Residents at a care home will be paying their own tribute to Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th birthday with the help of a West End star.
Entertainer Sheena Beckett will performing some of the best-known hits of the legendary Forces’ Sweetheart at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham on Monday, March 20.
Sheena, who’s appeared as a singer and dancer in Blood Brothers on stage in London, will be dressed in a World War II uniform and accompanied by her trumpet-playing husband Allan kitted out as a member of the Home Guard.
The idea of having a birthday party for Dame Vera came from Chris Lewis, the enrichment and activities co-ordinator at Pendine Park’s Highfield House care home.
She said: “Sheena and Allan are regular entertainers here and we always have a really great party atmosphere. At Christmas they came dressed as elves and we had a wonderful party.”
“I felt it was important to celebrate Dame Vera Lynn’s birthday. She did so much to help the war effort and really kept spirits high. Our older residents remember the contribution she made and those that are too young have certainly learnt about her.
“And of course songs like We’ll Meet Again are so popular and everyone loves joining in. We are going to have a big birthday cake too. Dame Vera might not be here but it won’t stop us celebrating her birthday with an amazing party.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Highfield House resident Lilian Moulton, 85, who said: “I used to live in Malpas and used to sing light opera. I love Vera Lynn, she’s wonderful and I know lots of her songs. It will be good to sing along. I like We’ll Meet Again, that’s my favourite.”
According to Sheena, from Wem, Shropshire Dame Vera was an iconic and wonderful entertainer.
She said: “Dame Vera lives in a care home herself these days but she is an amazing performer and has just released a new album. She kept spirits up during the terrible war years and many people claim she played a huge role in winning the war.
“Allan and I love coming to Pendine Park, it’s such a happy place. We play a lot of care homes during the week and wherever we go the staff are simply amazing but particularly so here at Highfield House and the other Pendine Park care homes.”
Sheena who comes from a family of entertainers, has appeared on the West End stage as a dancer and singer in Blood Brothers, added: “Residents just seem to love Vera Lynn songs particularly Lily Marlene, the White Cliffs of Dover and of course the song we always finish with, We’ll Meet Again.
“Everyone joins in and we have a really good sing-along. It brings back memories and residents always seem to get something from the show, even those that are way too young to remember the war years.”
Sheena added: “All I’ve ever wanted to do was be on stage. My grandfather was a professional comedian, my mum was a singer and my grandmother was a Tiller Girl so I suppose I was always going to be an entertainer too!”
“Allan and I just love these events it’s nice and the party will be intimate and a chance for everyone to have a good time.”
Allan revealed they were also in an ABBA tribute band that played gigs most weekends.
He said: “We started performing at care homes by accident really we were asked to play at one as a favour and it took off from there. Now we tour the region’s care homes throughout the week. It’s always a pleasure and residents, their families and staff seem to get a lot out of the shows.
“Dame Vera Lynn is a massive favourite among many care homes residents and her songs certainly helped keep spirits up during the Second World War. It will be a wonderful way to celebrate her 100th birthday.”
Alan who has played trumpet in a band supporting Girls Aloud at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium as well as Gareth Gates, Sugababes and Def Leopard and played at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, added: “I always enjoy seeing relatives enjoying the songs alongside residents.
“And as Sheena says, the Pendine Park staff are amazing, it’s such a lovely place to come and perform. We played at Highfield House for the Queen’s birthday event last year and had an amazing time.
“I’m sure celebrating the 100th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn will be another special event. It’s certainly a party we are looking forward too.”
Highfield manager Tracey Smith said: “I’m sure we’re all going to have a great time and the residents are really looking forward to having a sing-a-long.
“Sheena and Alan are regular visitors as part of our enrichment activities but this is going to be an extra special occasion and will bring back memories for those of our residents who lived through the Second World War.