The programme of peace celebrations for the Borough of Luton was submitted by the committee responsible at Tuesday's meeting of the Town Council, and approved subject to the reservation of one or two matters for further consideration, reported The Luton News (June 5th, 1919).
One of these was the possibility of having a special children's day at some time other than one of the official peace celebration days. It was agreed that it would be impossible to attempt to entertain them to tea except on a special day apart from the other celebrations, and, while the cost of such an entertainment will be considerable, the committee are to further consider whether it is practicable on another occasion, and how the necessary funds could best be raised.
One specially interesting statement was that, in order that the commemoration medal to be presented to the children should be worthy of the occasion and not a charge on the rates, Alderman Staddon and his co-directors of Messrs Vyse, Sons & Co have decided to be responsible for the cost and to spent £250 on this matter, instead of the £150 which the committee proposed to allocate for the purpose.
The Peace Celebration Committee submitted for approval the programme they have drawn up, and in doing so pointed out that in preparing the programme they were largely influenced by the limited sum at their disposal and also by the need for national and local economy. Their recommendations were:
Church service. The Council accepted an invitation to attend, in State, a Thanksgiving Service at the Wesleyan Church, Chapel Street, in the morning of Peace Day. The clergy are unable to take part in a combined service, as they intend to hold a service at each of their churches on the day.
Decorations and illuminations. The Town Hall and the space in front to be decorated; flags to be displayed at the Corn Exchange, Public Library and Wardown House; the Electricity and Tramways Committee to be desired to arrange, at the expense of the Electricity Undertaking, for the illumination of the of the front of the Town Hall, in addition to the special electric lamp which was used at the Armistice celebration; Luton Gas Company to be invited to illuminate the exterior of the Corn Exchange at their own expense; a powerful electric lamp to be hung over the suspension bridge at Wardown.
Procession. A procession to assemble at Luton Hoo Park (Lady Wernher having kindly given permission) and proceed, about 2pm, via Park Street, George Street, Manchester Street and New Bedford Road to Wardown Park, and there disperse. Scholars to assemble at the East Ward Recreation Ground and to form up in Park Street so as to join the procession on its arrival there.
The Council to contribute £30 towards the cost of the official car 'Peace Enthroned' which, at the Committee's request, Messrs R. H. Marks, B. Deacon, S. Horn, A. Staddon, A. Strange and F. Webdale have undertaken to provide and decorate at much greater expense.
The girl scholars in the procession to wear white dresses, sashes for the girls and hat-bands for the boys to be provided by the Council, at an estimated cost of £40.
Bands. The following bands to be engaged to play in the procession, and to perform in appointed places during the afternoon and evening – Red Cross (£30), Salvation Army Temple (£20), Salvation Army No II (£20), Central Mission (£10), Comrades of the Great War (£10), total £90. The band of the Volunteer Force has been disbanded and is therefore no available.
Medals. Each scholar attending the elementary schools (approximately 9,000) to be given a commemoration medal, the design to incorporate the borough arms and the following inscription: 'Borough of Luton. Celebration of Peace on conclusion of Great War, 1914-1919. Henry Impey, Mayor.” Estimated cost £150.
Sports. Sports to be held at Wardown during the afternoon and evening; the Council to pay £50 for the provision of prizes; Luton Town Cricket Club, Luton and District Cricket League and Luton United Harriers and Cycling Club have been asked to undertake the whole of the work in connection with the sports.
Entertainments etc. Arrangements to be made for the provision at Wardown Park of concerts, entertainments and dancing; and for a gymnastic display by scholars from the Modern School if the celebration is held before the close of the school session. The gravel field to be let for fairground amusements.
Fireworks. A £100 firework display at the north-west side of Pope's Meadow. The fireworks have been ordered, and the Mayor is inviting subscriptions to defray the cost. 'Flares' to be displayed at Hart Hill, London Road, the Downs and the People's Park.
Decorations by inhabitants. The Mayor to invite inhabitants to display flags and otherwise decorate their premises, especially on the procession route.
Banquet. A subscription banquet on the day after Peace Day. The Mayor intends to invite the Council, Chief Officers and others to be his guests, the remainder of the tickets to be sold.
Choral Society. A performance by the Luton Choral Society in the Parish Church in the evening of the day following Peace Day. This is a doubtful item if the celebrations take play in August week.
Decorated cars emblematic of war industry to be an important feature of the procession, and the following firms have already promised to provide cars – Hewlett & Blondeau Ltd, Frickers Metal Co Ltd, Skefko Ball Bearing Co Ltd, Commercial Cars Ltd, Vauxhall Motors Ltd, Thermo Electric Ore Reduction Corporation Ltd, T. Balmforth & Co Ltd, G. Kent Ltd, and Hayward Tyler & Co Ltd.
Other emblematic cars are: 'Peace Enthroned,' the official car, Messrs R. H. Marks, B. Deacon, S. Horn, A. Staddon, A. Strange and F. C. Webdale undertaking to provide it for the Corporation; 'The Dominions,' which the political clubs have agreed to provide; 'The Allies' (not yet arranged); 'Reconstruction,' under which title the Master Builders' Association have been asked to arrange a car dealing with housing; 'Child Welfare,' by the Child Welfare Workers; 'Commerce and Staple Industry,' by the Chamber of Commerce; 'Allotments,' by the Allotment Holders' Federation; and a car by the Tradesmen's Association.
Included in the procession, which will be marshalled by the Chief Constable, will be the bands and detachments of the Navy (48), Army (200), Air Force (48), YMCA (two parties of eight, one wearing some distinctive dress), special constables (20), WAAC (20), WRNVR (20), land girls (20), Boy Scouts (24), St John Ambulance; at the rear 600 schoolchildren, 24 boys and 24 girls attending from the Modern School and from each of the 14 elementary schools.
THE FINANCIAL SIDE
On February 18th, the Council voted a halfpenny rate (£545) for celebration purposes, and certain other sums will be receivable. The expenditure proposed in this programme was – official car £30, sashes and hat bands for scholars £40, bands £90, medals £150, prizes for sports £50, flares £4 5s. Total £364 5s.
AN OUTSIDE SUGGESTION
The Luton and District Discharged Sailors' and Soldiers' Association, it was stated, had suggested that the celebration should be spread over two days, and that the second day's programme should be – special drumhead memorial service by combined clergy and ministers, and with massed choirs; assembly at 1.30pm on the Moor of all discharged, disabled and demobilised men and men still serving; procession and march-past to Luton Hoo; the several dormant funds held by the authorities to be utilised for the provision of a good substantial tea for the men, also entertainments; sports to be arranged and provision made for suitable after refreshments; firework display and torchlight procession.
As the funds for the local celebrations were limited, the committee regretted that they were unable to recommend the acceptance of this scheme, which would involve the expenditure of a considerable sum. For the same reason they were unable to recommend provision of a tea for the schoolchildren.
MESSRS VYSE'S GIFT
The Mayor moved that these arrangements should be approved and carried into effect on the days to be fixed by the Government for the celebration of peace. Councillor Barford seconded.
Councillor Briggs: “I notice that the Tradesmen's Association have been asked to provide a decorated car, and I should like to know whether the Co-operative Society have been approached to provide a similar car.” The Mayor: “Not that I am aware of.”
The Deputy Mayor (Councillor Dillingham) asked a question about the medal for schoolchildren. Alderman Staddon said that matter took longer to discuss than any other item in the programme.
In view of the fact that a medal was selected which was considered hardly worthy of the occasion – so much so that Alderman Arnold said at once he would rather spend £50 more and have a decent one – the matter was left over until this meeting.
Alderman Staddon said his own feeling was that a gift of this sort to the children would ill come to them as an expense out of the rates. These medals would go into the homes of thousands of people. A large proportion of the men of those homes had laid down their lives in the war.
He felt that this was a direction in which a commemorative gift should be provided gratuitously, and felt it so strongly that he consulted his co-directors of Messrs Vyse, Son & Co [hat manufacturers] on Monday morning. Very readily, and without a moment's hesitation, they had greed to provide the medals for all the children, and to contribute £100 more than was estimated would be required by the committee, making it £200 or thereabouts (applause).
He thought they were all anxious that if a medal was given it should be one which the children would be tempted to retain, and not discard and forget in a month or two. Therefore he would be very pleased on behalf of his directors to offer them to the Council, and he hoped on Thursday to procure something that would be appreciated by the children.
The Mayor said he thought the Council ought to accept this offer with very great thanks. The sub-committee dealing with the matter had selected the medal which best fitted the amount of money they expected to be able to spend, although they felt a better medal should be given, and there was no doubt the Council would have taken this latter course if no other provision had been made.
The Mayor moved that Messrs Vyse's offer should be accepted, and that the thanks of the Council should be tendered to them for this gift. Councillor Barford seconded, and said Messrs Vyse, through Alderman Staddon, had helped the committee out of a considerable difficulty.
The question of financing had been facing the committee constantly in preparing a suitable programme, and the generous offer which had been made for the greatest item of expenditure was one the Council would appreciate to the full. The motion was approved.
The Deputy Mayor then said he would move an amendment to the report, making the inscription on the medal: “Presented to the schoolchildren by Messrs Vyse, Sons & Co Ltd, of Luton and London.”
Alderman Staddon: “With the greatest respect and appreciation for Councillor Dillingham, we are not out for advertisement in this matter, and the only thing I suggest for the medal is the borough arms on one side, and what is suggested in the report for the other. It is purely a local matter, and not one to which we could in any way have our name attached.”
THE CHILDREN'S TEA
Councillor Hawkes was disappointed that the committee could not see their way to provide a tea for the children, and thought that now Alderman Staddon had made such a generous offer on behalf of his firm the Corporation should consider the possibility of a tea to mark an occasion which was never likely to occur again.
The Mayor: “I understand a tea would cost about £700. There are 9,000 or 10,000 children to provide for.”
Alderman Staddon said the children and the discharged sailors and soldiers were the two sections of the public which should have first consideration. The expenses of entertaining then had been carefully considered, and would amount to a very big sum, but if Luton Hoo Park could be secured on some other day near the Peace Celebrations for an entertainment for the children and the distribution of the medals, he felt sure the money would b forthcoming voluntarily, and without going on the rates at all.
It could not be done during the actual celebrations, because these celebrations would be going on everywhere, and it would be impossible to get caterers or entertainers from outside. They would have to rely purely on the capacity of local services to meet their requirements, and therefore could not undertake such an effort during the three peace days.
Alderman Arnold pointed out that the celebration was likely to take place during the school holidays, when the teachers would be away, and if catering was possible it would still be practically impossible to have such an entertainment at that time. He agreed, however, the committee should consider the possibility of having a separate entertainment for the children on some other day.
The Mayor, in putting the report, said some of them had recollections of a previous tea, and the great disappointment that was caused to hundreds of children in the huge gathering on that occasion. Now the gathering would be very much bigger still, and catering for 9,000 children would be a very big task. Perhaps in divided gatherings and with public subscriptions it might be possible later.
The report was adopted, subject to the reservation that the committee should further consider the question of a tea for the children, and to the omission of the provision of a sum for medals, and the substitution of a record that these were to be given by Messrs Vyse.
Alderman Oakley moved that Alderman Staddon should be thanked for his initiative in arranging this. Councillor Warren seconded, and it was agreed to.