AD-Day anniversary pop concert due to be held on Sword Beach in Normandy is to be relocated after veterans warned it was “shameful” and disrespectful” to “dance on the graves” of war heroes, the Telegraph can reveal.
The event, billed as a celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, attracted a wave of fierce opposition from British veterans and their families.
Dame Vera Lynn, 101, was even drawn into the controversy when her name appeared on a list of supporters.
The Forces’ Sweetheart asked for her name to be removed from the Liberty Concerts website, stating she had “no idea” what kind of event it was going to be when she lent it her backing.
Michiel Florusse, one of the Dutch organisers, acknowledged on Thursday that the planned location of Sword Beach was “too sensitive” and said they had adhered to the criticism expressed by British veterans.
In a statement posted online, he said: “Liberty Concerts has taken these concerns to heart and evolved their plans towards organizing the main concert on an alternative location away from the beach, while maintaining the core-goal and message of a tribute to our veterans and activating current generations with their message.”
Lorrie Coffey, who runs veterans charity Project 71 and who set up a petition against the concert that attracted 3,500 signatures, said she “could not be more delighted”.
“No one was against the idea of a concert, it was just not on that beach and not at that time,” she told The Telegraph.
“It became a very sensitive issue. Now the veterans will be able to go to the beach on the anniversary, some relatives want to scatter ashes, and it will be time time of quiet reflection that it should be.
“I would like to say thank you to Liberty Concerts for listening to us. This is something they had planned for a long time. They just should have asked what people thought before they announced it.”
More than 70,000 fans are due to attend the event, will will start with films, parachutists and stories about the Normandy landings.
Several “international top artists and DJs” are then expected to taken to the stage under the concert’s slogan “Fight for Freedom”.
Unconfirmed reports had suggested that artists such as Sting and David Guetta may be involved.
But when the organisers announced that the event would be held on Sword Beach on June 6 2019, coinciding with ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings attended by the dwindling group of elderly D-Day veterans, the reaction was overwhelming.
A petition received almost 3,500 signatures and scores of people expressed their disgust online, stating it was in “very bad taste”.
Dame Vera was said to be baffled when told that Mr Florusse had been telling campaigners that the concert had her support.
It was subsequently agreed that she would be removed from the board until he had met with the veterans, their families and opponents of the event at a hastily arranged meeting scheduled for last week.
But that meeting was cancelled after organisers realised the scale of opposition and accepted that the meeting would not achieve what they wanted to achieve.
Several D-Day veterans, the eldest of whom would be 99, are hoping to travel to Normandy for the anniversary.
Those helping to facilitate their travel warned that they would be staying “within spitting distance” of the beach and may well be disturbed by the sheer volume of people and the noise.
Oner said: “It’s the families who are upset. One said ‘my grandad fought there, died there, and now they want to have a concert with people jumping up and down there.’
“It’s wrong on every level.”
Danny Greeno, chief executive of The Veterans Charity, had said of the concert: “I’ve spoken to people who are outraged, spitting blood, at the idea of a pop concert on this beach on D-Day.
“We’re all for using music to educate people and involve the younger generation but the date and location of this are in very poor taste.
“It’s got to be respectful. Why celebrate the start of a huge battle that cost lives? They wouldn’t dream of having a celebration on Armistice Day so why do it on D-Day?”
Liberty Concerts had insisted that it would be respectful and not-for-profit, with any proceeds ploughed back to veterans charities.
In a statement posted online, they said it was intended to “inform and involve” millennials and that only artists with a “fitting message” and style would be included. They also insisted that no one died on the area of the beach where the concert will take place.
“We’re very much aware that a meaningless, non-informative dance-party wouldn’t be respectful and we absolutely aim for the contrary,” they said.