal] Square was absolutely packed jam tight with animated people, smiles and laughter. Then we heard the crackle of the loudspeakers, and at that moment the Square became silent – you could have heard a pin drop.’ It was such a special day for Islanders and we hope that we have recreated some of that joyful atmosphere for Islanders today to enjoy.”
He added: “We wanted to portray the events of Liberation in a fresh and inspiring way, and we believe these family stories are moving and captivating. Circumstances meant we couldn’t open A Day to Remember in time for Liberation Day but the exhibition is definitely worth the wait.”
On display in the Museum concourse is a selection of fascinating artefacts on loan from Damien Horn of the Channel Islands Military Museum, Wendy Janvrin-Tipping and Andy Evans. These include pieces of German military equipment which, having been repurposed for domestic use, appear curiously subversive. There are also drawings done by Islanders serving sentences for acts of defiance or disobedience in Newgate Street Prison, and a cine camera used by Dr Mortimer Evans to film the only known colour footage of the first British troops to arrive on 9 May 1945.
Andrew Le Cheminant, Director of Alex Picot Trust, explained that the company was supporting the exhibition in memory of Alexander E Picot and his loyal team, who kept the firm afloat throughout the Occupation. He said: “In May, it was hugely significant that despite the lockdown rules in Jersey, Islanders joined together in any way they could to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Jersey. Houses and public spaces, decorated with bunting and banners, reminded us of this important anniversary and it was a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to take time away from the burden of the Covid-19 crisis and celebrate the freedoms that Liberation Day brought to Jersey.
“As a longstanding Jersey company, Alex Picot Trust is extremely proud to be involved in this enormously important Liberation 75 exhibition. It aims to evoke the feelings of a generation of Islanders who, 75 years ago, experienced the true sense of the word ‘freedom’ and is a reminder to us all of the progress Islanders made after the War. We are delighted that the team at Jersey Heritage has been able to bring to life the stories of Liberation Day despite the setbacks faced earlier this year.”