Thursday, June 27, 2013

Festival of Britain remembered

Almost the first thing I can remember clearly is going with my parents and sister to the Festival of Britain on the South Bank in London in 1951. My memories were jogged by a copy of the original brochure that I can across recently, which detailed the many exhibits and pavilions on show at this celebration of post-war Britain. These included the Dome of Discovery,which demonstrated that 'British initiative in exploration and discovery is as strong today as ever it was'; the Skylon, a cigar shaped structure that apparently floated above the ground; modern developments such as television and 'telecinema', and a model of the Great Exhibition of 100 years earlier.
The exhibition was politically divisive with the Tories predictably attacking this 'waste of public money' by Labour, as they saw it, and quickly knocking down everything associated with it afterwards, apart from the Royal Festival Hall - the only part of the Festival still on site today. Also destroyed was the Shot Tower, which had been a London landmark since 1826. It all looks very tame by today's high tech standards but to a five year old boy it seemed exciting.
Looking at the brochure I was struck by the colour advertisements it contained, which neatly summed up the great British commercial names of the era. Some remain household names but many are now forgotten, yet as someone who grew up in the fifties they seem all too familiar. This is the list: Benedict's processed peas, Ovaltine, BOAC/BEA, Heinz 57, Hoover, Nuffield Organisation (Morris, Wolseley, MG, Riley cars), Crompton light bulbs, Punch magazine, Prestige cutlery, Manfield shoes, Carrs biscuits, Maclean toothpaste, Number Seven cigarettes, Kayser Bondor lingerie, Cow and Gate, His Masters Voice TV, radio and records, Cussons Imperial Leather soap, Carter Horsley engineers, Cossor electronics, EMI communications, Standard Vanguard cars, London Transport, Lloyds Bank, Ferguson tractors, Allied Ironfounders, Addis brushes, Curtis gin, Ekco radio and TV, Barkers store, Dunlop rubber, Costain builders, Shell/BP, Black and White whisky,Thos W Ward steel, Rootes Group (Humber, Hillman, Sunbeam-Talbot cars and Commer and Karrier lorries), British Electricity, Ford of Dagenham, Capstan cigarettes, English Electric, Ronson lighters, Marconi electronics, State Express 555 cigarettes, Napier engines, Lisette nylons, National Savings, Daks trousers, Outspan oranges, Creda cookers, Ingersoll locks, Craven A cigarettes, Horlicks, Siemens electricals, Tube Investments metals, Coalite smokeless coal, Mr Therm Gas, Sanderson wallpaper and fabrics, Liberty store, Bass/Worthington beer, Sperry navigation equipment, Sharps toffees, Vat 69 whisky, Girling brakes, National Benzole petrol and Haig whisky. How many of those are still around today? Not too many I suspect.


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