A day to celebrate freedom and who we are

THE future of 9 May as Jersey’s national day lies in it being an inclusive celebration of a diverse Island as it is today, the Bailiff has said on the 76th anniversary of Liberation.

The Bailiff Timothy Le Cocq. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30802014)
The Bailiff Timothy Le Cocq. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30802014)

Timothy Le Cocq said Liberation Day must remain ‘relevant’ to Islanders of all age groups, adding that he hoped next year’s event would act as a ‘postponed’ version of the 75th anniversary events due to be held last year.

‘It is a day about who we are, how we see ourselves and what it means to be us,’ he said.

The Bailiff, who will make his second recorded Liberation Day speech because of Covid-19 restrictions, described the day as an opportunity ‘to look back in order to better look forward’.

While the formal side of remembering 9 May 1945 would continue to be important – what he described as the ‘raison d’être’ of Liberation Day – he said it was now vital to ensure the message of Liberation Day applied to all Islanders living in Jersey today.

The Bailiff said: ‘I would like to focus on the way that Liberation Day can be carried forward as relevant to all of the people of Jersey – those who have multi-generation connections with the Island, those who have come to Jersey to work for a better life and those who have come to Jersey recently.

‘Anyone who holds the Island in their heart as their home and feels towards it the affection and loyalty one feels for a homeland, they are Jersey people, and I would like Liberation Day to be relevant to all of them, not only in terms of the demographic but also in terms of the age range as well.’

The Bailiff was speaking ahead of his second Liberation Day address, both of which have been affected by the restriction on large gatherings that means that he has again had to pre-record his Liberation Day message which will be released online tomorrow.

Last year, the Bailiff spoke from a window in the Royal Court building to a deserted Royal Square below, a powerful reminder of the impact of lockdown on what should have been a large-scale celebration of the 75th anniversary of Liberation. This year he will speak from an open-air Island location which relates to the story of Liberation.

Mr Le Cocq said that while restrictions still prevented a traditional celebration in Liberation Square, he wanted to begin to look forward to consider how the Island might develop Jersey’s ‘national day’.

‘It is a day about who we are, how we see ourselves and what it means to be us. It’s founded on that enormous event which was the Liberation but it has to move on to give us the opportunity to think about what we want to do going forward,’ the Bailiff said.

In the short-term that will involve a funding application this year for resources to celebrate Liberation 77 next year. While Mr Le Cocq acknowledged that uncertainty over the spread of the virus meant plans for 2022’s Liberation 77 could not be predicted, he hoped to be able to mark Liberation Day on a much larger scale.

He said: ‘It was enormously disappointing not to be able to put on the Liberation 75 celebration, but the people of Jersey really stepped up and we did all of the things we could. I think people understand that the restrictions placed on us for Covid are not a matter of a quick or easy fix and, therefore, I hope people accept the limitations on Liberation this year. But I certainly want Liberation 77 if it is at all possible – and everyone knows that is not within any human being’s gift – to be a celebration of the nature planned for the Liberation 75 with lots of different events throughout the year and a very significant 9 May.’

Mr Le Cocq added that next year’s celebration could be regarded as ‘Liberation 75 postponed’ but that it could also mark a liberation from the restrictions that had curtailed celebrations in 2020 and this year.

But in the meantime, Mr Le Cocq said he hoped Islanders would fly flags and bunting to celebrate the Island’s Liberation in the best way they could.

He said: ‘It is very important to remember the experiences of Occupation and the lessons and experiences of Liberation. Freedom and liberty are incredibly important things in the modern world as much as they were during the restrictions of the Second World War.

‘It is a perennial message but there are other messages which are linked. The horror of the Second World War was that whole segments of humanity were excluded, seen as inferior and killed as a consequence.

‘We look back in order better to look forward. We are into a transitional number of years. I would like to see the national day celebrated with fervour by people of all the backgrounds that make up our plural society today.’

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