Don't Make Fun Of The Festival

Sir John Tusa counts his experience of the 1951 Festival of Britain as one of the great experiences of his life: he came face to face with 'the modern'.

Noel Coward thought otherwise.

The line 'Don't Make Fun of the Festival' in his song 'Don't Make Fun of the Fair' in fact expressed distaste at the whole event, but Tusa takes him literally at his word.

There should be no poking fun at an event which has had far-reaching effects, even if much of the modernity fell on deaf ears and eyes.

Tusa's brief here is to examine the cultural content of the Festival in terms of architecture, town planning, design, music, art, sculpture and more besides.

Among those he consults are Sir Denis Forman, sole surviving member of the Festival Council; Alan Davey of the Arts Council of England; hugely successful designer Kenneth Grange; Southbank Centre Head of Music Marshall Marcus; and playwright Sir Arnold Wesker.

Music commissioned for the Festival from Vaughan Williams, Alan Rawsthorne, Britten and others colours the programme.

Have these and other Arts Council commissions in the area of art, sculpture and drama been underestimated? Indeed, was the Festival the making of the Arts Council?

There are visits to the Royal Festival Hall, to analyse it as a building reflecting the scientific and social imperatives of the early 1950s; the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, to examine how the branding of Festival souvenirs and literature created a culture in itself; to the Lansbury Estate in East London, home to the extraordinary 1951 Live Architecture Exhibition - a new community; to Coventry Cathedral, where quintessential Festival design survives; and to Stevenage Football Club...where the post-war dream lives on!

Plus the sounds of the Festival on archive.

John Tusa explores the cultural dimension to the 1951 Festival of Britain.