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Fishink in London Part 5. The Festival of Britain

May 8, 2015

Alas as all good things come to an end, so we’ve reached the final post on my London trip. Be sure to nip back and read them, especially those on the Eric Ravilious, Sonia Delaunay and Mac Conner exhibitions, all well worth a visit.

I was wandering alongside the Thames river and decided to pop into the Royal Festival Hall which is the heart of the Southbank Centre.

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Many of you who know me, will also know about my passion for the 1950’s era, so with a foyer display featuring information, advertising and models of The Festival of Britain, I was again, a happy soul !

The Festival was a national exhibition held throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give the British a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote the British contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival’s centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames.

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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. In 1945, the government appointed a committee under Lord Ramsden to consider how exhibitions and fairs could promote exports. 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. The government decided instead to hold a series of displays about the arts, architecture, science, technology and industrial design, under the title “Festival of Britain 1951”.

At that time, shortly after the end of World War II, much of London was still in ruins and redevelopment was badly 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. The Festival of Britain described itself as “one united act of national reassessment, and one corporate reaffirmation of faith in the nation’s future.” Gerald Barry, the Festival Director, described it as “a tonic to the nation”

Here’s a model of the site.

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It’s hard to imagine how exciting the site must have been for a society who survived World War 2, just six years before.

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Of course colour was everywhere and souvenirs appeared in all shapes and forms imaginable. Here’s a few head scarves.

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These coloured shots give a hint at how wonderful it must have looked. Disneyland in Britain !

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I would have loved to have gone. I also remembered the Festival of Britain inspired ceramics and wallpaper by Mini Moderns that I’ve mentioned in a previous post.


More modern day items in the shop and a great display of goodies by Sukie.

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The Royal Festival Hall is a beautiful building. Full of natural wood, light and curves.

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I really enjoyed the experience of just being in the building. The views, the dinner jazz, the slow pace and unhurried business of it’s inhabitants and the sun streaming in and bringing it all to life.

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From the Royal Festival Hall, I wandered over Hungerford Bridge and into London. Some beautiful flowers in the local park, even businessmen letting their hair down in the lunchtime sunshine with a spot of table tennis.

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These store fronts caught my eye.

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The Cath Kidston version of Shaun the Sheep for charity.

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I really liked this wonderful shop called simply ’52 Greek Street’ which was both it’s location and trading name. I was very tempted by the fox shirts I can tell you !

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It’s the brain child of two friends, one in Israel (I think ?) who designs the tee shirt prints and the other in London who’s the salesman. A winning combination I feel.

I spotted a natty robot shirt too, Men’s shirting starting at £69.

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The rather sad remains of the old FOYLES store turned into a tacky ladies clothing store O NO ! Fortunately the new Foyles store, which has taken over the old Central St Martin’s site, was tremendous, with a children’s book department to outdo all others !

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The friends I was staying with were looking for a fireplace for their new home, so we also popped into Blue Mantle on the Old Kent Road to see what tiles and surrounds they had. I always love seeing the statues and wrought iron work that sit lying about the place. On the site of an old fire station, there was plenty to rummage through.

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So here marks the end of my London travels for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey as much as I enjoyed making it. Do let me know, all comments welcome. What shows have you recently seen that you’ve enjoyed ?

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Just to let you know that Fishinkblog is now even easier to share with your friends, as we’ve dropped the wordpress bit to become just

Please tell the world : ) Happy Weekend ahead.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2015 10:14 am

    Thank you for your wonderful reportage from London! I enjoyed it !

  2. Pat Becker permalink
    May 8, 2015 1:51 pm

    In1951I was in the Wrens, stationed far north Scotland in Lossiemouth. We had a long weekend leave and went to London for Festival of Britain. Do you want to hear more?

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Vicki D. permalink
    May 8, 2015 9:22 pm

    Thank you so much for such a fantastic blog. A artist/friend told me about your blog a few months ago and I am hooked. As a retired curator, living in Arizona, I am unfamiliar with many of he artists you feature but I enjoy the visual feast of images on your blog, the stories and backgrounds of people and places. After reading about Mark Hearld, I quickly bought his book. Fabulous. You are a marvelous curator. I look forward to seeing and reading more of your posts. Thank you for all the time, energy and enthusiasm you bring to your blog. Bravo.

    • May 9, 2015 7:07 am

      Hi Vicki, many thanks for your comments. I’m so pleased to ‘meet’ new visitors through my blog and to also introduce them to artists and work that I enjoy, my blogging efforts work even better when they’re appreciated in return, so I’m very happy to read your thoughts. Do keep reading and sharing my blog, and let’s gather a community around us who have similar aesthetics. It’s a great place to live : )

  4. 54paintings permalink
    May 27, 2015 8:16 pm

    When at art college in the early 70s I did a photo piece for an art and design history project on the Festival of Britain site and what remained. It was surprising what was still there twenty years on. Last year I had some time to spare and went to see the site again.To my amazement the old dance floor tarmac, with its criss cross pattern and the holes for the light bulbs at the intersections was still visible in places under the tarmac of the car park,the last un-redeveloped bit of the site.The car park man came over to chat to me as he wondered what the hell I was doing, I explained that I was looking at the old dance floor from the Festival of Britain in 1951.He told me I was lucky to catch it as the developers were moving in the following week…

    • May 28, 2015 6:55 am

      What a coincidence ! A bit of good fortune to see the last of the floor before it disappeared for ever. If you still have any pics that I could share, do let me know.

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