The Twentieth Century Society

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Our Festival of Britain event

I really enjoyed our Festival of Britain 60th Anniversary event, held in the Festival Hall this Sunday (and brilliantly organised by Harriet Attkinson, thaks very much!).  great to see so many participants who had worked on the Festival, and thought the quotes from Alan Power’s introduction were such a great summry of contemporaty reactions and later analysis that I’m putting them up here for anyone who missed out (or wants another look). 

Personally, on that first morning when I first saw the Festival looking across the river from Charing Cross Station, it was so utterly beautiful and exciting that I wept.

Ruari McLean

As soon as we pushed through the turnstiles and past the impatient attendants, there was a surprise, a sudden sense of space and leisured gaiety.

Patrick O’Donovan and Hugh Casson, commentary to Brief City[film about the Festival], 1952

What was being celebrated at the Festival was not Imperial pomp but British ingenuity and humanity, the wonders of science and the sheer lightness of the world to come. It was an attempt to will into existence a prevailing myth, humanist and reasonable, which would sweep away the darknesses of the past and replace them with towns as picturesque as the countryside.

Bryan Appleyard, The Pleasure of Peace, 1990

Alan also cited Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal, 1939 as being prophetic of “Festival Spirit”–here’s an extract:

Or shall our dream be earnest of the real Future when we wake,

Design a home,  a factory, a fortress Which, though with effort, we can really make?

What is it we want really?   For what end and how?

If it is something feasible, obtainable,  Let us dream it now…



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