A £3million fundraising appeal has been launched today to pay for a lasting memorial to Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs of Dover.
Started this morning, the first anniversary of the forces sweetheart’s death, it includes the release of Irreplaceable, a specially penned song to attract donations and hopefully reach number one in the download charts.
The drive to get a statue on the iconic landmark has been bubbling away since she died aged 103.
She became synonymous with the structure in 1942 with her wartime song (There’ll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover.
It was a message of hope to the nation and the troops who left to fight on the continent and who hoped to see the cliffs when returning home after the war.
With the backing of politicians Sir David Amess and Natalie Elphicke, and celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney and Catherine Jenkins, it is accepted that Dover is the rightful place for the bronze memorial, which is to be created by sculptor Paul Days who was known to the singer.
And in April her daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones picked the “prime location”at the Western Heights from a number of potential sites.
Today, at the launch at Dover’s historic Maison Dieu, she said: “I think the planned site is absolutely amazing.
“Its a natural amphitheatre, it’s just above the harbour so anybody coming in will be able to see it.”
The amphitheatre is to be readied by landowners Dover District Council which today placed a separate plea for funding to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
It will be called Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Park and will include a performance bowl for open air concerts to keep her singing legacy alive.
But council leader Cllr Trevor Bartlett was not able to disclose how much developing the amphitheatre will cost or how much the authority has bid for. Or where it will get the money if its bid is turned down.
But the focus of the day is the launch of the statue fund, which has its own website dameveralynnmemorialstatue.co.uk.
The first donation to the fund was £10,000 from record label Decca, to which Dame Vera has been linked for 80 years of its 90 year history.
The campaign is managed by a committee including the star’s daughter, son-in-law, MPs Sir David Amess and Natalie Elphicke, Cllr Bartlett.
With all the wartime glamour expected of the occasion, Irreplaceable was sung by Katie Ashby, founding member of the D Day Darlings, with piano accompaniment by Dominic Ferris at the launch.
It was the idea of Dame Vera’s friend and PA Susan Fleet who told Kentonline that every penny from the downloads will go to the statue fund.
She explained how it was written by singer and musician Vicky Lee in New Zealand, who regularly performs Dame Vera’s songs across both islands.
Ms Fleet said: “Vicky had met Vera many times and we had become very friends and when she mentioned the song Irreplaceable to me I listened to the lyrics and thought they would be perfect for the launch of this campaign.
“So I put Vicky in touch with Dominic and Katie and put them all together and the song is the result of that.”
After performing the song, Ms Ashby and Mr Ferris gave a rendition of (There’ll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover and Dame Vera’s most popular song We’ll meet again to flag waving by the committee.
Ms Ashby said: “It’s been an emotionally proud time to be involved in this entire campaign. To be invited by the family has been an absolute honour and releasing this song, especially written by one of Dame Vera’s friends in New Zealand which united the whole world, is am amazing moment and we really hope it raises as much money as possible to go towards this magnificent statue. Dame Vera Lynn belongs on the White Cliffs of Dover and she can inspire lots of people, families all over the world can come and visit her.”
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: “A number of locations have been considered. When we visited the Western Heights and thought about the Amphitheatre and the performing arts bowl, it felt like it was exactly the right thing to celebrate Dame Vera’s life but to also have that open air venue where we can have concerts and picnics and really bring it to life.
“I think Dame Vera Lynn is irreplaceable and the song absolutely captures that. It is absolutely right that she is an inspiration and she continues to be an inspiration and that’s what we’re hoping – to bring things forward with the vision of the performance bowl and the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Park.”
It comes as two areas of the cliffs were re-named after the singer yesterday, ahead of the anniversary of her death.
From now on visitors can ascend the cliffs from the seafront via Dame Vera Lynn Way which connects the town to the National Trust site atop the cliffs.
And the National Trust has re-named a meadow Dame Vera Lynn Down as a thank you for her help in securing the land in trust for the people of Britain in 2017.
Last night, the South Foreland Lighthouse was switched on in a ceremony by the singer’s daughter. This is just the third time this has been done in 33 years.
The last being for the Centenary of the First World Way, and before that it was for the carrying of the Olympic Flame in 2012.
You can donate to the fund or download Irreplaceable from the website dameveralynnmemorialstatue.co.uk/
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