Sunday, 24 April 2016

A day out with Mum - Colwyn Bay 1940s festival

Last weekend Mum and I headed out along the North Wales coast to go to the Colwyn Bay 1940s Festival, now in its fifth year.

Several government ministries moved out of London during World War II, and the Ministry of Food relocated to Colwyn Bay. It was safe from bombing raids, its popularity as a holiday resort before the war meant that there was plenty of accommodation, and its position on the Irish Mail railway route made it easy to get to and from London.

Ministry of Food poster, © IWM

There were displays of military vehicles. . .

. . . and reenactors.

German soldiers assisting a British bobby with inquiries

My late father-in-law was a dispatch rider in the Western Desert, and after the war worked at the Triumph motorcycle factory in Meriden, so this was of particular interest to me.

Triumph motorbikes

Apart from the fact that it was standing on the pavement (it should have been partially underground, with the dug-out earth over the top) Mum reckoned that this Anderson shelter was spot-on.

ARP warden and Anderson shelter

Mum had relatives who lived in the area in the 1940s, and she remembers going to see The Squadronaires (the RAF band) at Colwyn Bay cinema during the war.

Now a pub, but still a wonderful building

Entertainment at the festival was provided by several musical acts, including the Colwyn Bay Ukulele Group, and the Goodnight Sweethearts.

The Colwyn Bay Ukulele Group performing on the stage

The Goodnight Sweethearts performing in the town

There was also an indoor display about various aspects of life during the war, including information about the Bevin Boys; the men conscripted to work in the mines, who so often seem to get overlooked in WWII history.

Image courtesy of the Daily Post

Of more interest to Mum and me however (yes, just call us shallow!) was the display of wartime wedding dresses, some displayed with wedding photographs. Apologies for the poor quality of the images which follow; it was impossible to get photographs without reflections.

Satin and lace wedding dress

Photographs from the wedding

Close-up of the bodice

Lace wedding dress

On the subject of clothes; I had hoped to wear my 1944 coat, but it was nowhere close to being completed. (On the plus side, not only have I managed to cut it out with all the pieces lying in the same direction, I even had 30cm / 12" fabric to spare. I could have followed Mum's rule of buying ¼ yard less fabric than stated on the pattern!) Being coatless, I decided not to dress up properly, but I did wear my CC41 dress and earrings. A number of people did make the effort though, including a lovely lady called Carmel, whose stunning 40s outfit and hair quite made my mum's day.

Carmel with 'Winston Churchill'

Out shopping (apologies for the traffic cones)

Fair Isle knitting was the perfect way to use up wool scraps

The world definitely needs more gents in hats!

It was a fun day, and (apart from the air raid siren, which even now she still hates) Mum really enjoyed being taken back in time. Thank you to all the people who put so much work into making the festival happen.


  1. Fascinating post, thank you! I'm surprised at the wedding dresses - perhaps they were made from another pre-war dress or from hoarded glory-box fabric, as I would have thought silk would be in very short supply. In New Zealand most wartime brides wore suits or other utility clothes.

    1. Thanks Lyndle! One of the other wedding dresses in the display, which I wasn't able to photograph, was made from parachute silk - it was very fine, and draped beautifully.

      I think that as you say these dresses must have been made from pre-war dresses. Mum remembers making blouses from old 1920s dresses of her mum's. Because there wasn't a lot of shaping in the dresses, she could get quite large pieces of fabric from them.

  2. Your comments about our wedding display are much appreciated. If all goes well we will be back next year with a bigger and better display with more dresses. Marie and Pete. Xx

    1. Ooh I do hope so Marie, I look forward to seeing it. Hopefully next year I'll be able to dress up properly, as well.

  3. Hi! Found your pics on google images - Im putting together a video to promote this years event, do you have any I could use in the video by any chance? Happy to credit back to your site :)

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Jay, The two photographs of Carmel are not mine, but you're welcome to use any of the others. Let me know your email address if you would like the original images.

      Really disappointed that I won't be able to make it to the festival this year, as I'll be in York for the Festival of Vintage.