With an era-inspired pin curl in my hair, bright red lips and a naval uniform style dress; I headed to Library Gardens in Whitchurch, Cardiff to the Vintage for Victory weekend festival ready for a trip down memory lane.
The throwback event is in its third year and celebrates all that is great from the 40’s to 60’s. Plus 10% of all ticket sales are donated to Cancer Research Wales – one of the leading cancer charities in the country and who are based at Velindre Hospital behind the gardens.
I know Whitchurch well as I attended Whitchurch High School and lived within walking distance of the gardens until four years ago. On my drive in it was fantastic to see that the village had been decorated to reflect the theme, with the local shops and the central roundabout sporting brightly coloured bunting, inspiring the glamour and nostalgia of the era. As well as a legion of dandies, greasers, and a sea of petticoats and big hair of course.
Whitchurch is easy to get to with bus routes from the city centre and from the nearby districts and south Wales valleys. The nearest train station is Coryton, a ten-minute walk from the gardens, however, these do not run on Sunday. There is also plenty of parking at no additional cost in Velindre Hospital a five-minute walk away.
Guests arriving embraced the theme by wearing the timeless style. Think flat caps and braces or military uniforms for the chaps, and poodle dresses or pencil skirts for the ladies. For those who did not dress the part, there was plenty of opportunity to. In one section of the festival field, a vintage emporium sold memorabilia clothing and shoes – there were even stalls where you could get your hair and make-up done.
The air hummed with sounds of the time. Live music pumped out of the two entertainment tents. Soulful sounds of the war era and rock n roll classics you could dance along too. All helping you to drift back in time with ease.
I especially enjoyed Elle and the Pocket Belles whose sound was perfectly in keeping with the theme. As well as the wartime classics they performed mash-ups of later generations and their own material. Their high energy encouraged some to get up and dance and the not so brave to tap their feet from the edge of the dance floor.
As well as musical performances, throughout the day there were opportunities to learn to jive, swing or lindy hop. All of the instructors taught basic steps to practise with your partner before getting you to swap and introduce yourself to the other participants – creating an old school community vibe. This was not the only entertainment; performances from cheerleaders and other entertainers were regular. As well as a host of characters walking around having photographs with attendees.
Children were easily entertained. Whitchurch Tennis Club set up a mini court on the lawn to encourage all ages to have a go. Plus a section of the festival field was dedicated to nostalgic fairground rides and carnival stalls including the Hall of Mirrors, Coconut Shy and tandem swings. It was fantastic to see children playing with toys from the past too, and not with the gadgets we are now so used to seeing in their hands. I spied a little boy playing with a spinning top with such obvious glee on his face and his laughter ringing around the vicinity.
After all of the singing and dancing, there were lots of vendors ready to help you refuel. Hotdogs from local award-winning butcher Martin Player, handmade burgers, street food and crepes. With the weather in the high twenties, refreshments were essential. Water was readily available or a tipple or two, of course. Pint of Pimms anyone?
The centrepiece of the event were two enormous planes, full-sized replicas of a Spitfire and Hurricane. An RAF crew were nearby who could tell you all about the Battle of Britain, the people of the time and of course the planes. Other vehicles included vintage cars and bikes from the 40’s, 50’s and the 60’s.
My biggest highlight was the RAF Dakota fly by. The plane’s engine could be heard roaring over the crowd and music. My grandfather was in the RAF based in Tremorfa during this time period, and he would have been thrilled to see the display. The plane became one of the world’s most famous military transport aircrafts, so it was impressive to see it soaring across the sky.
Leaving the event felt like walking through a time warp. After an afternoon in the past, it took some time for my eyes to adjust to people walking by in modern clothes. Even getting in the car and hearing current popular music on the radio felt odd to my ears. Ultimately the event is a brilliant day out for all age groups. I wonder if I’ll be taking my grandchildren to a 90’s festival in fifty years’ time…?
This blog was written for Visit Cardiff Lifestyle Bloggers Network, which is made up of local writers who submit content for an international audience. The writers cover a wide range of subjects to give visitors and locals a useful insight to the capital city of Wales.