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How remembrance day united a fragmented community

PUBLISHED: 08:25 12 November 2018

Colchester Garrison marks Remembrance Sunday  Picture: CPL JAMIE HART/MOD

Colchester Garrison marks Remembrance Sunday Picture: CPL JAMIE HART/MOD

MoD Crown Copyright

Spending Remembrance Sunday with the crowds in Colchester was poignant for me, not only because of what it was – a remembrance of the fallen – but also because it was so moving to be united in shared sentiment with members of my town’s community.

As I stood holding my daughter’s hand, singing Jerusalem with the crowd of thousands lining the High Street, I shared the hymn sheet with a man who told me later how his grandfather had lied about his age to be given the chance to fight in France.

During the minute’s silence, tears welled up in the eyes of the soldier tasked with watching the crowds in front of where we stood.

Up until that point, the first and second world wars had probably seemed like abstract concepts to my children. I think probably for the first time this Armistice Day, they really got it.

This year’s 100-year armistice day commemorations were remarkable to me in the way that they drew my community together in a way that is these days all too rare.

In times gone by, we had religious festival days and May Day parades as excuses to congregate together with our fellow townsmen and women in shared celebration. These days, without these occasions, town communities like Colchester’s can feel all too often fragmented.

I have to admit that although I have lived in Colchester for most of my adult life, I have an uneasy relationship with the town.

On the one hand, there’s the Saturday night brawls, the increasing number of boarded up stores, the urban sprawl engulfed with mono-culture retail parks, and the simmering resentment by some locals with the town’s immigrant population. But on the other hand, there’s a lot that Colchester has to be proud of - its Roman legacy, its beautiful town centre park and castle, its thriving arts scene and proud military history.

Standing in solace with thousands of fellow residents in front of the entrance to Castle Park – which is the heart and soul of Colchester town in many ways – felt particularly poignant.

As the fate of some retail chains hangs in the balance and community leaders mull over what is to be done with our town centres in the future, I think the challenge lies in creating more community events like this year’s Armistice Day, when we can use our town centres as spaces to flock together, to celebrate each other’s achievements, and to find comfort in shared experience.

I realised yesterday as we Colchester townsfolk all shared our minute’s silence together that I felt proud on this special day not only to be British, but also to be a member of the Colchester community.

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