Festival of Britain

Last updated

The Festival of Britain emblem - the Festival Star - designed by Abram Games, from the cover of the South Bank Exhibition Guide, 1951 Festival of Britain.JPG
The Festival of Britain emblem – the Festival Star – designed by Abram Games, from the cover of the South Bank Exhibition Guide, 1951

The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition and fair that reached millions of visitors throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951. Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" during which people:

Contents

flocked to the South Bank site, to wander around the Dome of Discovery, gaze at the Skylon, and generally enjoy a festival of national celebration. Up and down the land, lesser festivals enlisted much civic and voluntary enthusiasm. A people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, showed that it had not lost the capacity for enjoying itself....Above all, the Festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists. [1]

Labour cabinet member Herbert Morrison was the prime mover; in 1947 he started with the original plan to celebrate the centennial of the Great Exhibition of 1851. [2] However, it was not to be another World Fair, for international themes were absent, as was the British Commonwealth. Instead the 1951 festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12 million. The Labour government was losing support and so the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation, [3] as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.

The Festival's centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames. There were events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (the Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington (Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power). Festival celebrations took place in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham, Oxford, Norwich, Canterbury and elsewhere, [4] and there were touring exhibitions by land and sea.

The Festival became a "beacon for change" that proved immensely popular with thousands of elite visitors and millions of popular ones. It helped reshape British arts, crafts, designs and sports for a generation. [5] Journalist Harry Hopkins highlights the widespread impact of the "Festival style". They called it "Contemporary". It was:

clean, bright and new.... It caught hold quickly and spread first across London and then across England....In an island hitherto largely given up to gravy browns and dull greens, "Contemporary" boldly espoused strong primary colors. [6]

Conception and organisation

A view of the South Bank Exhibition from the north bank of the Thames, showing the 300-foot (91 m) tall Skylon and the Dome of Discovery 1951 South Bank Exhibition.jpg
A view of the South Bank Exhibition from the north bank of the Thames, showing the 300-foot (91 m) tall Skylon and the Dome of Discovery

The first idea for an exhibition in 1951 came from the Royal Society of Arts in 1943, which considered that an international exhibition should be held to commemorate the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition. [7] In 1945, the government appointed a committee under Lord Ramsden to consider how exhibitions and fairs could promote exports. [7] When the committee reported a year later, it was decided not to continue with the idea of an international exhibition because of its cost at a time when reconstruction was a high priority. [7] Herbert Morrison took charge for the Labour government and decided instead to hold a series of displays about the arts, architecture, science, technology and industrial design, [8] under the title "Festival of Britain 1951". [9] Morrison insisted there be no politics, explicit or implicit. As a result, Labour-sponsored programs such as nationalisation, universal health care and working-class housing were excluded; instead, what was allowed was town planning, scientific progress, and all sorts of traditional and modern arts and crafts. [10]

Much of London lay in ruins, and models of redevelopment were needed. The Festival was an attempt to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress and to promote better-quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities. [11] The Festival of Britain described itself as "one united act of national reassessment, and one corporate reaffirmation of faith in the nation's future." [8] Gerald Barry, the Festival Director, described it as "a tonic to the nation". [11]

A Festival Council to advise the government was set up under General Lord Ismay. [8] Responsibility for organisation devolved upon the Lord President of the Council, Herbert Morrison, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, who had been London County Council leader. He appointed a Great Exhibition Centenary Committee, consisting of civil servants, who were to define the framework of the Festival and to liaise between government departments and the festival organisation. In March 1948, a Festival Headquarters was set up, which was to be the nucleus of the Festival of Britain Office, a government department with its own budget. [9] Festival projects in Northern Ireland were undertaken by the government of Northern Ireland. [12]

Associated with the Festival of Britain Office were the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Council of Industrial Design, the British Film Institute and the National Book League. [8] In addition, a Council for Architecture and a Council for Science and Technology were specially created to advise the Festival Organisation and a Committee of Christian Churches was set up to advise on religion. [8] Government grants were made to the Arts Council, the Council of Industrial Design, the British Film Institute and the National Museum of Wales for work undertaken as part of the Festival. [9]

Gerald Barry had operational charge. A long-time editor with left-leaning, middle-brow views, he was energetic and optimistic, with an eye for what would be popular, and a knack on how to motivate others. Unlike Morrison, Barry was not seen as a Labour ideologue. Barry selected the next rank, giving preference to young architects and designers who had collaborated on exhibitions for the wartime Ministry of Information. They thought along the same lines socially and aesthetically, as middle-class intellectuals with progressive sympathies. Thanks to Barry, a collegial sentiment prevailed that minimised stress and delay. [10]

Displays

The arts were displayed in a series of country-wide musical and dramatic performances. [8] Achievements in architecture were presented in a new neighbourhood, the Lansbury Estate, planned, built and occupied in the Poplar district of London.

The Festival's centrepiece [8] was the South Bank Exhibition, in the Waterloo area of London, which demonstrated the contribution made by British advances in science, technology and industrial design, displayed, in their practical and applied form, against a background representing the living, working world of the day. [8]

There were other displays elsewhere, each intended to be complete in itself, yet each part of the one single conception. [8] Festival Pleasure Gardens were set up in Battersea, about three miles up river from the South Bank. Heavy engineering was the subject of an Exhibition of Industrial Power in Glasgow. Certain aspects of science, which did not fall within the terms of reference of the South Bank Exhibition, were displayed in South Kensington. Linen technology and science in agriculture were exhibited in "Farm and Factory" in Belfast. A smaller exhibition of the South Bank story was put on in the Festival ship Campania , [4] which toured the coast of Britain throughout the summer of 1951, and on land there was a travelling exhibition of industrial design. [8]

The University of Brighton Design Archives have digitised many of the Design Council's files relating to the planning of the festival.

Principal events

England

Exhibitions

Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park, London

London Season of the Arts

Arts Festivals

Wales

Pageant of Wales, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

St Fagan's Folk Festival, Cardiff

Welsh Hillside Farm Scheme, Dolhendre

Arts Festivals

Scotland

Exhibitions

Arts Festivals

Gathering of the Clans, Edinburgh

Northern Ireland

Ulster Farm and Factory, Belfast

Arts Festival

Travelling Exhibitions

Festival Ship Campania ,: [4] England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Land Travelling Exhibition : England

The South Bank Exhibition

Construction of the South Bank site opened up a new public space, including a riverside walkway, where previously there had been warehouses and working-class housing. The layout of the South Bank site was intended to showcase the principles of urban design that would feature in the post-war rebuilding of London and the creation of the new towns. These included multiple levels of buildings, elevated walkways and avoidance of a street grid. Most of the South Bank buildings were International Modernist in style, little seen in Britain before the war. [13]

The architecture and display of the South Bank Exhibition were planned by the Festival Office's Exhibition Presentation Panel, whose members were: [8]

The theme of the Exhibition was devised by Ian Cox.

The Exhibition comprised the Upstream Circuit: "The Land", the Dome of Discovery, the Downstream Circuit: "The People", and other displays. [8]

Upstream Circuit: "The Land"

Architect: Misha Black Theme: Ian Cox Display Design: James Holland

The exhibits comprised:

The Dome of Discovery

Visitors to the South Bank Exhibition with the Dome of Discovery in the background The Festival of Britain 1951.jpg
Visitors to the South Bank Exhibition with the Dome of Discovery in the background

Architect: Ralph Tubbs Theme: Ian Cox Display: Design Research Unit

The exhibits focused on scientific discovery. [14] They included:

Downstream Circuit: "The People"

Architect: Hugh Casson Theme: M.Hartland Thomas Display Design: James Gardner

The exhibits comprised:

Other Downstream Displays

Other features of the South Bank Exhibition

The Skylon

The Skylon on the Southbank, Festival of Britain, 1951 In16695.jpg
The Skylon on the Southbank, Festival of Britain, 1951

An unusual cigar-shaped aluminium-clad steel tower supported by cables, the Skylon was the "Vertical Feature" that was an abiding symbol of the Festival of Britain. The base was nearly 15 metres (50 feet) from the ground, with the top nearly 90 metres (300 feet) high. The frame was clad in aluminium louvres lit from within at night. It was designed by Hidalgo Moya, Philip Powell and Felix Samuely, and fabricated by Painter Brothers of Hereford, England, between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. It had a steel latticework frame, pointed at both ends and supported on cables slung between three steel beams. The partially constructed Skylon was rigged vertically, then grew taller in situ. [16] The architects' design was made possible by the engineer Felix Samuely who, at the time, was a lecturer at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. The Skylon was scrapped in 1952 on the orders of Winston Churchill, who saw it as a symbol of the preceding Labour government. [17] It was demolished and sold for scrap [18] after being toppled into the Thames.

Royal Festival Hall

Designed by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew from the LCC's Architects' Department and built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts for London County Council. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Clement Attlee in 1949, on the site of the former Lion Brewery, built in 1837. [19] Martin was 39 when he was appointed to lead the design team in late 1948. He designed the structure as an 'egg in a box', a term he used to describe the separation of the curved auditorium space from the surrounding building and the noise and vibration of the adjacent railway viaduct. Sir Thomas Beecham used similar imagery, calling the building a "giant chicken coop". [20] The building was officially opened on 3 May 1951. The inaugural concerts were conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Adrian Boult. [21] [22] In April 1988 it was designated a Grade I listed building, the first post-war building to become thus protected.

Minor features

Festival Pleasure Gardens

The Festival Pleasure Gardens FoB-01.jpg
The Festival Pleasure Gardens

The Festival Pleasure Gardens were created to present a lighter side of the Festival of Britain. They were erected in Battersea Park, a few miles from the South Bank Exhibition. Attractions included:

The majority of the buildings and pavilions on the site were designed by John Piper. [23] There was also a whimsical Guinness Festival Clock resembling a three dimensional version of a cartoon drawing. The Pleasure Gardens received as many visitors as the South Bank Festival. They were managed by a specially-formed private company financed by loans from the Festival Office and the London County Council. [9] As the attractions failed to cover their costs, it was decided to keep them open after the rest of the Festival had closed. [24]

Aspects of the Festival

Architecture

The Festival architects tried to show by the design and layout of the South Bank Festival what could be achieved by applying modern town planning ideas. [25] The Festival Style, (also called "Contemporary") [26] combining modernism with whimsy and Englishness, influenced architecture, interior design, product design and typography in the 1950s. William Feaver describes the Festival Style as "Braced legs, indoor plants, lily-of-the valley sprays of lightbulbs, aluminium lattices, Costswold-type walling with picture windows, flying staircases, blond wood, the thorn, the spike, the molecule." [27] The influence of the Festival Style was felt in the new towns, coffee bars and office blocks of the fifties. Harlow new town and the rebuilding of Coventry city centre are said to show the influence of the Festival Style "in their light structures, picturesque layout and incorporation of works of art", [28] and Coventry Cathedral (1962), designed by Basil Spence, one of the Festival architects, was dubbed "The Festival of Britain at Prayer". [29]

There was an exhibition about building research, town planning and architecture, the "Live architecture" exhibit of buildings, open spaces and streets in the Lansbury Estate, Poplar (named after the former Labour Party leader George Lansbury. Plans for social housing in the area had commenced in 1943. By the end of the war nearly a quarter of the buildings in the area had been destroyed or badly damaged. In 1948, the Architecture Council decided that the Poplar site would make a good exhibition partly because it was near to the other Festival exhibitions. Despite funding problems, work began in December 1949 and by May 1950 was well advanced. The wet winter of 1950–51 delayed work, but the first houses were completed and occupied by February 1951. [30] The exhibition opened on 3 May 1951 along with the other Festival exhibitions. Visitors first went to the Building Research Pavilion, which displayed housing problems and their solutions, then to the Town Planning Pavilion, a large, red-and-white striped tent. The Town Planning Pavilion demonstrated the principles of town planning and the urgent need for new towns, including a mock up of an imaginary town called "Avoncaster". [30] Visitors then saw the buildings of the Lansbury Estate. Attendance was disappointing, only 86,426 people visiting, compared to 8 million who visited the South Bank exhibition. [30] Reaction to the development by industry professionals was lukewarm, some criticising its small scale. [31] Subsequent local authorities concentrated on high-rise, high-density social housing rather than the Lansbury Estate model. The estate remains popular with residents. [30] Among the remaining 1951 buildings are Trinity Independent Chapel, and The Festival Inn and Festive Briton (now Callaghans) pubs.

Misha Black, one of the Festival architects, said that the Festival created a wide audience for architectural modernism but that it was common currency among professional architects that the design of the Festival was not innovative. The design writer Reyner Banham has questioned the originality and the Englishness of the Festival Style and indeed the extent of its influence. [32] Young architects in 1951 are said to have despised the Festival of Britain for its architecture. "It was equated with the 'Contemporary Style', and an editorial on New Brutalism in Architectural Design in 1955 carried the epigraph, 'When I hear the word "Contemporary" I reach for my revolver.'" [26]

Design

The Royal Festival Hall, showing the lettering designed for the South Bank Exhibition by the Festival typography panel Royal Festival Hall (1951), London - geograph.org.uk - 1752283.jpg
The Royal Festival Hall, showing the lettering designed for the South Bank Exhibition by the Festival typography panel

The South Bank Exhibition included a Design Review that presented "an illustrated record of contemporary achievement in British industry", showing "the high standard of design and craftsmanship that has been reached in a wide range of British products." [8] The exhibits were based on the stock list of the Council of Industrial Design (CoID) and were chosen for appearance, finish, workmanship, technical efficiency, fitness for purpose and economy of production. [8] In selecting and promoting designs in this way, the Festival was an influential advocate of the concept of "Good Design", a rational approach to product design in accordance with the principles of the Modern Movement. Its advocacy of Good Design had grown partly out of the standards of utility furniture created during the war (Gordon Russell, the Director of the CoID, had been Chairman of the Utility Furniture Design Panel) and partly out of the CoID's Britain Can Make It exhibition of 1946. The CoiD's stock list was retained and inherited by its successor, the Design Council.

Design, science and industry came together in the Festival Pattern Group, which commissioned textiles, wallpaper, domestic objects and Festival exhibits based on x-ray crystallography. [33] [34] The idea of using the molecular patterns revealed in x-ray crystallography in surface patterns was first suggested by Dr Helen Megaw, a leading Cambridge University crystallographer. After hearing a presentation by Dorothy Hodgkin to the Society of Industrial Artists, Mark Hartland Thomas, chief industrial officer of the CoID, took up the idea and formed the Festival Pattern Group. Hartland Thomas was a member of the Festival of Britain Presentation Panel and was co-ordinating the CoID's stock list. He secured the Regatta Restaurant, one of the temporary restaurants on the South Bank, for an experiment in pattern design based on the crystal structure of haemoglobin, insulin, wareite, china clay, mica and other molecules, which were used for the surface patterns of the restaurant furnishings. The designs that were sponsored by the Festival Pattern Group chimed in with displays in the Dome of Discovery about the structure of matter and the Festival's emphasis on progress, science and technology

Lettering and type design featured prominently in the graphic style of the Festival and was overseen by a typography panel including the lettering historian Nicolete Gray. [35] A typeface for the Festival, Festival Titling, [36] was specially commissioned and designed by Philip Boydell. It was based on condensed sans-serif capitals and had a three-dimensional form making it suitable for use in exhibition display typography. [37] It has been said to bear "a vague resemblance to bunting". [38] The lettering on the Royal Festival Hall and the temporary Festival building on the South Bank was a bold, sloping slab serif letter form, determined by Gray and her colleagues, including Charles Hasler and Gordon Cullen, [35] illustrated in Gray's Lettering on Buildings (1960) and derived in part from typefaces used in the early 19th century. [39] It has been described as a "turn to a jauntier and more decorative visual language" that was "part of a wider move towards the appreciation of vernacular arts and the peculiarities of English culture". [40] The lettering in the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion was designed by John Brinkley. [41] [42]

The graphic designer for the Festival was Abram Games, who created its emblem, the Festival Star.

The arts

The South Bank Exhibition showed the work of contemporary artists such as William Scott, including murals by Victor Pasmore, John Tunnard, Feliks Topolski, Barbara Jones, and John Piper and sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, Jacob Epstein and Reg Butler. [8]

Arts festivals were held throughout the summer as part of the Festival of Britain: [43] [44]

The London Season of the Arts comprised exhibitions specially arranged for the Festival of Britain. They included:

Barbara Jones and Tom Ingram organised "Black Eyes and Lemonade", an exhibition of British popular and traditional art, in association with the Society for Education in Art and the Arts Council. In the same year she surveyed the popular arts in her influential book, The Unsophisticated Arts, which included taxidermy, fairgrounds, canal boats, seaside, riverside, tattooing, the decoration of food, waxworks, toys, rustic work, shops, festivals and funerals. [49] She said of the popular arts," some of it is made for themselves by people without professional training in the arts or in the appreciation of them, and some of it has been made for those people by professionals who work to their taste." [50]

The Festival was the occasion of the first performance of steelpan music in Britain by the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra. [51]

Film

Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D "stereoscopic film" at the Telekinema on the South Bank in London during the Festival of Britain in 1951. The National Archives UK - WORK 25-208.jpg
Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D "stereoscopic film" at the Telekinema on the South Bank in London during the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The British Film Institute was asked by Herbert Morrison in 1948 to consider the contribution that film could make to the Festival. [52] It set up a panel including Michael Balcon, Antony Asquith, John Grierson, Harry Watt and Arthur Elston, which became a committee of sponsorship and distribution. Over a dozen sponsored documentary films were made for the Festival, including

Several feature films were planned, but only one was completed in time, namely The Magic Box , a biopic concerning pioneer William Friese-Greene, made by Festival Film Productions.

There was a purpose-built film theatre on the South Bank, the Telecinema (sometimes called the "Telekinema"), designed by Wells Coates, which showed documentary and experimental film exploiting stereophony and stereoscopy and the new invention of television. It was one of the most popular attractions of the Festival, with 458,693 visitors. [52] When the Festival ended, the Telecinema was handed over to the BFI for use as a members-only repertory cinema club, re-opening in 1952 as the National Film Theatre. [52]

Film was integral to the South Bank Exhibition, used to explain manufacturing, science and technology. The Dome of Discovery, the Exhibition of Science in South Kensington and the travelling Festival Exhibition made extensive use of educational and explanatory film.

Film festivals, including those at Edinburgh Film Festival, Bath and Glasgow participated in the Festival of Britain, and local authorities put on film festivals, helped by a BFI pamphlet, How to put on a Film Show.

Commercial cinema chains and independent cinemas also joined in, the Gaumont and Odeon chains programming seasons of British films. "And finally, if the Festival visitor had not tired of the medium, they could purchase colour 16mm film of Britain’s historic buildings and pageantry and filmstrips of the Festival of Britain and London as souvenirs." [52]

One of the British Broadcasting Corporation's contributions to the Festival was a television musical entitled The Golden Year , broadcast on 23 June and 2 July. [54] T

Science

A new wing was built for the Science Museum to hold the Exhibition of Science. The first part of the exhibition showed the physical and chemical nature of matter and the behaviour of elements and molecules. The second part, "The Structure of Living Things", dealt with plants and animals. The third part, "Stop Press", showed some of the latest topics of research in science and their emergence from the ideas illustrated in the earlier sections of the exhibition. They included "the penetrating rays which reach us from outer space, what goes on in space and in the stars, and a range of subjects from the electronic brain to the processes and structures on which life is based." [55]

It has been claimed that "the Festival of Britain created a confusion at the heart of subsequent discussions amongst administrators and educationalists concerning the place science should have in British life and thought as a whole (particularly education), and its role in Britain’s post-war greatness." [56]

Other Festival events

Postage stamps commemorating the Festival of Britain, with the Festival Star on the 4d issue Fobstamps.jpg
Postage stamps commemorating the Festival of Britain, with the Festival Star on the 4d issue

There were hundreds of events associated with the Festival, [57] some of which were:

Attendance figures

The Festival was highly popular in every part of Britain. Richard Weight estimates that of the national population of 49 million, about half participated. [66] The Festival largely ignored foreign tourists, with most of the visitors from the Continent being expatriate Britons. [67]

There were over ten million paid admissions to the six main exhibitions over a period of five months: [68] The most popular event was the centerpiece at South Bank Exhibition with almost 8.5 million visitors, over half of them from outside London. The Festival Pleasure Gardens had over 8 million visitors, three-quarters of them from London. The Festival Ship Campania, which docked in ten cities, was visited by almost 900,000 people. The Travelling Land Exhibition, which went to four English cities, attracted under half a million. The most specialised events, in terms of attracting few visitors, were the architecture exhibition in Poplar, with 87,000 visitors and the exhibition of books in South Kensington, with 63,000.

Architecture Exhibition, Lansbury, Poplar (London)86,646
Industrial Power Exhibition, Glasgow282,039
Science Exhibition, South Kensington (London)213,744
South Bank Exhibition, Waterloo (London)8,455,863
Visitors from London36.5%
Outside London56%
Overseas7.5%
USA15%
Commonwealth32%
Europe46%
Elsewhere7%
Land Travelling Exhibition462,289
Manchester114,183
Leeds144,844
Birmingham76,357
Nottingham106,615
Festival Ship "Campania"889,792
Southampton78,683
Dundee51,422
Newcastle169,511
Hull87,840
Plymouth50,120
Bristol (Avonmouth)78,219
Cardiff104,391
Belfast86,756
Birkenhead90,311
Glasgow93,539
Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea (London)8,031,000
Visitors from London76%,
Outside London22%
Overseas2%
Ulster Farm & Factory Exhibition, Belfast156,760
Living Traditions Exhibition, Edinburgh135,000
Exhibition of Books, South Kensington (London)63,162

Political responses

The idea of holding the Festival became a party political issue. [7] Although Herbert Morrison said that he did not want the Festival to be seen as a political venture, [69] it became associated with the Labour Party, which had won the 1950 general election, and it was opposed by the Conservative Party. [7] Hugh Casson said that, "Churchill, like the rest of the Tory Party, was against the Festival which they (quite rightly) believed was the advanced guard of socialism." [69] Churchill referred to the forthcoming Festival of Britain as "three-dimensional Socialist propaganda." [7]

In an essay on the Festival, Michael Frayn characterised it as an enterprise of "the radical middle-classes, the do-gooders; the readers of the News Chronicle , The Guardian , and The Observer ; the signers of petitions; the backbone of the B.B.C.," whom he called "Herbivores". In Frayn's view, "The Festival was the last, and virtually the posthumous, work of the Herbivore Britain of the BBC News, the Crown Film Unit, the sweet ration, the Ealing comedies, Uncle Mac, Sylvia Peters." In making the Festival the Herbivores "earned the contempt of the Carnivores – the readers of the Daily Express ; the Evelyn Waughs; the cast of the Directory of Directors". [70]

Some prominent members of the Labour government considered the Festival to be a Labour undertaking which would contribute to their future electoral success, and Clement Attlee, the Labour Leader, wrote to Morrison saying that an election in autumn 1951 would enable the Labour Party to benefit from its popularity. In the event, Labour lost the autumn election. Churchill's contempt for the Festival led him to make his first act as Prime Minister in October 1951 an instruction to clear the South Bank site.

Legacy

The Guide Book to the Festival described its legacy in these words: "It will leave behind not just a record of what we have thought of ourselves in the year 1951 but, in a fair community founded where once there was a slum, in an avenue of trees or in some work of art, a reminder of what we have done to write this single, adventurous year into our national and local history." [8]

While the idea of the Festival was being worked out, the government and the London County Council were at the same time planning the redevelopment of the South Bank site, including "a number of great buildings, which will form part of a co-ordinated design." [8] The first of these was the Royal Festival Hall. The Festival hastened the reclamation of four and a half acres of land from the river, which "transformed the familiar patchwork of rubble and half-derelict buildings which had for so long monopolised the propect from the North Bank". [8] The Festival site was, over the following thirty years, developed into the South Bank Centre, an arts complex comprising the Royal Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the National Theatre.

A 1951 office building at 219 Oxford Street, London, designed by Ronald Ward and Partners (now a Grade II* listed building), incorporates images of the Festival on its facade. [71]

The Festival cost about £10.5 million (apart from the loans for the Festival Gardens), [70] ) with revenues of about £2.5m. [72] The net cost was £8 million (equivalent to £253 million today).

In 1953 the Festival of Britain Office was abolished and its records were taken over by the Ministry of Works. [9]

As well as the material legacy, the Festival gave rise to new traditions, in particular the performances of medieval mystery plays in York and Chester. There was an explosion of interest [73] in these plays, regular performance of which have continued in those cities ever since.

In 2018 Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government was planning a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to be held in 2022. [74] The proposed festival, which was intended to unite the United Kingdom after Brexit, was widely criticised as it coincided with centenary of the Irish Civil War and risked inflaming tensions in Northern Ireland.

Images of the Festival of Britain

Several images of the South Bank Exhibition can be found on the internet, including many released by The National Archives on the 60th anniversary of the festival. [75]

A filmed retrospective of the South Bank Exhibition, Brief City (1952), with special reference to design and architecture, was made by Richard Massingham for The Observer newspaper. [76] A film comedy, The Happy Family , was made about working-class resistance to the demolition that the festival required. The Festival is featured in the early portion of the film Prick up your Ears .

The archive of the Design Council held at the University of Brighton Design Archives includes several hundred images of the festival. [77] They can be searched via the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS).

Other references

See also

Related Research Articles

Arts and Crafts movement Design movement c. 1880–1920

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international trend in the decorative and fine arts that developed earliest and most fully in the British Isles and subsequently spread across the British Empire and to the rest of Europe and America.

Victoria and Albert Museum Art museum in London, England

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Wells Coates

Wells Wintemute Coates OBE was an architect, designer and writer. He was, for most of his life, an expatriate Canadian who is best known for his work in England, the most notable of which is the Modernist block of flats known as the Isokon building in Hampstead, London.

Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

The Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) is a museum in North London, England, housing one of the most comprehensive collections of 19th- and 20th-century decorative arts for the home. The collection is designated as being of outstanding international value by Arts Council England.

Edward Maufe English architect and designer

Sir Edward Brantwood Maufe, RA, FRIBA was an English architect and designer. He built private homes as well as commercial and institutional buildings, and is noted chiefly for his work on places of worship and memorials. Perhaps his best known buildings are Guildford Cathedral and the Air Forces Memorial. He was a recipient of the Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 1944 and, in 1954, received a knighthood for services to the Imperial War Graves Commission, which he was associated with from 1943 until his death.

Southbank Centre Complex of artistic venues in London, England

Southbank Centre is a complex of artistic venues in London, England, on the South Bank of the River Thames.

Edinburgh College of Art

Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is one of eleven Schools in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Tracing its history back to 1760, it provides higher education in art and design, architecture, history of art, and music disciplines for over two thousand students, and is at the forefront of research and research-led teaching in the creative arts, humanities, and creative technologies. ECA comprises five subject areas: School of Art, Reid School of Music, School of Design, School of History of Art, and Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (ESALA). ECA is mainly located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, overlooking the Grassmarket; the Lauriston Place campus is located in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area Campus, not far from George Square.

Ralph Tubbs

Ralph Tubbs, OBE, FRIBA was a British architect. Well known amongst the buildings he designed was the Dome of Discovery at the successful Festival of Britain on the South Bank in London in 1951.

Queen Elizabeth Hall Concert hall in London

The Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) is a music venue on the South Bank in London, England, that hosts daily classical, jazz, and avant-garde music and dance performances. It was opened in 1967, with a concert conducted by Benjamin Britten.

Design Museum Art museum in London, England

The Design Museum in Kensington, London exhibits product, industrial, graphic, fashion, and architectural design. In 2018, the museum won the European Museum of the Year Award. The museum operates as a registered charity, and all funds generated by ticket sales aid the museum in curating new exhibitions.

Dome of Discovery Exhibition building in London

The Dome of Discovery was a temporary exhibition building designed by architect Ralph Tubbs for the Festival of Britain celebrations which took place on London's South Bank in 1951, alongside the River Thames. The consulting engineers were Freeman Fox & Partners, in particular Oleg Kerensky and Gilbert Roberts.

Events from the year 1951 in art.

Empire Exhibition, Scotland

Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938 was an international exposition held at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, from May to December 1938.

Mitzi Cunliffe American sculptor

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe was an American sculptor. She was most famous for designing the golden trophy in the shape of a theatrical mask that would go on to represent the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and be presented as the BAFTA award. She also produced textiles, ceramics, and jewellery.

Raj Rewal is a leading Indian architect. A distinguished doyen of architecture from India, Raj Rewal has set global precedents with his urban narratives of design that have been integrally and richly steeped in their contextual inferences. The concerted juxtaposition of traditional concepts and contemporary syntax is reflective of his fascination for weaving expressions of heritage and history into a modern vocabulary, often revealing layer upon layer of intuitive interpretation and deep meaning. Effortlessly threading together episodes of design, he merges scale with surroundings and geometry with rhythm, binding space with structure and nuance, modulating form and light and coursing the exterior through the interior to create a series of interconnected experiences that are as distinct as they are together. Across a repertoire of residential, housing, public and institutional buildings, his work is characterised by concern for climatic sensitivity, humane architecture and the promotion of craftsmanship and new technologies.

H. T. Cadbury-Brown English architect

Henry Thomas Cadbury-Brown RA was an English architect. He was educated at the Architecture Association where he was influenced by the architecture of Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. After graduating he worked for architect Ernő Goldfinger and became his lifelong friend. He went on to set up his own successful practice.

Hayward Gallery Art gallery in Southbank Centre, Central London, UK

The Hayward Gallery is an art gallery within the Southbank Centre in central London, England and part of an area of major arts venues on the South Bank of the River Thames. It is sited adjacent to the other Southbank Centre buildings and also the National Theatre and BFI Southbank repertory cinema. Following a rebranding of the South Bank Centre to Southbank Centre in early 2007, the Hayward Gallery was known as the Hayward until early 2011.

James Gardner (designer)

James "Leslie" Gardner OBE RDI (1907–1995) was a British museum and exhibition designer. Although most widely known for his exhibition work, Gardner also undertook illustration and ship design work. His archive is located at the University of Brighton Design Archives.

Dennis Lennon

John Dennis Lennon was a British architect, interior designer, and furniture designer. He was responsible for the interior design of the Queen Elizabeth 2 and of 190-192 Sloane Street, London.

Christopher Firmstone is a British graphic designer and visual artist. His work as a designer is known by a number of art galleries in London, where his commissions include designs for exhibition posters and the design of rooms for the display of artworks, most notably at the Victoria and Albert Museum. His own artworks have been exhibited in London and New South Wales, Australia, and a selection of his architectural photographs are held in the Courtauld Institute of Art Conway photographic library in London.

References

  1. Eric Nahm (1992). Britain Since 1945: The People's Peace. Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN   9780191587993.
  2. Bernard Donoughue, and G. W. Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (1973), pp 492-95.
  3. History of Britain and Ireland. DK Publishing. 2011. p. 361. ISBN   9780756679866.
  4. 1 2 3 4 The Festival of Britain (Official Book of the Festival of Britain 1951). HMSO, 1951.
  5. Barry Turner, Beacon for Change: How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age (2011).
  6. Harry Hopkins, The New Look: A social history of the Forties and Fifties in Britain (1963) pp 271-72.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 ""Circa 1951: Presenting Science to the British Public", Robert Anderson, Oregon State University". Osulibrary.oregonstate.edu. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Cox, Ian, The South Bank Exhibition: A guide to the story it tells, H.M.S.O., 1951
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "The National Archives". The National Archives. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  10. 1 2 Leventhal, "A Tonic to the Nation" p 447
  11. 1 2 "V&A, Designing Britain". Vads.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  12. F.M. Leventhal, "'A Tonic to the Nation': The Festival of Britain, 1951." Albion 27#3 (1995): 445-453.
  13. Peter Newman, and Ian Smith, "Cultural production, place and politics on the South Bank of the Thames." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24.1 (2000): 9-24.
  14. Sophie Forgan, "Festivals of science and the two cultures: science, design and display in the Festival of Britain, 1951." British Journal for the History of Science 31#2 (1998): 217-240.
  15. Henrietta Goodden, The Lion and the Unicorn: symbolic architecture for the Festival of Britain 1951 (Norwich, Unicorn Press, 2011).
  16. Henry Grant. "The Skylon in construction". Museum of London. Archived from the original (photo) on 30 July 2013.
  17. "Skyscraper news". Skyscraper news. 19 February 2000. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  18. "Hansard". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. 5 February 1952. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  19. The Festival of Britain – Building the Future Archived 13 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 1 April 2007.
  20. Jefferson, p. 102.
  21. The Times, 21 November 1950, p. 6.
  22. The Times, 5 May 1951, p. 4.
  23. "The Riverside Theatre, Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park, London". Arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  24. "Treasury Historical Memorandum No.2". Archive.treasury.gov.uk. 8 March 1951. Archived from the original on 25 November 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  25. A Tonic to the Nation
  26. 1 2 Powers, Alan (29 June 2011). "Powers, A., "Sixty years on from the Festival of Britain", Architectural Review, 22 June 2011". Architectural-review.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  27. William Feaver, "Festival Star", in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, London, Thames and Hudson, 1976 ISBN   0-500-01165-6, p. 54
  28. "English Heritage, PastScape, "The Festival of Britain: 60th anniversary"". Pastscape.org.uk. 3 May 1951. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  29. Miller, Keith, "Making the grade: Coventry Cathedral", The Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2003
  30. 1 2 3 4 "The Lansbury Estate". University of London / History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  31. A. W. Cleeve Barr. Public Authority Housing. p. 175. OCLC   3780558.
  32. Reyner Banham, "The Style: 'Flimsy ... Effeminate'?" in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, London, Thames and Hudson, 1976 ISBN   0-500-01165-6
  33. Jackson, L., From Atoms to Patterns, Richard Dennis, 2008
  34. "The Wellcome Collection". The Wellcome Collection. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  35. 1 2 ae-pro.com. "Kinross, R., "The Royal Festival hall has regained the thoroughly English lettering of its origins in the Festival of Britain – on one side only", Eye, No.65". Eyemagazine.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  36. "Monotype Imaging". Fonts.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  37. Berry, W.T., Johnson, A.F., and Jaspert, W.P., The Encyclopaedia of Type Faces, London: Blandford Press, 1963
  38. "Typography at the Festival of Britain". Wharferj.wordpress.com. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  39. "Kinross, R., Signs at the Royal Festival Hall". Hyphenpress.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  40. "University of Brighton Faculty of Arts, Design Archives material at Festival Hall". Arts.brighton.ac.uk. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  41. Alex Seago, Burning the Box of Beautiful Things: The Development of Post-Modern Sensibility, Oxford University Press, 1995
  42. John Lewis and John Brinkley, Graphic Design, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954
  43. Life, Vol.30 No.4, January 22, 1951. 22 January 1951. p.  17 . Retrieved 13 December 2011 via Internet Archive. festival of britain +music.
  44. 1 2 "The Festival of Britain, 1951', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011". Sculpture.gla.ac.uk. 31 December 1949. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  45. "York Mystery Plays site". Yorkmysteryplays.org. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  46. Frances Spalding, British Art Since 1900, Thames and Hudson, 1996
  47. East End 1851: a Festival of Britain exhibition by arrangement with the Arts Council, 1951, Whitechapel Art Gallery.
  48. Featherstone, Simon (2009). Featherstone, S., Englishness: Twentieth Century Popular Culture and the Forming of English Identity, 2009, Edinburgh University Press. ISBN   9780748623655 . Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  49. "Ash Rare Books". Ashrare.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  50. Jones, B., "Introduction", Black Eyes and Lemonade, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1951
  51. Panqueen. "TASPO – Sterling Betancourt – The 1951 Festival of Britain". Youtube. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  52. 1 2 3 4 "Sarah Easen, Film and the Festival of Britain 1951, British Universities and Video Council". Bufvc.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  53. Family Portrait - A Film on the Theme of the Festival of Britain 1951. Wessex Film. 1950.
  54. The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year, Volume 193 (Longmans, Green, 1952), p. 400
  55. 1951 Exhibition of Science, South Kensington, HMSO, 1951
  56. Prof. Jardine, Lisa (2010). "The 2009 C.P. Snow Lecture: C.P. Snow's Two Cultures Revisited" (PDF). Christ's College Magazine (235): 49–57. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2012.
  57. "The Museum of London". The Museum of London. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  58. "BBC News – 'Festival village' Trowell marks 60th anniversary". BBC. 22 April 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  59. "London Garden Online". Londongardensonline.org.uk. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  60. "The Festival of Britain". Museum of London. 31 August 2001. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  61. "Festival of Britain". Oldcopper.org. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  62. "Crown Story". 24carat.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  63. Ian Campbell and Ronald Jack (eds), Jamie the Saxt, London, Calder and Boyars, 1970, p.154.
  64. "Westminster Online". Westminster Online. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  65. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  66. Richard Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940–2000 (2002) p 205.
  67. Mariel Grant, "'Working for the Yankee Dollar': Tourism and the Festival of Britain as Stimuli for Recovery," Journal of British Studies 45#3 (2006) PP 581-601
  68. "Festival of Britain". Packer34.freeserve.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  69. 1 2 Conekin, Becky, The Autobiography of a Nation: the 1951 Festival of Britain, 2003 Manchester University Press
  70. 1 2 Frayn, Michael (3 May 2001). "Festival Spirit". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 13 December 2011. (Extract from Sissons, Michael; French, Philip, eds. (1963). The Age of Austerity, 1945-1951. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
  71. Historic England. "Monument No. 1541497". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  72. Government White Paper, Cmd.8872, published 29 July 1953
  73. "Bristol University Theatre Collection". Bristol.ac.uk. 21 July 2010. Archived from the original on 18 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  74. Savage, Michael (13 April 2019). "Timing of May's 'festival of Britain' risks Irish anger". the Guardian .
  75. "Festival of Britain Showcase". The National Archives. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  76. "Brief City" . Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  77. 60th Anniversary of the Festival of Britain 2011 Retrieved May 2015

Further reading