National Memorial Arboretum 2020 events at a glance

Published on: Mon, 16/12/2019 - 08:59

Building upon another hugely successful year, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has announced a packed programme for 2020. The 150-acre woodland site celebrated its best set of annual results in 2019, headlined by record visitor numbers. Over 340,000 people visited the Arboretum, a 16% increase on the previous year and a five-fold increase compared to 12 years ago when the Armed Forces Memorial was dedicated in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.

Footfall has been boosted since the opening of the Arboretum’s Remembrance Centre and Aspects, a dedicated conference and events building, representing combined investment of more than £23.8 million. The Arboretum welcomed thousands of people determined to pay their respects at landmark events for significant anniversaries, including D-Day 75, Monte Cassino 75 and Operation Banner 50.

The Arboretum is set to build on its recent successes, with an exciting and engaging programme of events and activities for 2020 as it looks toward the 75th anniversary of VE and VJ day, where the eyes of the nation will be focused on the Arboretum as it helps to remember these key events in world history.

9 February – Paws for Remembrance: A special fundraising event especially for four-legged visitors. A Happy Hounds High Street, full of gifts for furry friends, will be available as will FREE health checks and advice from the PDSA. All funds raised will support the work of the Arboretum. 

7 April, 9 April, 15 April, 16 April – ‘Bring The Noise’ Free Music and Singing Workshops for 5 to 10 years old: Young visitors are invited to join us for one of four very special workshops to learn basic music techniques and two songs in a fun, environment. All children who participate will be given the opportunity to perform in a special National Memorial Arboretum Children’s Choir and perform at our VE Day commemoration events on 8 May.

8 May - VE Day 75: The Arboretum will host a special service of Remembrance 75 years since peace was declared in Europe. The event, free to all, will begin a three-day programme of activity to remember those from across the Commonwealth who served, and will celebrate both the contribution made at home and away on the front line. The event will also remember the ongoing events in the Far East where fighting continued until August 1945.

9-10 May – Forming an element of the events to commemorate VE Day 75, a vintage fair will spark memories of yesteryear and will provide the perfect treat for lovers of vintage finds. Live music will feature along with activities for families.

27 - 28 June – Armed Forces Weekend: A packed programme of fun family activities alongside musical entertainment, and a food and gift fair. Over the weekend visitors can learn about the work of the Armed Forces and discover the rich and varied stories of Armed Forces personnel and their families. This event is part of the national celebration of the work of HM Armed Forces.

1 August – Summer Proms: The Summer Proms returns with uplifting live musical performances set to the backdrop of the Arboretum at dusk. Previous military bands have included; The Band of the King’s Division (2017), The Band of The Royal Anglian Regiment (2018) and The Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2019).This year’s band will be announced in spring 2020. The event will conclude with a fireworks finale.

15 August – VJ Day: The UK’s National VJ Day event will take place at the National Memorial Arboretum.  The Royal British Legion is to provide a 3 day fully funded transport and hotel programme for all World War II veterans and war widows. Descendants of veterans are also welcome to join on a self-funding basis.

19 - 20 September – Autumn Festival: A celebration of autumn produce, artisan foods and woodland crafts and activities. This free to enter event is the perfect start to the autumn season.

3 October – Ride to the Wall: The largest event in the Arboretum’s calendar, this event sees over 10,000 people assemble from the biking community.

8 November – Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade: The annual service and parade will be held at the base of the Armed Forces Memorial where visitors will remember those who came home from war 75 years ago and those who have served since.

11 November – Armistice Day Outdoor Service: Visitors who wish to attend the service on the Armed Forces Memorial will need to obtain individual tickets via the application process. The service will be relayed on a large screen in Heroes’ Square.

 28 – 29 November - Festive Food and Gift Fair: Situated in the Aspects building with panoramic views across the Arboretum, this festive food and gift fair provides the perfect retail treat. Visitors can enjoy browsing artisan gifts and local produce for gifts.

9 - 18 December – Illuminated Arboretum: A stunning and awe-inspiring immersive experience, this event will see the Arboretum and some of its memorials ‘shown in another light’. The beautiful lighting will wash the memorials with colour and create artistic vistas across the gardens and interactive displays.  (Journalists wanting to visit the 2019 displays can do so by contacting

19 December – Carols by Candlelight: Now a flagship annual event, this festive favourite invites people of all ages to enjoy traditional carols among the flickering light of candles and illuminated trees. 

Art installations and exhibitions play an important role at the Arboretum, providing alternative ways for visitors to engage with Remembrance concepts, and exploring personal stories of service and sacrifice. Major exhibitions in 2020 include:

6 December – 29 March – The Arborealists: Be inspired by paintings, drawings and illustrations by The Arborealists, an international group of artists joined by a shared love of trees.

 3 April – 12 July – Tea for II: Ceramic design students at University of Arts London: Central Saint Martins will produce new work inspired by VE-Day and VJ-Day. 

 17 July – 22 November – The Royal British Legion’s Coming Home: An exhibition produced in collaboration with the Legion, remembering those who have served and sacrificed for our country.

 27 November – April 2021 – Matisse: Drawing with Scissors: Lithographic prints of Matisse’s famous cut-outs, featuring many iconic images produced by one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. 

 The Arboretum’s broad range of daily activities will continue to run throughout the year, offering visitors the opportunity to experience the land train, buggy tours, guided walks and talks. The site remains the only place in the country that observes a two-minute silence on a daily basis; the Daily Act of Remembrance takes place at 11am in the Millennium Chapel featuring a two-minute silence, followed by an introductory talk about the Arboretum.

Sarah Oakden, Head of Marketing at the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “We have an exciting and engaging programme of events and activities for 2020 as we look toward to the 75th anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day. These important anniversaries remind us of the service and sacrifice of the WWII generation and provide us with the opportunity to say thank you and to remember those who never returned from the fields of battle.

“We look forward to welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site over the coming year, whether they join us to participate in remembrance, enjoy an exhibition, celebrate lives lived through our art installations, or simply to enjoy the maturing landscape.”