Family gathered in the streets of London, waiting for Queen Elizabeth IIâ€™s coronation celebrations to begin in 1953.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND The United Kingdom in 1945 was in a state of chaos. Although victorious from World War II, the country was still reeling from the devastation of the bombings, attacks, shortages and other wartime issues. Despite the end of the war, peoples lifestyles did not change. Britain was one of the slowest countries to recover, it was severely hit by the aftermath of war. Repercussions included wartime rationing; a system setup to ensure that everybody got a fair share of the resources available. All citizens were issued with ration books which contained tokens to be exchanged in shops for food. Items rationed included butter, sugar, bacon and meat. By the end of the war, half of Britain’s food was rationed (Johndclare, 2013). To make supplies last longer, people were encouraged to grow their own food. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was initiated; this encouraged everyone to turn gardens and any free land into allotments which were used to grow vegetables and hold chickens. Particularly because of the damage left by the Germans in the Blitz bombings, many main cities in the United Kingdom were devoured and obliterated. Flames and fires swallowed massive portions of London and refuge was found anywhere they could escape. Many residents fled to the damp and grimy underground stations that sheltered as many as 177,000 people through the night (Eyewitness to History, n.d.). Fires, explosives, lack of manpower, debt and famine kept Britain floundering long after the war ended. Citizens united and tidied to their ability, but the large scale damage was overwhelming. 10
A birdâ€™s eye view of London after the famous Blitz bombings. The German Luftwaffe planes carried out numerous attacks on English cities and towns from 1940 and 1941.
British citizens working in a â€˜victory gardenâ€™ growing their own food due to shortages during the Second World War, 1940. 12
Repercussions swept through the clothing world as well. The government implemented the CC41 initiative, which stood for Civilian Clothing 1941. The logo was designed by Reginald Ship; a label maker who worked at Hargreaves, London (Shelf Appeal, 2011). The logo, which was two abstracted letter ‘C’s’ was often referred to as the ‘Two Cheeses’. For this time period, the logos design was considered modern. The label was used to distinguish clothing which met the governments criteria (see chapter 2). The utility scheme continued long after the war, ultimately due to of the lack of money for both the people and the government. Britain was not able to support its own people financially, let alone the now starving Germans and other immigrants residing in the British zones outside of the United Kingdom. Because of its state of bankruptcy, it began to shrink its empire starting with the country of India in 1947. In response, food rationing increased and new items were restricted such as bread. Most of the public became fed up and looked to the government for answers. However, with all the devastation, poverty and change - the government had enough to deal with and could not satisfy the public with answers. The end of the war brought the coalition and Winston Churchill was removed from power while the conservative party stepped in. This led to a new general election and with overwhelming amounts of support, the Labour Party was put into power. With a change in the Government, followed a series of important changes followed, that would put the country back on track. These changes included improvements to the schooling system; which allowed all children access to free education and a new leaving age of 15, meaning more children were educated and for longer. In 1948 the National Health Service was created allowing free service of local doctors, hospitals,
Top image shows a ration book that would include coupons that could be exchanged for food. Bottom image shows a weeks worth of rationed food that would have been given to one person. The rations included butter 2oz, margarine 4oz, lard 2oz, loose tea 2oz, 4 rashers of bacon 4oz, granulated sugar 8oz and one egg.
surgeries, dentists and opticians for everyone. This enabled citizens to save the money that would have been spent on health care for other essentials which they needed to survive. State benefits and housing programs were also set up for those unemployed, sick and too poor to afford shelter. The new government also developed millions of homes, these included green park recreational areas which vastly boosted the standards of living. Due to bankruptcy, the Government withdrew loan support from America. 13
UTILITY CLOTHING In a time with limited resources and restricted import and export, rationing was a big part of life for people living during the second World War (see chapter 1). Rationing was not just limited to food; the year 1941 saw the introduction of Civilian Clothing, an initiative introduced by the British Government to aid the recovery of the economy. Some of the main driving points towards starting the initiative included a short supply of raw materials; especially cloth, wool and leather. Another big factor was the limited workforce available. A lot of the male workers had been dispatched to fight in the war so factory’s were much more reliant on females and workers were required to work harder for longer hours. (1940s Society, n.d) Some of the attributes of Utility Clothing included simple cut clothes with restrictions on the amount of materials used. Pleats, turn-ups, pockets and buttons were kept to a minimal or removed altogether in favor of simpler designs, which were more economic and used much less material. High profile London fashion designers got involved with the clothing movement. Led by Captain Edward Molyneux; an iconic London designer with a fashion house based in Paris, he famously dressed Princess Marina of Greece for her wedding to the Duke of Kent (FMD, 2013). Other notable designers included Norman Hartnell; Dressmaker to HM The Queen in 1940, Sir Edwin Hardy Amies; Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II, Angele Delange and Peter Russell. They collectively designed 34 practical and durable designs, which were released to the public in 1942 (Fashion Era, n.d.). In order to make the clothing affordable and make it accessible to as many people as possible, the British Government enforced pricing regulations on utility clothing. Restricting retailers and manufacturers profits and passing on the savings to the public achieved this. This decision caused some initial dislike to the scheme by some retailers who were concerned about how the restrictions would affect business (1940s Society, n.d). In order to preserve vouchers; which could be better spent on other items, people were encouraged to ‘Make Do and Mend’ old clothing. This was achieved by mending old clothes and unpicking unwanted garments and reusing the wool. Adults clothes were also cut up and made into new items for children with embroidery or other details added to make them look more appealing (Kirkby Malham, 2012) The utility clothing movement changed many things in society, “at first consumers expected to be displeased with utility clothing, which they assumed would be drab and boring, [but] once the clothing reached stores, shoppers realized that utility clothing was durable and, while generally lacking flair and distinctiveness, did come in different styles and colors” (Fashion Encyclopedia, n.d) 14
Top A machine mass producing fabric to be used to create CC41 clothes. Bottom A woman wearing a floral print Utility CC41 dress. This design was from the first range, which did not impose as many strict regulations. This is evident from the plenty of buttons which have been used. Right Posing for a local London paper, this dress shows more intricate design dut to the three buttons, collar and pockets.
UTILITY FURNITURE Utility furniture was first introduced in 1942, one year after Utility clothing. It was used as a means of concentrating centers of production and as a way of restricting wastage of materials through the imposition of strict specifications for the production of furniture and other goods. (Knoji, 2011) The furniture specifications were set by the Board of Trade, of which Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer, British Labour Party, was president and included guidance on the amount and quality of materials to be used. (Spartacus, n.d) The actual designs were created by the Utility Furniture Advisory Committee; a panel set up in 1942, drawing on the considerable expertise of its members. The committee included influential advocates of good design. Some of the key members were Gordon Russell, Herman Lebus and John Gloag. All were designers and skilled craftsman, they had a shared and passionate vision for their craft. “The whole of the furniture trade was anxious to continue what it had been doing before the war: producing furniture that wasn’t so much reproduction as machine-made caricature. I, on the other hand, had no wish to see that happen and I saw in the furniture advisory committee a genuine opportunity for improving standards and for creating something of our own day.” Gordon Russell (Vads, n.d) These designers were responsible for the production of the 1943 catalogue which contained a selection of items which were available for purchase. (Making the Modern World, 2013) The furniture catalogue which was produced contained five sections which included furniture for living room, bedroom, kitchen, nursery and miscellaneous. Every piece of furniture included was made from minimal material but made strong and to last. Handles and knobs were also made of wood as traditional metal and plastic details were in short supply and prioritized for the war effort. (Making the Modern World, 2013) Utility furniture took a straightforward approach to design and moved away from the large Jacobean legs and Queen Anne curves which were common and desirable in a lot of pre-war furniture. The designs were simple with lack of ornamentation, largely in tradition to the Arts and Craft movement, which flourished between 1860 and 1910. 16
Top A typical 1940â€™s kitchen equipped with utility furniture. Bottom A 1940â€™s bedroom made using the scarce timber that was available. Right A British chair made during the aftermath of the Second World War as part of the Utility Furniture Scheme. The scheme was introduced by the government in 1942 to cope with the shortages of raw materials.
Three children in London looking at the debris that lays where their house once stood after the Blitz bombing, between 1940-1941.
POST WAR CONSTRUCTION In 1945 when the Labour Party decided the concept of the Festival of Britain (see chapter five) they had little materials to work with. Scarred from the bombs that had fallen in the Second World War, cities of Britain were in a barren state. The majority of London was scattered and in rubble. This devastation left the architects with flat land covered in piles of debris from the previous buildings. The architects decided that they would create a haven for the people. The idea was for a â€˜newâ€™ London should rise from the ashes of the bombed buildings and wreckage. Utility design was produced in Britain after the Second World War as materials were rationed. Utility design was a way of coping with the shortages and using any materials that you could find to create the necessities needed (see chapters one and two). As there was a massive shortage of wood and other materials the only materials left to work with were recycled planes and metal that the battles had left behind. As almost everything was rationed and monitored the Festival of Britain was created from everything that the organizers could find beneath the rubble in the streets. In response to the flattened land plagued throughout London the architects decided to create plinths, levels and layers in and around the buildings. They thought of this as better quality design in the rebuilding of British towns. This created a new environment for the people of Britain, a change from the dreary aftermath of the war. The architects had to battle with creating buildings that not only looked innovative and new, yet also admired the traditional British buildings that still stood amidst the rubble. 19
PROPAGANDA Propaganda played a massive role before and after the Second World War. Primarily used as a tool by political parties, propaganda was used to persuade and influence viewers towards an implied cause. The Second World War brought upon hundreds of propagandists to encourage the people to contribute to society which in turn boosted overall morale. The designs followed similar visual links to the influential European Modernism movement which took place between 19101970 (NARKOMFIN, 2007). This was a reductive movement where form was simplified as a way to break from pictorial representation. In 1914 the British government started a propaganda bureau in Wellington House, London, under Charles Masterman, a British Liberal Party politician and journalist. The establishment was so secretive that most MPs did not even know it existed. It worked behind the offices of the National Insurance Department, which was used as a front to disguise the bureau. The purpose for the bureau was to control the flow of information presented to the British public, they filtered through certain facts and published what they saw fit. One of the key elements of British propaganda was to get men to volunteer to join the war as a means of patriotic justice. The famous poster of Lord Kitchener saying ‘Your Country Needs You’ is a masterpiece of propaganda and a perfect example of patriotism that the government was selling to the public. Poster design turned from the strident propaganda of the war years to the world of consumer pleasures such as; food, fashion, entertainment, electronics. These poster designs are often referred to as the 1950s style. They have an understated graphic sophistication and quality, they all followed a simple colour palette and a cartoon-like depiction of the British people. The cartoon-like designs exude a naive charm, which furthermore presented trustworthy content. With eye-catching aesthetics and catchy puns, the collective mass of propaganda posters soon became the leading style for advertising. 20
Top An Anti Adolf Hitler Propaganda Miniature Chamber Pot Ashtray designed by Jerry Fieldings. One side reads ‘Flip Your Ashes On Old Nasty, The Violation of Poland’ and on the other side reads ‘Jerry No. 1’. Right A poster from the Wartime Scrapbook compiled by Robert Opie, a collection of the Anti Adolf Hitler propaganda during the Second World War.
Propaganda stretched through to all media platforms; including film and radio. The concept of television in this time was very different to that of modern day; it was the first opportunity for the people to see the events taking place around the globe. War promotional films obtained tones Left row, top to bottom
of misshapen and false views of British society. These manipulated implications were a means of
Propaganda poster, from Robie Opie’s Wartime Scrapbook, of the Triumph and Gem comic book during the Second World War.
denying any notion of weakness from the British public in the aftermath of the war. War films
British propaganda poster encouraging the public to support their soldiers From Robie Opie’s Wartime Scrapbook
the war. In 1916 ‘The Battle of the Somme’ was released, it was produced from the British Topical
Dig for Victory was a slogan used by the Ministry of Food to encourage the British to grow their own food due to the rationing and shortages.
its graphic imagery of wounded soldiers and violent warfare. Its honesty was controversial; it was
Right row, top to bottom
nation. German submarines were attacking ships that were supplying Britain with food. This
Morris Minor is a British economy car that was introduced in 1948 by Alec Issigonis. During World War II, Morris Motors undertook military work, notably the development of the Morris lightweight reconnaissance vehicle for the war department.
campaign was known as the Battle of the Atlantic. In preparation and fear of losing all imported
Multiple propaganda was distributed reminding the British public to be aware of the dangers of gossiping about Adolf Hitler. This illustration was done by Fougasse, ‘Careless talk’, the fine print reading - “Don’t forget the Walls Have Ears”.
the film was called Dig for Victory.
From Robie Opie’s Wartime Scrapbook, this propaganda poster celebrates the crash of a Nazi plane towards the end of the Second World War.
Many novelty products of anti-Nazi and anti-Hitler were popular at the time, items like this ashtray
were an attempt to reawaken the repressed middle class (Re-Viewing British Cinema, 1900-1992: Essays and Interviews, p145). Film emerged as a powerful medium for propaganda films during Committee for War Films, not by the government. The contents of the film shocked the public for either seen as too graphic or people appreciated the reality. During the war period there were many propaganda films that inserted a false notion of a healing
food supplies films were created to encourage the public to grow their own. In one particular film people were taught how to plant different vegetables with the necessary tools. ‘Food is just as important weapon of war as guns. Have you joined the ranks of this great new army that’s helping to win the war by helping themselves to good food’ -again the notion of ‘doing your bit’ for Britain,
Propaganda was a key element in the understanding of war and recovery, it was communicated everywhere through posters, film, radio and novelty merchandise. Hitler’s image became iconic during the war; he was the number one enemy to the British public and the person to point the blame at. with Hitler and the Nazi symbol boosted moral and unified the British people in their hatred to him. Representing him in such ways helped deplete him as a terrifying threat to the people. 23
A bus in London lays in a hole left by a German bomb, 1940. The photograph by William Vandivert, who was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker, or “shelter for the leader,” after the fall of Berlin.
CONCLUSION The Utility schemes, which were put into effect during the war, ensured that people were buying products of a high standard, at an affordable price. The CC41 logo came to represent good value for money. From 1948 the Board of Trade eased its directive that Utility furniture be manufactured to standard design specifications. As a result the Utility mark could no longer be seen as a means of indicating guaranteed standards and ‘value for money’. In the 1952 Douglas Report reviewing Utility and Purchase Tax where a need was identified ‘for effective advice to enable consumers to distinguish between cheapness that is good value and cheapness that is bad economy’. The Utility Scheme formally came to an end in the same year (Answers, 2004). 25
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Please turn over for Festival of Britain
please turn over for The Utility Movement
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N/A, (1951), FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN PAINTING [ONLINE]. Available at:http://1.bp.blogspot.com/5kFbBu7sVBk/TbFhbpL_z2I/AAAAAAAAAUQ/ vQH-ogib-kw/s1600/ [Accessed 05 April 13]. N/A, (1951), Festival ride [ONLINE]. Available at:http:// www.assetstorage.co.uk/AssetStorageService.svc/ GetImageFriendly/721203964/700/700/0/0/1/80/ ResizeBestFit/0/PressAssociation/ D1AD7D01F1CCD2E0221885110C33BEAC/thefestival-of-britain-london-1951.jpg [Accessed 05 April 13].
BIBLIOGRAPHY Bellman hangar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Bellman hangar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bellman_hangar. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle:_An_International_ Survey_of_Constructivist_Art. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. DOME: Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain | London Design Festival. 2013. DOME: Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain | London Design Festival. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www. londondesignfestival.com/events/dome-ralph-tubbsand-festival-britain-0. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Family Portrait - A Film on the Theme of the Festival of Britain 1951 : Central Office of Information : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. 2013. Family Portrait - A Film on the Theme of the Festival of Britain 1951 : Central Office of Information : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. [ONLINE] Available at:http://archive.org/details/family_portrait_festival_ of_britain_1951_humphrey_jennings. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Felix Samuely - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Felix Samuely - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Felix_Samuely. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Games, GN, 2011. Symbol for the Festival. 1st ed. p18: Capital Transport Publishing. Games, GN, 2011. Symbol for the Festival. 1st ed. P27: Capital Transport Publishing. Hidalgo Moya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Hidalgo Moya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Hidalgo_Moya. [Accessed 5 April 2013].
Holland, Hannen & Cubitts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013.Holland, Hannen & Cubitts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holland,_ Hannen_%26_Cubitts. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Home | Holland Hannen & Cubitts. 2013. Home | Holland Hannen & Cubitts. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.hollandhannenandcubitts.co.uk/p/h/ Home//21/. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. International Style (architecture) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013.International Style (architecture) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_ Style_%28architecture%29. [Accessed 5 April 2013].
Royal Festival Hall | Southbank Centre. 2013. Royal Festival Hall | Southbank Centre. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/venues/royalfestival-hall. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. The Royal Festival Hall and The London Eye; 2009 | Londonist. 2013. The Royal Festival Hall and The London Eye; 2009 | Londonist. [ONLINE] Available at: http://londonist.com/2012/08/take-a-post-warbus-tour-aboard-a-classic-routemaster.php/the-royalfestival-hall-and-the-london-eye-2009. [Accessed 5 April 2013].
Leslie Martin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Leslie Martin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Leslie_Martin. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Philip Powell (architect) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Philip Powell (architect) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_ Powell_%28architect%29. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. Painter Brothers - Contact Details. 2013. Painter Brothers - Contact Details. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.painterbrothers.com/contact.php. [Accessed 5 April 2013]. painter bros | london | air ministry | 1938 | 0196 | Flight Archive. 2013.painter bros | london | air ministry | 1938 | 0196 | Flight Archive. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/ view/1938/1938%20-%200196.html. [Accessed 22 April 2013]. Ralph Tubbs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Ralph Tubbs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Ralph_Tubbs. [Accessed 5 April 2013].
Crowds gather in the street to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II Coronation which took place on 2 June, 1953. The celebrations were organized by local , who donated tables and chairs for the parties and also arranged activities for people could get involved in.
CONCLUSION It can be seen from points previously discussed, the Festival was an essential step towards shaping modern Britain. It had been six years since the end of World War II though not a great deal of improvement had been made to enrich lives. Rationing still played a large part of citizens lives. For some people, rationing had a positive effect, encouraging them to adopt new eating patterns. Many people were better fed during wartime food rationing than before the war years. Infant mortality rates declined, and the average age of death from natural causes increased. (Medical News Today, 2004). Sadly after the Festival was over, one of the first acts of the newly appointed government was the removal of Festival buildings. This may have been a politically driven move, due to the current governmentâ€™s opposition, â€“ even though The Festival had proven successful. Examples of its success are shown in the large numbers of people who attended, with over 8 million people attending the South Bank Exhibition alone. Not much remains to this day of The Festival except images and memorabilia. However there is one building that still remains to this day, The Royal Festival Hall. This is a testament to the time. A 60th anniversary exhibition was held on the Southbank in 2011. This celebrated the legacy of the 1951 event and made a new generation of people aware of the struggles that existed. 17
The skylon was a 300 foot tall, cigar-shaped aluminium-clad steel tower exhibited at the Festival of Britain.
Above is The Dome in its entirety at night and below is a capture of underneath the Dome. The Dome of Discovery was designed by Ralph Tubbs for the Festival of Britain, 1951. It was an iconic structure that helped popularize modern design.
The Skylon was said to be named after considering a combination of the sky and nylon that was a ingenious new material created in 1951. A popular joke of the period was that, like the British economy of 1951, “It had no visible means of support” (“The Reunion - Festival of Britain” BBC Radio 4). The Skylon was later destroyed in 1952 by Winston Churchill who called it a “Symbol of Socialism”. Churchill cut the cables of the Skylon and it toppled into the Thames. The Dome of Discovery and the Skylon became iconic symbols of the festival and were influenced by the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The Royal Albert Hall was designed by architects Leslie Martin, Robert Matthew and Peter Moro. Due to the festival directors desiring upcoming architects to design a Modernist building, the festival’s commissioning architect Hugh Casson was not apart of the design. Leslie Martin was a British architect and a leading advocate of the International Style which emerged in the 1920-30’s. Martin was a co-editor of The Circle journal that reviewed avant-garde abstract art and architecture. After creating the Royal Festival Hall, Martin was made Chief Architect of the London County Council (LCC) and inspired upcoming architects. His partner Robert Matthew was a Scottish architect who moved to London in 1946 and became Chief Architect and Planning Officer to the LCC. Matthew was appointed to the LCC to help to rebuild the city after the Second World War. The third architect, Moro, was a German. He came to England in 1936 where he was later made chief architectural designer for The Royal Festival Hall in 1948. The construction of the building began in 1948 and took 18 months to fully complete. The Royal Festival Hall was officially opened on the 3rd of May, 1951, for The Festival. The Royal Festival Hall cost £2 million to build and the renovation in 2007 cost £111 million. It is now a 2,500 seat concert, dance and lecture venue. It is a grade 1 listed building, making it immune to demolition. Martin portrays The Hall as, “an egg in a box”(jefferson, 1979, p.103). This term was used to depict the curved auditorium that was inside the surrounding building. 15
This photograph shows an audience watching a 3-D stereoscopic film in the Telekinema,during the Southbank exhibition.
Left and Above Advances in technology led to new and exciting, scientific discoveries. Scientists using new microscopes examine molecular structures for the development of medicines such as Penicillin.
ARCHITECTURE The Dome of Discovery that was created for the South Bank Festival of Britain Exhibition was designed by architect Ralph Tubbs; who later went on to design The Baden-Powell House and The Charring Cross Hospital. The Dome of Discovery was constructed by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts from aluminium and concrete. This was a temporary build that was later controversially demolished and sold for scrap. The Dome of Discovery was considered a work of art in engineering; a combined work of architecture and sculpture. At the time it was the largest dome in the world. Encasing many of the festival attractions including exhibitions of the Living World, Polar, the Sea, the Earth, the Physical World, the Land, Sky and Outer Space. Each room in the dome was completely different to the other, although it held snippets of the previous and next room to come so that the exhibition flowed. “Buildings aren’t just spaces, they are as complicated as the lives we lead.” (Brief City - The Story of London’s Festival Buildings - The Observer). Ralph Tubbs’ Dome of Discovery was given tribute at the Millennium Dome and Tubbs also won many awards for his designs. The Dome of Discovery was not just amazing due to it having the largest diameter in the world but it was also completely unsupported apart from its perimeter (The London Design Festival, 2013). The Skylon was one of the main attractions of the Festival at Southbank. The Skylon was a needle, fabricated from aluminium and suspended in mid air by tension cables that were floodlit at night. The beauty of the Skylon was that it looked as if it was floating above the Southbank. There was no purpose to the Skylon, aside from countering the materiality of the Dome of Discovery. It was designed by Hidalgo Moya, Philip Powell and Felix Samuely, and fabricated by the Painter Brothers of Hereford, England, on London’s Southbank between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. Moya was an American architect and Powell (1921-2003) was an English architect. They together created The Churchill Gardens in Pimlico and Chichester Festival Theatre. Moya and Powell later became business partners, Powell & Moya Architect Practice. Felix Samuely, an Austrian architect, was also a lecturer at Architectural Association School of Architecture in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury whilst creating the Skylon. Painter Brothers is a major British fabricator of structural steelwork founded at Hereford, England in 1920. Painter Brothers provided the steelwork for the first unit-construction airplane hangars ordered by the British Air Ministry in the pre-World War II rearmament programme. 13
The Outer Space was an exhibit in the ‘Dome of Discovery’. The display designers were Austin Frazer and Eric Towel and the theme Convener was Penrose Angwin.
The Dome of Discovery was considered the most dramatic pavilion at the South Bank Exhibition. The dome had a diameter of 365 feet and stood at 93 feet tall and was the largest dome in the world at the time.
the time period of his career, which began in the 1930’s during war and the utility movement (see the time period of his career, which began in the 1930’s during war and the utility movement (see chapters 1-4) and stretched over six decades (Games 2003, 250). Still today, Abram Games and chapters 1-4) and stretched over six decades (Games 2003, 250). Still today, Abram Games and the festival of Britain go hand in hand, many festival souvenirs are still being circulated. He was the festival of Britain go hand in hand, many festival souvenirs are still being circulated. He was a key contributor to the uniting, awakening and exciting of Britain. The excitement began in May a key contributor to the uniting, awakening and exciting of Britain. The excitement began in May and attracted people from many parts of the world. Designs, developments and inventions were and attracted people from many parts of the world. Designs, developments and inventions were incorporated into multiple exhibitions located in the Dome of Discovery and across the Southbank. incorporated into multiple exhibitions located in the Dome of Discovery and across the Southbank. Families were able to enjoy a funfare, that included rides, carnival games, fireworks displays, water Families were able to enjoy a funfare, that included rides, carnival games, fireworks displays, water fountains and a number of other extravagant and unusual attractions. The atmosphere throughout fountains and a number of other extravagant and unusual attractions. The atmosphere throughout the festival was explosive, “once you pushed through the turnstiles and passed the impatient the festival was explosive, “once you pushed through the turnstiles and passed the impatient attendees you were in for a surprise” (Youtube, Brief City, 1951). An overall feeling of unity and attendees you were in for a surprise” (Youtube, Brief City, 1951). An overall feeling of unity and delight consumed the festival’s visitors and the attendee’s described it as a merriment of an old delight consumed the festival’s visitors and the attendee’s described it as a merriment of an old inheritance combined with a series of surprises. The festival atmosphere exuded post-war optimist; inheritance combined with a series of surprises. The festival atmosphere exuded post-war optimist; exactly what Barry and the other directors aimed to achieve. exactly what Barry and the other directors aimed to achieve.
TECHNOLOGY The Festival was the perfect opportunity and platform to showcase the contributions that were made in technology. These contributions were represented and displayed at the South Bank Exhibition. One of the celebrated developments to technology was the Ferranti’s NIMROD computer. Ferranti, also known as Ferranti International PLC, was a UK electrical engineering and equipment firm. The NIMROD was designed to play Nim, a computer game using panels of lights, the first instance of a digital computer and presented at the Science Museum, London, during the festival. Another huge development in technology was the X-ray crystallography, which contributed to the discovery of the structures of DNA, penicillin and insulin. Another x-ray machine was presented at the exhibition, this one is known as a cine-radiography set specifically for the chest and lungs and takes moving film rather than still images. Only two of these machines were ever made. It was developed in collaboration with Dr.Russell J. Reynolds, a renowned Scientist who built his first x-ray machine at the age of 15.
A group of young girls enjoying the fun fair at the Festival of Britain, Southbank site in 1951.
Top Abram Games posing in his studio with his iconic Festival symbol behind, 1951. Bottom Some of Abram Games’ progressive sketches for the Festival of Britain symbol brief, 1948.
POLITICS AND KEY PEOPLE It is still debatable whether the Festival of Britain was politically driven or not. Generated by men, all from the Labour party, many from the conservative party discouraged the idea of the Festival, Winston Churchill, who was overtaken by the Labour party in 1945, claimed that the Festival of Britain was “three dimensional socialist propaganda”. Other critics claimed that it was, to simply put it, a means for the government to make a profit. Whether it had a hidden agenda or not, the Labour party did announce that their ambitions for the festival were to “lay the foundations of many good and better things to come” (Sir Aylwen, Games 2011 8). They also hoped it would give Britain a feeling of recovery and progress, that the country, because it was in a dry, limited era (chapter one), needed encouraging in design, medicine, science, technology, architecture, art, fashion and, overall life. Abram Games and twelve other designers received a brief on June 9, 1948 asking, to design a symbol for the Festival of Britain by September 15, that year. This was a private competition in which the designer whose emblem was chosen would receive 300 guinea. The brief was specific. It called for “simple design, recognizable at a glance, and fully effective on a scale suitable for letter headings, tickets, posters and lapel badges, as well as on an architectural scale” (Games 2011, 10). It had to be equally effective in black and white as well as color. They were told “the purpose of the festival was to represent the world” (Games 2011 10). Little did any of them realize that the symbol for the festival would turn into the symbol for the era and launch careers. By September 15, Games and every other designer, with the exception of one, submitted, as requested, designs in black and white, in full color, in letter head size and in poster size. After much timely debate, Games and Lynton Lamb were asked to modify their design according to the publics critique as well as the committees opinions. By January 14, Barry contacted Games and said that in an anonymous decision Abram had the winning design. This design would be littered throughout Britain on any and everything due to its popularity and free use of copyright. Once the emblem design was chosen, Games became a pivotal individual in accordance to the festival of Britain as well as influential in the world of 1950’s advertising and design. After the emblem, he was commissioned to create the festival stamp, official book jackets and catalogue covers, festival flags, posters and years later--he was called back to design the Royal Festival Happy 40th anniversary poster. He was won about 34 awards including; design and art direction presidents award, society of industrial artists and designers design and media (Games 2003, 200). Games motto, known by many, was “maximum meaning, minimum means” which was very fitting for 9
This image shows the 'Caterpillar' ride at the Festival of Britain fun fair at Battersea Park, 1951. 6
FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN The Festival Of Britain came into existence in response to the post war exhaustion (see in chapter one). Gerald Berry, editor of the News Chronicle, suggested to the president of the board of trade, Sir Stafford Crips, that the nation should hold a cultural exhibition. After deliberation, Herbert Morrison, deputy Prime Minister of Clement Atlee’s labour government and leader of the House of Commons, announced that the government would hold a Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951 (Games 2011, 8). It would be “one united act of national reassessment and one corporate reaffirmation of faith in the nations future” (Ham sheet). The festival was planned to literally be “a national display illustrating the British contribution to civilization, past, present and future, in the arts, in science and technology and in industrial design” (Games 2011, 8). After the plans for an international trade fair had to be deserted in response to financial and political bindings; all liability was passed onto Morrison himself. From there, he delegated to Berry- who stepped in and gathered designers, architects, artists, scientist and engineers to start breeding the exhibition as well as the exhibition sites. The final site destinations were chosen to be in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edingurgh, and Belfast. Separate from these planted exhibitions, the Festival also held traveling exhibitions in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton, Newcastle, Dundee, Hull, Plymouth, Bristol, and Birkenhead.
Top This is a two and a half pence stamp designed by Abram Games after he completed the design of the Festival of Britain logo in 1951. Bottom Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visited the South Bank Exhibition for the opening for the Festival of Britain.
This is an aerial view of the Festival of Britain painted by J. D. M Harvey in 1954. His chosen medium was watercolour and he had previously designed posters for the Metropolitan Railway 1929. 4
INTRODUCTION This book will be discussing the Festival of Britain–a cultural exhibition that took place in May 1951 in various locations across Britain. The Festival was created in response to the great depression, which overcame Britain following the Second World War in 1945. The event was used as a means to unite the people of Britain and celebrate the end of the war which had been fought for over five years. It was a great opportunity to reach beyond London and engage people nation wide. The Festival of Britain was a massive national event and was the perfect opportunity for designers and artists to show off their works and look towards an exciting future. For many designers, this was the first time they would open their doors to the public. This books subsections discuss the politics surrounding the creating of the even, the technology displayed and discovered during The Festival, the propaganda used to advertise the event, and an in depth discussion on it’s architecture. It closes with the mention of the last building still standing today, The Royal Festival Hall and it’s 40th anniversary. 5
Politics and Key People
Festival of Britain
THE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN Tony Attrill | Tabitha Babcock | Lillais Burke | Katie Austin | Jonny Davis|