Anniversary: Festival of Britain 1951

Primary History article

By Paul Bracey, published 14th June 2021

Festival of Britain 1951: a tonic for the nation

The Festival of Britain was held 70 years ago. For many this provided a boost for the country after the deprivations of World War II and the economic struggles afterwards. It was designed to be educational and was held 100 years after the Great Exhibition. It was designed to show pride in the country. This article covers what happened as well as attitudes towards it. It also contains some ideas on how such an event might be used as part of teaching and learning.

The Festival of Britain was opened by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on 3 May 1951, with a congregation of 3,000 people. During the course of five months the Festival was visited by 8.5 million people. It was to provide a tonic for the people of Britain after the damage caused by World War II and six years of rationing and austerity. At heart it was an educational undertaking with democratic values which also wanted to promote national recovery and attract tourists to Britain...