11th Dec, 2016

War evacuee joins residents at poignant musical tea party

Solihull Editorial 17th Nov, 2015 Updated: 21st Oct, 2016

AN EVACUEE from World War II joined senior citizens and Solihull students at a musical tea party to commemorate Remembrance Day.

81-year-old Beryl Keating, who stayed with her grandmother in Tewkesbury for six months during 1940, serenaded over tea and cake by west end performer and producer Adam Hepkin at Grace Academy Solihull.

Mr Hepkin brought back memories of the war with a repertoire of poignant songs from the 1940s including ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘I’ll Walk Beside You’.

Sharing her experiences of the war with students, Beryl Keating said: “During the war, songs were all that used to keep us going.

“We used to go down to the shelters every night and be there from 4.30pm until 6.30am the next morning.

“If I hear the sirens now on television it still shakes us and when we came out of the shelters there was no gas or water.

“I remember Cadbury’s used to send us hot chocolate to the school two or three times a week.

“At the end of the war, my father didn’t come home for two years because he had to clear all the mines around our shores that we had put down to protect us.

“We must remember the people who put their lives on the line for us – wouldn’t it be lovely if everything was peaceful.”

Grace Academy student, Katerina Bellou, said: “I loved doing this event because it was lovely to hear stories from these people who have had lives that were so different from mine.”

Speaking about the power of music to evoke memories, Adam Hepkin said: “Music and song is one of the most powerful tools we have for creating and referring back to memories.

“Many of our guests may have danced to, or sung, the songs we performed during the war.

“My work for Grace Academy involves lots of music and the performing arts – it’s great to be returning to my roots as a performer.”

History teacher Kirsty Barlow said that the tea party was about bringing remembrance home to the students.

She added: “Students often don’t realise just how much history there is in the local area.”

Grace Academy’s bugler, associate assistant principal, Marcus Davies-Friend, played the ‘The Last Post’ earlier in the day before eight hundred students observed a two-minute silence to remember those who sacrificed their lives.