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30 September  
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1951: Festival closes to applause
Big crowds gathered for the final moments of the Festival of Britain which officially ended - where it began - at the South Bank in London.

The massed bands of the Brigade of Guards played as the Union flag and the Festival flag were taken down for the last time.

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher, addressed a service of thanksgiving held in the Festival Hall.

The aim of the exhibition was to raise the nation's spirits after the war years and to celebrate the best of British art, design and industry.

Imagination and ingenuity

King George VI, who opened the Festival on 3 May, was to have taken part in the final ceremonies but had to pull out because he is still convalescing from an operation on his lungs.

The main focus of the exhibition has been the bomb-damaged site on the South Bank of the Thames near Waterloo station.

Some 8.5 million people have paid to visit the exhibition which included the Royal Festival Hall, the 200 ft (61m) Skylon - a vertical feature in steel and aluminium with no visible means of support - and the Dome of Discovery, an aluminium display centre containing a planetarium and other features.

Its purpose was to display British goods through all aspects of life from the home, to school, transport, industry and the countryside.

Upstream of the exhibition, a transformed Battersea Park has attracted some eight million visitors with its live displays of acrobatics, fairground and nightly firework displays.

Elsewhere in the country communities have been encouraged to celebrate the Festival. Many projects for restoring old buildings have begun, trees have been planted and new commemorative signs erected.

Exhibitions of various sorts have been held - from a Regency Exhibition staged at the Pavilion in Brighton to a display of printed books in the Kent village of Tenterden, the birthplace of William Caxton.

In a nationwide broadcast this evening, Dr Fisher said the Festival had been a "real family party" in which everyone had played a part and from which there would be many lasting benefits.

He said: "The Festival has set the standard by which we shall face the future. The Festival, like the Dome of Discovery itself, was marked by imagination and ingenuity...and a pride for what Britain has achieved in all things."

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Visitors to Battersea pay their two-shillings entrance fee
About 8.5 million people have visited the Festival of Britain


In Context
The Festival of Britain was widely regarded as a big success - although there had been much criticism initially of the £11m cost at a time of meat rationing and petrol shortages.

London and the South Bank were the heart of the Festival. The modern design and informal layout of the South Bank exhibition dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth among others heralded a break with the past - and the drabness and austerity of the war years.

British architecture flourished after the Festival. New towns such as Harlow in Essex and Crawley in West Sussex were said to show the influence of the Festival in their traffic-free precincts and covered walkways. There was also far more widespread use of colour in buildings.

Other lasting legacies of the Festival included the restored Colston Hall in Bristol and Buckland Abbey, home of Sir Francis Drake near Plymouth, which was opened to the public for the first time.

However, a general election in October 1951 saw Winston Churchill returned to power and he quickly dismantled the Festival buildings - with the exception of the Festival Hall. The site then lay derelict for a further decade.

Stories From 30 Sep


 
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