Film ID: YFA 3817 Video of YFA 3817 Festival of Britain 1951 FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN 1951 - LEEDS 1951 Visitor TabsDescription This is an Eric Hall film of the touring Festival of Britain when it went to Leeds. The festivities feature RAF airplanes, a tank, and a fun fair on Woodhouse Moor. Title Travelling Festival at Leeds The film begins showing visitors entering the entrance to the exhibition. The facing wall is covered with large images of the exhibition logo. Written across the top in large letters is 'Festival of Britain'. In the grounds outside the main building there are RAF aircraft, including a Lancaster bomber. Intertitle - Tank loading demonstration A British Cromwell tank is driven onto the back of an articulated lorry, watched by a crowd of spectators. Intertitle - Festival fun fair in Leeds Visitors are packed onto the 'Super Speedway' ride, as well as several other rides, including a carousel. A young man tries to win a prize at a shooting stall, while a woman has a go at the darts stall. The film closes with a boy riding high on a swing as the sun goes down. Context This is one of a large collection of films made by a very keen amateur filmmaker, Eric Hall. Eric was born in 1906 in Bingley and started making films as early as 1929, with a film of Bingley Motor Gymkhana. He continued making films right up to the 1980s. He made some documentary type films in the 1950s, which are quite remarkable for 9.5mm film. They show the amount of thought and skill that Eric put into making his films – although this short film provides only a glimpse of this. For a period he was Chairman of the North East Region of the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC) and President of the Bradford Cine Circle, founded in 1935. Many of his films won awards and commendations from the IAC. For more information on Eric see the Context for Ower Bit Bog Oil (1963/64). The Festival of Britain was organised to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and was first mooted in 1943 by the Royal Society of Arts. It was intended to, “demonstrate Britain's contribution to civilisation, past, present, and future, in the arts, in science and technology, and in industrial design”. The Festival is best known for being held on the South Bank in London, where it was opened by King George VI on 1st May. But in fact it toured the country with exhibitions in many cities. The Land Travelling Exhibition included Manchester (5 to 26 May), Birmingham (4 to 25 August) and Nottingham (15 September to 6 October), as well as Leeds – Hull was part of the Sea Travelling Exhibition. Entrance was 2/- (about £2.50) for adults and 1/- for children. The YFA has been kindly supplied some detailed notes written on the Leeds event by local Woodhouse Moor enthusiast Bill McKinnon. Bill has agreed to have these reproduced below in the next five paragraphs (more of Bill's text can be found at the Festival of Britain, Leeds, website, References). The Festival of Britain Land Travelling Exhibition was held on Woodhouse Moor in Leeds from the 23rd June 1951 to the 14th July 1951. It was opened by the Princess Royal (the sister of George VI), accompanied by the Lord Mayor and other civic dignitaries. The Princess and her party approached the Exhibition on foot along an avenue lined by 22 flagpoles on which Union Jacks fluttered in the breeze. As the Princess walked, she passed flower beds filled with brown irises. In her opening speech, the Princess said, “This nation-wide event must be seen as a magnificent gesture of fortitude and determination by a people who have put pessimism aside, a people aware of their tremendous past and secure in the knowledge that the dark moments of their history have often been noble ones. Trials and tribulations, war, poverty and devastation are powerless to destroy the living spirit of a great nation.” The opening of the Exhibition marked the start of three weeks of Festival celebrations across the city. These included a fireworks display in Roundhay Park, parachute jumping from a balloon above Roundhay Park, open-air plays and ballet at Temple Newsam and Kirkstall Abbey, and a concert of British Music at Leeds Town Hall. The Exhibition was held in a canvas marquee fronted by an impressive façade of steel and plastic upon which were mounted 21 floodlights directed at the sky. The marquee covered 35,000 square feet and housed 5,000 exhibits worth £250,000. 10 lorries had to make 100 trips to bring the Exhibition from Manchester to Leeds. In the entrance foyer, there was a grouping, 12 feet high, of three plaster statues by Fiore de Henriquez entitled “The Skill of the British People”, representing Industry, Communications and Effort. From the entrance foyer, you proceeded along the Corridor of Time to a domed Arena. As people walked along the Corridor of Time they passed beneath 16 swinging pendulums whilst listening to a recording of actor Valentine Dyall telling of British achievement and history. From the domed Arena, you could choose to enter sections devoted to: Discovery and Design, People at Home, People at Play, People at Work, and People Travel. The People at Play section included a fully automatic miniature theatre, and a fashion theatre in which plays were performed by mannequins using mime. The 100,000th visitor to the site was presented with a floral bouquet by the mannequins and taken by taxi to a city centre restaurant for a meal, courtesy of the British Government (it was on the advice of her doctor that this person had visited the Exhibition). 144,844 people visited the Exhibition. This was more than visited any of the other three cities which hosted the Land Travelling Exhibition. The Festival organisers were unsurprised as they considered the Leeds site to be the best of the four. The Land Travelling Exhibition was designed by Mr Richard Levin, and the chief architect was Mr W J Fitt. Leeds City Council spent £6,000 preparing the ground to take the site. The Festival’s Director-General Gerald Barry in a speech congratulating Leeds City Council on its choice of site, and the work that had been done preparing it, said that the city would always have the site as a memorial to the time that the city had hosted the Land Travelling Exhibition. Adjacent to the main Exhibition were exhibitions by the Army, RAF, British Red Cross, Road Safety, National Savings and BEA. The army exhibition included demonstrations of tanks being loaded onto tank transporters. The RAF exhibition included a Lancaster bomber and a Vampire jet. Across Rampart Road on Low Moor, there was a funfair on the site on which the Woodhouse Feast has been held for many years. Two years later, to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a 21 gun salute was given on the same site. An estimated eighteen million people visited the two thousand local events across the UK. For industrial cities like Leeds, the emphasis was on manufacturing. Hence it was left out of the 22 Arts Festivals which toured more ‘arty’ places like Cheltenham. Although some of the exhibits and designs on display were quickly dated, the Festival nevertheless acted as a spur to many architects and designers – see the Designing Britain website, References. It also indirectly – it was meant to be non-partisan – reflected the social ideals of some on the Labour left (the Labour Party remained in power until the Tories won the general election on 26th October). The logo, seen in the film and designed by Abraham Games, has the image of Britannia, reflecting the dwindling imperial ethos of the time. But although the Festival Council wanted the Festival to demonstrate the benefits of the British Empire, other organisers took a more anti-colonial view and this aspect was downplayed – the Council did nevertheless include art historian Kenneth Clark, T S Elliot, John Gielgud and Noel Coward. By 1951 the process of decolonisation was well under way and this is reflected in the mixed way that colonialism is dealt with in the Festival – exploited by the British Ku Klax Klan, yet celebrated by calypsian singers Lord Beginner and Lord Kitchener (see Jo Littler, although Daunton sees it as being more inclusive – References). Despite the London centredness of most of the literature on the Festival, the University of Huddersfield Academy for the Study of Britishness is hosting a conference on ‘The 1951 Festival of Britain in the Regions and Nations’ on 15th September 2011. The site of the Festival in Leeds at Woodhouse Moor is currently (May 2011) under threat from numerous sources, and campaigns have been set up to protect the Moor (Friends of Woodhouse Moor) and nearby Leeds Girls High (Leeds Girls High School Action Group) – see their respective websites in References for more details. In David Kynaston’s highly readable (though somewhat Londoncentric) history of this period, the 1951 Festival marked something of a turning point away from austerity Britain. It shows just how far we have come in the meantime that, on its 60th anniversary, much of the arts that were at the heart of the Festival are being drastically cut rather than celebrated as they were in 1951. (With special thanks to Bill McKinnon) References Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier (editors), A Tonic to the Nation the Festival of Britain 1951, Thames and Hudson, 1976. Martin Daunton, Wealth and welfare : an economic and social history of Britain, 1851-1951, Oxford University Press, 2007 David Kynaston, Family Britain: 1951-57, Bloomsbury, London, 2009. Jo Littler, ‘Festering Britain: The 1951 Festival of Britain, national identity and the representation of the Commonwealth’, in Simon Faulkner and Anandi Ramamurthy (eds), Visual Culture and Decolonisation In Britain, Ashgate, 2006.Festival of Britain LeedsLand Travelling ExhibitionDesigning Britain 1945-75, Festival Of Britain Woodhouse Moor Online Leeds Girls High School Action Group A year in the park, Yorkshire Evening Post Further Information The Festival of Britain (Official Book of the Festival of Britain 1951). HMSO, 1951. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Festival of Britain, Manchester University Press, 2003. Paul Rennie , Festival of Britain 1951, Antique Collectors Club, London, 2007 Barry Turner, Beacon for Change: How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age, Aurum Press, 2011.