1951. A very austere time. So many fathers, brothers, sons, friends , fiancés did not come back from the war. It takes time for the wounds to heal., for the country to rebuild what was lost. To redefine itself too. After fighting for their values, the question is left unanswered: what does “Being British” mean? Think about it – many are under two flags: Ireland/Scotland/Wales/Commonwealth and England. Great melting pot of traditions.
That year is launched the Festival of Britain, meant to help turn a page. By celebrating Great Britain and its inhabitants, it will bring optimism and creativity back. Southbank builds up, the efforts are comparable toth – ththose of a universal exhibition – look at this video to get an idea! The most famous was the skylon a rocket/cigar kind of tower. The telekinema was partocularly successful – at that time TV was still very young… Of all this only one thing remains: the Royal Festival Hall. This concrete building makes so much more sense when you think of it as an exhibition space: many entrances for maximum access to the public, many glass windows to make a visual link with everything happening outside.
Southbank opens this Friday a new version of this festival. Smaller, the space around is of course more limited, less grand too but the idea remains: bring forward meeting spaces, bring friends and family together, give them a chance to learn, discover something new on their way. The list of happenings is long and will last until September 04, 2011.
A few ideas we particularly loved:
– The museum of 1951: many people loaned their memorabilia of the event. Programs, posters, merchandising… Quite fascinating. The film projections give you a better understanding of it too – this is so different from the views we know it felt like seeing an old sci-fi movie to me!
– The festive feeling along the Thames: the longest bunting, 14 beach huts decorated by artists, an appearing-disappearing fountain, 70m of beach for the kids and deckchairs for the parents, retro vans selling ice-creams, fish and chips, pop-corn… Dishoom, London’s Bombay café will even have a pop-up there soon. On the program too: a mini fun fair and the Udderbelly, this concert and show space in the shape of an overturned lilac cow.
– Here and there, photographies, art, sculptures… that take you to floors you usually ignore.
– A Market will also be there every week-end behing the Royal Festival Hall. A modern bandstand is in place and will be welcoming musical groups for everyone pleasure.
– Many British artists will join in. Our favourite will be 0n May 09th, Heston Blumenthal will tell us all about afternoon teas and the 1950ies sherry parties. he ticket is a bit expensive but will include a sherry tasting.
– We loved the Queen Elisabeth hall garden roof – open to the public for the first time. The Eden project team has just finished adding lawn, vegetable patches, flower sets near the mini-bar. Very relaxing and a nice view too. Believe me, it is lovely to sit there in the sun with an ice-cream.
– Each week-end will be themes differently. Guitar, litterature, traditional music… We are quite looking forward to the vintage one which will cover fashion, films, danc, music from the 20th century (July 29-31)
And so many other things! Summer will definitely be under the Festival of Britain sign.