The Festival of Britain, 1951
Start Date: 3 May 1951
End Date: 30 September 1951
Description: The Festival consisted of 'a series of country-wide musical and dramatic performances and special exhibitions, continuing throughout the Festival summer'. The South Bank Exhibition was the centre of these events, and it was 'supplemented by other Festival displays and activities elsewhere - each complete in itself, yet each a part of the one single conception' (see 'South Bank Exhibition Catalogue of Exhibits', p. 11).
The Festival programme included the following events:
- South Bank Exhibition, 4 May - 30 September (see separate entry);
- Exhibition of Science, South Kensington, 3 May - 30 September;
- Exhibition of Architecture, Lansbury, Poplar, 3 May - 30 September;
- Exhibition of Books, Victoria and Albert Museum, 3 May - 30 September;
- London Season of the Arts, 3 May - 30 June (this consisted of a number of events taking place throughout the festival including concerts, opera, ballet, theatre, and art exhibitions);
- Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park, 3 May - 31 October;
- 1851 Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1 May - 11 October (the aim of the exhibition was to show what the Crystal Palace looked like, inside and out, in 1951, and to display 'many relics of the Great Exhibition').
As part of the 'London Season of the Arts' an number of exhibitions are identified in the calendar of events as being 'specially assembled in London for the Festival of Britain'. These included:
- 'An Exhibition of Sixty Large Paintings commissioned for the Festival of Britain', Suffolk Galleries;
- Exhibitions of the works of Hogarth and of Henry Moore, at the Tate Gallery;
- Open-air International Exhibition of Sculpture - Battersea Park;
- 'Modern British Painting', New Burlington Gallery;
- 'An Exhibition of Exhibitions', Royal Society of the Arts.
Arts Festivals were also held in Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Bournemouth and Wessex, York, Aldeburgh, Norwich, Cheltenham, Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury, Liverpool, Cambridge, Worcester, Perth, Inverness, Dumfries, Aberdeen, and Belfast. Other arts festivals included the International Eisteddfodd, Llangollen, St David's, Pembrokeshire, the Royal National Eisteddfod, Llanrwst and the Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts.
Festival events in Scotland included the following:
- Exhibition of Industrial Power, Kelvin Hall, 28 May - August (the exhibition aimed to show 'how the course of world history has been influenced by British engineers and inventors' - see separate entry);
- Exhibition of Contemporary Books, Mitchell Library, 1 June - 28 July
- Exhibition of Scottish Architecture and Traditional Crafts, July - September;
- Exhibition of 18th Century Books, Signet Library, 3 August - 15 September;
- Gathering of the Clans, 16 - 19 August.
- Pageant of Wales, 25 July - 6 August;
- Folk Festival, 16 - 28 July
- Welsh Hillside Farm Scheme, May - September.
In Northern Ireland:
- Ulster Farm and Factory Exhibitions, 1 July - 31 August.
In addition to these events, two travelling exhibitions were also mounted. The first (travelling by land) toured Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham. The second (travelling by sea) toured Southampton, Dundee, Newcastle, Hull, Plymouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Birkenhead, and Glasgow.
For a full programme of all of the events connected to the Festival of Britain see the pamphlet 'Festival of Britain (Calendar of Events)'.
Policy: The 'South Bank Exhibition Catalogue of Exhibits' describes the history of the exhibition. The catalogue notes that 'it was in 1947 that His Majesty's Government decided that there should be an Exhibition to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1951, by means of national displays in the Arts, Architecture, Science, Technology and Industrial Design: so that this country and the world would pause to review British contributions to world civilisation in the arts of peace'. The Government set up a voluntary Festival Council of thirty-two men and women, and 'to plan and implement the Festival projects, a new Government Department was formed - the Festival of Britain Office' (p. 11).
Incorporated Festival of Britain, London: Ten Decades, a Review of British Taste, 1851-1951, 1951
Officially part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.
Incorporated Festival of Britain, London: South Bank Exhibition, 1951
The exhibition formed part of the offical Festival celebrations in London.
Incorporated Festival of Arts Exhibition of Architecture, Belfast, 1951
Incorporated Festival of Britain: Festival of Industry (Kelvingrove, Glasgow), 1951
Incorporated The Festival of Britain Welsh Industrial Fair, 1951
Organizing Institution or Venue
Organisers received information from Royal Society of British Sculptors
‘The President has been in close contact with the Organisers of the 1951 Festival of Britain. At their request he has given advice and shown photographs of members’ works. In certain cases, names of sculptors have been called for, and have been supplied.’ (see Annual Report of the Council, 1950, p. 5)
Participants included Arts Council of Great Britain
Festival of Britain [Calander of Events], 1951
Ten Decades a review of British Taste, 1851-1951. A Festival of Britain Exhibition organised by the Institute of Contemporary Art by arrangement with the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1951
Citing this record
'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 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/event.php?id=msib4_1276175838, accessed 27 Mar 2015]