Festival of Britain

London, UK

Closed 1951

The Disappointed Tourist: Festival of Britain, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The Festival of Britain was a national fair and exhibition that took place over 5 months in 1951. The festival was the brainchild of Labour cabinet member Herbert Morrison who first came up with the idea of commemorating the Great Exhibition of 1851. Unlike the Great Exhibition, the festival focused entirely on Britain. It was funded by the Labour government and was intended to celebrate recovery from the war’s devastation and the achievements of British scientists, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival’s central location was in South Bank, although there were events throughout the country. The Festival was immensely popular, introducing millions of visitors to the colorful contemporary “Festival Style” that was to influence British design and architecture for decades after. The Festival’s site is now the site of South Bank Centre, which includes the Royal Festival Hall. The painting shows the Dome of Discovery at the South Bank site.

The site and the spirit of the site embody the post-WWII Uk and all that happened in the next 50 years. Optimistic, outward-looking, welcoming and creative. It is everything we are losing. I wish I had been there. Anon.