Festival of Britain

The Festival of Britain was held in 1951, celebrating the country’s achievements and showcasing the best in design and manufacturing. On the one hand, it marked the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition. However, at the same time, Britain was emerging from the aftermath of the Second World War and the Festival was intended to be a beacon of change and renewal, delivering a much needed boost in morale. While the main Festival site was on London’s South Bank, smaller exhibitions and events took place across the whole country, as the infographic illustrates. The Festival was very popular and it is estimated that around half of the whole population took part in some way.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Festival of Britain infographic

The Festival


The principal Festival events took place across the country between May and October 1951. Displays celebrated Britain’s contribution to the arts, architecture, science, technology and industrial design.



The exhibitions


The main site on the South Bank of London hosted a range of exhibitions covering three main themes: ‘Land of Britain’; ‘Discovery’; and ‘The People at Home’. Other sites in London hosted further displays and events, including a new model housing scheme in Poplar, East London, and a funfair in Battersea Park. The South Bank attracted 8.5 million visitors, half of whom came from outside London. Almost as many came to the amusements at Battersea Park, which counted 8 million people through its turnstiles.


Outside London, cities hosted different exhibitions, from ‘Industrial Power’ in Glasgow, to the ‘Pageant of Wales’ in Cardiff. In addition, two travelling exhibitions, one by sea and the other by road, took the Festival to other cities.


The ‘Festival Ship Campania’ carried a smaller edition of the story told on the South Bank. A former Second World War escort aircraft carrier, the Campania was converted to display the exhibits within the hanger deck and on the flight deck. The ship was painted white, with ‘Festival of Britain’ written large on its sides. The infographic illustrates the ten port cities that the ship visited during the Festival, attracting 900,000 visitors.


The land exhibition visited four cities in Central England, with displays relating to industrial design. One hundred lorries were required to transport the 3,000 objects in the exhibition, which required 35,000 square feet of display space.



Graphic design


The design of the infographic incorporates elements of the design scheme which was specially created for the Festival. These elements have been combined with a background colour, contemporary serif fonts for the text and added ‘creases’ to suggest an original publication with a 1950s feel.


The distinctive emblem or logo for the Festival, shown in the top left of the infographic, was designed by Abram Games, a graphic designer who had made his name creating public information posters during the War. Abram Games pioneered the use of combining striking images, geometric shapes and simple messages in commercial advertising – creating an influential visual style to communicate ‘maximum meaning with minimum means’. The emblem incorporates a profile of Britannia, the points of a compass and bunting. Together with a red, white and blue colour scheme, these elements conveyed the national scope of the Festival.


The title of the infographic uses the typeface commissioned for the Festival – ‘Festival Titling’ – which was designed by Philip Boydell. The typeface was purposely modern in style and only had capital letters as it was to be used on posters and display headings, rather than for blocks of text. The emblem and the typeface also featured on leaflets, guides and official products, creating what became known as ‘Festival Style’.



Sources


Festival of Britain (1951). South Bank Exhibition Guide.


Julier, G. (1993). The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of 20th-Century Design and Designers.


victorianweb.org


www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk


www.thehistorypress.co.uk


This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic.


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