Sixty years on from The Festival of Britain, this talk explores the art, design and enormous enterprise of that created the ‘Tonic to the Nation’ on London’s South Bank in 1951.
When the Festival of Britain opened to the public on May 3rd, 1951, it was intended to offer ‘A Tonic to the Nation’. In the midst of the worst weather since 1815, with strikes, disputes and a plague of rats bedevilling the site on London’s South Bank, the press and the public were surprised and delighted to find an exhibition filled with ingenuity, whimsy and startling modernity.
In this talk we’ll explore the origins of the Festival, including the 1851 Great Exhibition and the 1900 Paris World Fair. We’ll hear what people and politicians really thought of the plans as they were being made, and discover how the authorities catered for thousands of visitors in the difficulties of post-war London. We’ll explore the works created for the Festival by artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and many others, and consider the lasting legacies of the Festival, in the fields of architecture and design.