Southbank celebrates Festival of Britain anniversary

Martin Cullingford27th Apr 2011

Museum, a beach and a roof garden - paying homage to an iconic event, 60 years on

Urban Fox, a giant straw bale installation by Pirate Technics
The celebrations – supported by MasterCard – include a new bandstand
The Seaside area includes 14 artist-designed beach huts, created in partnership
The rooftop of the Queen Elizabeth Hall has been turned into a garden
A Mobile Gull Appreciation unit by artist Mark Dion
Photographer Robert Wilson’s powerful exhibition of portraits of soldiers
An Avenue of Portraits – produced by artists and young people
The RFH houses a Museum of 1951, curated by Wayne and Geradine Hemingway
John Piper’s mural The Englishman’s Home is on public display in the QEH

Sixty years ago London’s South Bank hosted the Festival of Britain. The 1951 event aimed to help create a sense of optimism in a war-scarred generation (and city), by showcasing the art, design and architecture of the era – the most lasting legacy of which is the Royal Festival Hall.

This summer, today’s four-acre Southbank site – which now also contains the additional auditoriums of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, among other arts and cultural venues – pays homage to that occasion, through installations and events inspired by the Festival.

‘Coming out of post-war austerity, it was an enormous fillip for London and the whole country,’ said Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcoming the anniversay. ‘The event celebrated who we were as a nation, whilst looking ahead to the future.’

To find out more about how the Southbank Centre has been transformed, click any image below to launch the Gallery.

Classical music events taking place during the celebrations – which run until September 4 - will include a ‘Massive Messiah’ in which choirs from around the country join together to sing Handel’s ever-popular chorus, while concerts by Southbank residents the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the London Sinfonietta will also come under the event’s umbrella. Lang Lang will also lead a project culminating in a mass performance of 100 pianists in the RFH, while a nationwide four day event called ‘Light Fantastic’ will celebrate the music and cultural context of British light music. For more details about events, visit the Southbank website.

All photos, except the Piper mural, by Belinda Lawley

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