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The Festival of Britain, 70 years on.

May 10, 2021

Last week marks the 70th Anniversary of The Festival of Britain. I revisited this post from my archives to remind us all what a spectacular event it was.

It’s a few years ago now that 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 tecnicolour 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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I managed to purchase copies of the original catalogues that accompanied the exhibition

The entire volume was in colour and on a high quality paper stock. must have been quite unusual for the fifties.

Happy Anniversary Festival of Britain, I feel we need another one soon : )

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

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