Best of British

The Southbank Centre’s 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain celebrations will open to the public tomorrow, with the glorious weather of the past week set to make it a big success.

The best of British will be celebrated, encompassing traditional British outdoor landscapes – land, seaside, power and production and people of Britain – while keeping the eccentricities that were a feature of the 1951 festival.

1950s room

Source: Belinda Lawley

1950s room

An urban fox made of straw, designed and constructed by Pirate Technics, adorns the top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, towering above the 70-metre long urban beach installation, complete with benches to enjoy the sunshine.

Urban Fox

Source: Belinda Lawley

Urban Fox

Fourteen beach huts designed by specially-commissioned artists also feature, and will each contain different exhibitions documenting the quintessential British seaside holiday.

A rooftop garden is the centrepiece of the ‘land’ installation, created in partnership with the Eden Project, with other installations exploring British rural life.

Power and Production features an Andrew Lock-designed staircase with flowers irrigated by water pumped from below the Royal Festival Hall. Black Pig Lodge by Heather and Ivan Morison is a chamber of real coal, celebrating a distinctly British industry while symbolising social decline in rural communities.

Robert Wilson presents Helmand, an exhibition portraying the life and times of those within the area. Georgie Clarke has also been commissioned to provide photographs of British manufacturers and inventors at work for this outdoor landscape to celebrate the important role that they continue to play.

Belinda Lawley

Source: Belinda Lawley

Belinda Lawley

The theme of People of Britain occurs throughout the festival, with the focal point being an installation by Gitta Gschwendtner along with 50 young refugees which pays homage to the 1951 ‘Doves of Peace’ exhibit.

Avenue of portraits

Source: Belinda Lawley

Avenue of portraits

A re-imagined bandstand, designed by RIBA London and architectural students and graduates, takes centre stage in the Southbank Centre Square.

Taking on the full weight of education, however, is the wonderfully engaging Museum of 1951, which contains memorabilia, artworks, personal histories, models, memories and photographs.

The museum is designed by Hemingway Design, and includes the  newly restored Patchwork of the Century, featuring 100 squares which show an event from each year between 1851 and 1951.

Patchwork of the Century

Source: Southbank Centre

Patchwork of the Century

This really is an amazing and fascinating piece of art, first designed and assembled by Lilian M Dring and worked on by 80 members of Twickenham women’s organisations for their 1951 Women of the Century installation.

The Southbank Centre’s Festival of Britain’s 60th anniversary celebrations will run from 22 April to 4 September.

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