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Festival of Britain
'A Tonic for the Nation' -The National Archives' Festival of Britain collection
In 1947, after nearly a decade of war time austerity, rationing, and making-do, the government devised 'a tonic for the nation'. A national display illustrating the British contribution to civilisation, past, present and future was prescribed to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition in 1851. This included contributions to the arts, science and technology, and industrial design.
The National Archives holds many thousands of unique items which tell the story of the Festival. Each stage of planning for the Festival is documented with photographs, plans, sketches and colourful designs, as well as written documents and official memos. British architect Hugh Casson oversaw the Festival architecture, recruiting other experimental and exciting talent.
Discover at The National Archives how Casson and his team constructed the central Dome of Discovery on the South Bank of the River Thames, surrounded by sleek, futuristic buildings housing other exhibitions: People of Britain, Sea and Ships, Power & Production, The Lion and Unicorn.
Though London’s South Bank was a focal point for much of the Festival, over 2,000 separate regional events were also held, as the Festival caught the national imagination. Memories are being reignited with the 60th anniversary in May 2011, when there will be events to mark the anniversary across Britain.
Aerial view of the Festival of Britain/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-64-25-festival-of-britain-aerial-view-1951.jpg
Catalogue Reference: WORK 25/64/25
Poster advertising a science exhibition at the Festival of Britain/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-72-b3-a16-2.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/72/B3/A16(2)
Terrace sketch by Gordon Bowyer/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-66-b1-sb-dn-31-terrace-sketch-gordon-bowyer.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/66/B1/SB/DN/31)
Theatre audience wearing 3D glasses/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-208-theatre-audience-wearing-3d-glasses-1951.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/208
Festival of Britain poster/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-234-festival-of-britain-poster-1951.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/234
Work on the Country Life mural/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-206-3295-country-life-mural-lion-and-unicorn-pavilion-1951.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/206(3295)
Painting of the Exhibition of Architecture, Poplar/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-69-b1-pr-9-poplar-site.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/69/B1/PR/9
Eccentric's Corner: motor-cyclists' goggles fitted with wind-driven rotor which works wind-screen wipers for use in wet weather/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-204-184.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/204 (184)
Pen and wash sketch by Hugh Casson/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-69-b1-pr-3-pen-wash-sketches-hugh-casson-1948-1952.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/69/B1/PR/3
Dome of Discovery and Skylon, 1951/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-206-dome-of-discovery-and-skylon-1951.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/206
River bank construction by Westminster Bridge, 1949/images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-218-398-river-bank-construction-by-westminster-bridge-21-5-1949.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/218 (398)
Bailey bridge being erected by 36th Army Engineer Regiment, 1950./images/imagelibrary/showcase/festival-of-britain/work-25-199-90.jpg
Catalogue reference: WORK 25/199 (90)
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