A fitting tribute to Woking’s Suffrage and World War Heritage

9 July 2018

Woking came together in the glorious sunshine at Woking Park on Saturday (7 July), to help commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One as well as the momentous victory won by women to achieve the vote for the first time.

The free cultural festival, one of the largest of its kind in Surrey, had a parade of great entertainment ranging from live music and dance to street theatre, craft workshops and sports. The event was reminiscent of a Peace Celebration party that took place in the same park in the summer following the end of World War One, almost 100 years ago.

Past local resident, composer and active suffragette, Dame Ethel Smyth, was remembered alongside Major Richard Willis VC, in the grand opening parade at 12noon. Gordon’s School Pipes and Drums led the parade which was introduced by the Military Wives Choir, Windsor and compered by Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon. As the procession ended, Joey the War Horse from the acclaimed National Theatre stage show, emerged in a spine-tingling finish.

Elsewhere, families and groups of friends from Woking and beyond ate, drank and enjoyed the festive atmosphere throughout the day. Farm animals enjoyed being fed and petted in the shade. Humans too took shelter from the afternoon sun under trees whilst the bands played and the choirs sang around them.

As the evening drew in, crowds settled down to watch iconic film Mary Poppins in the open air cinema. The song ‘Sister Suffragette’, sung by the character Mrs Banks, was more poignant after a full day of commemorative activity.

In honour of the centenary celebrations, a pop-up museum village had been created, with local history societies displaying information about Woking and Surrey through time: from Common Wealth War Graves Commission to the Basingstoke Canal Society and Surrey History Centre. Cllr Will Forster, Mayor of Woking, attended the event and met many of the stallholders. He said: “It was hugely enjoyable to stroll around the park in the sunshine and meet the exhibitors that helped to make the party such a great success. There are so many dedicated and enthusiastic local historians keeping Woking’s past alive and it was a privilege to talk about their passions with them.

“The best thing about the whole day is the great sense of community that you feel. Woking should be proud of this fantastic event, everyone has a very special day to look forward each year and what’s more, it is totally free to enter!”

Cllr Colin Kemp, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Cultural and Community Development, said: “Yet again what a wonderful event! Woking really knows how to throw a party, and embraced diversity to bring us a truly multi-cultural festival.

“Party in the Park gets better every year and thanks go to event organisers from the Celebrate Woking team for all of their hard work in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.

“This year’s legacy of World War One and Votes for Women is not just important to Woking but nationally and globally too – and I think during this day of celebration we paid a fitting tribute to the men and women who fought for peace and equality 100 years ago. Thanks to soldiers from OC Sword Company in Pirbright for representing the armed forces on this special day and all of the volunteers who gave their time to make the event such a big success.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors Woking Shopping, Freedom Leisure, Eagle Radio, New Victoria Theatre and Arts Council England and partners, Dance Woking and Woking News & Mail. Without them we would simply not be able to put on such a fantastic event.”

To check out the photo gallery of the day visit the gallery.