The Festival of Britain

Today marks the 60th anniver­sary of the open­ing of the Fes­ti­val of Britain, with its main site on Lon­don’s South Bank. As a result, today’s pro­gramme focus­es on British music – from baroque com­posers such as Pur­cell, Han­del and Arne, to mod­ern com­posers of the 20th cen­tu­ry like Elgar, Coates, Vaugh­an Willia­mas and Holst. We’ll be includ­ing sev­er­al pop­u­lar light clas­si­cal pieces of the mid-20th Cen­tu­ry includ­ing William Alwyn’s Fes­ti­val March, writ­ten espe­cial­ly for the Fes­ti­val of Britain.

The coun­try in 1951 was still rav­aged by the after-effects of the Sec­ond World War, with many parts of its major cities reduced to rub­ble. The gov­ern­ment was work­ing hard to rebuild the coun­try and bring in sweep­ing social advances like the Nation­al Health Ser­vice despite the fact that the coun­try was vir­tu­al­ly bank­rupt as a result of the war and the atro­cious record-break­ing win­ter of 1947.

The British pop­u­la­tion need­ed a ton­ic, and it took the form of a great exhi­bi­tion of British inge­nu­ity and inven­tion, art and indus­try. The main site was on the South Bank, still one of the world’s great art cen­tres – the Fes­ti­val Hall was built for the pur­pose and is clear­ly vis­i­ble in the illus­tra­tion above, from a post­card of the time – and oth­er sites around Lon­don and the coun­try took up dif­fer­ent themes of the Fes­ti­val. (The oth­er build­ing clear­ly vis­i­ble in the illus­tra­tion is the Dome of Dis­cov­ery.) A spe­cial Fes­ti­val logo was cre­at­ed by lead­ing design­er Abram Games (see pro­gramme cov­er, left).

The Fes­ti­val also coin­cid­ed with the 100th anniver­sary of the Great Exhi­bi­tion of 1851, held in the mag­nif­i­cent Crys­tal Palace erect­ed in Hyde Park on the cen­tre of Lon­don, and also show­cas­ing British inno­va­tion and the fruits of empire.

Read more about the Fes­ti­val of Britain here.

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin and pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with our friends at the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme in-world now at, or sim­ply click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. Lis­ten­ers in the Unit­ed States are encour­aged to tune in using this link:

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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