Plans to resurrect Great Exhibition in 2012

Plans are being put in place for a Great Exhibition 2012 – inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain 1951.

The Great Exhibition 2012 is being organised by a private company led by former publishing executive Julie Benson. It will be held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire from June to August 2012, and the aspiration is to showcase British culture and society.

Benson says she is in talks with the Conran Group and various designers about potential involvement, and adds that the organisers are ’very much open to people getting involved’ as plans take shape. The event is not currently linked to the London Olympics or other publicly funded events.

Rebecca Griffiths, marketing director for the Great Exhibition, says funding for the event is coming from sponsorship and stall sales. Benson says it has been her aim to put on the festival since she celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977 as a ten-year-old.

She says, ’I remember clearly the street parties and community celebrations surrounding the Queen’s Jubilee and it made me think that we should always feel that close as a community and country.’ She says the current plans were prompted by London’s successful bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012, saying, ’When we won the Olympics I thought, now’s the time.’

The Great Exhibition organisers have engaged sponsors and selected a venue – Stoneleigh Park, which has 21 000m2 of indoor space and 325ha of land. The plan is for the three-month event to showcase ’all that’s great about British culture and society’, says Benson. Branding for the event, which went live last week, has been created by start-up consultancy Chomp.

The consultancy was appointed in October 2009 following a pitch, says Chomp’s Richard Humphries. He explains that he and business partner Richard Knight were working as in-house designers for a telecoms company and set up the new consultancy on the back of the pitch win.

Humphries says, ’The win gave us the impetus to set up the consultancy. Part of the Great Exhibition’s mandate is to help new companies.’ He says of the brand, ’They didn’t have a clear view of the brand when we started – we had to pretty much start from scratch.

The event and the brand call for something really forward looking.’ Griffiths says a number of themes have been identified for the festival, but specific programming is still to be decided.

She identifies themes such as The Footprint of Britain, and The City of the Future as aspects where designers could get involved. In addition, Griffiths says a roadshow is planned to tour the UK next summer to promote the event and drive engagement.

Festival of Britain 1951

  • Held in May 1951 in London and around the UK
  • Key elements included the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank, and the Skylon Tower, which has been mooted for a return
  • Graphic designer Abraham Games created the Britannia symbol for the festival

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