PUBS across East Lancashire and the rest of the UK will be ringing their bells and raising glasses at 3pm on Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Despite having been closed since the beginning of the lockdown in March, landlords and landladies hope that they can still celebrate the occasion with a nationwide toast.

This year will mark the first VE Day in history that has seen pubs across the UK shut - previously even the Second World War itself had failed to force them to close.

Becky Prince, landlady of Belthorn’s Grey Mare Inn, said: “It’s disappointing, obviously there were unforeseen circumstances, but we have to pull together and that’s what VE Day is all about really.”

The Grey Mare had spent over a year planning for the occasion, intending to hold a celebration complete with 1940s style food, beer and music before the coronavirus crisis intervened.

However, Becky, landlord Steve and their 18-year-old son Jack remained determined to do something to mark the occasion and will be joining in the national bellringing on Friday.

Becky said: “Speaking to a lot of people, they’re all trying to do something.”

She added: “It’s a time of community togetherness and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Many landlords and landladies are hoping that these celebrations will also help to demonstrate the vital roll that pubs play in the lives of communities across the country.

Becky said: “Pubs are the hub of the community and it’s a big thing to keep in touch with customer and keep them up to date with what we’re doing.”

In anticipation of an eventual return to normality, she added: “We’ve been keeping the pub very pristine, it’s like a brand new pub and we’re just waiting for when we can re-open.”

The British Beer & Pub Association is expecting that the Grey Mare will be one of 20,000 pubs nationwide to join in with the celebrations and is also hoping that people across the country will join in with raising a glass on VE Day from their homes.

BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin said: “This is one of the most challenging times the pub and beer industry has faced and the effects of the lockdown will be particularly stark on VE Day when so many pubs had planned patriotic celebrations for their communities.

“It’s vital we come together and continue to find ways to keep that community spirit strong until pubs are in a position to safely re-open.”