Festival of Britain returns to London's Southbank
Wednesday 19 January 2011
London's Southbank is to be transformed with a modern restaging of the Festival of Britain to mark the event's 60th anniversary, with contributions from Tracey Emin, Ray Davies and Heston Blumenthal.
Among the events will be Billy Bragg's alternative royal wedding weekend celebrations, featuring four days of performances.
The site - which takes in venues such as the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery - will be transformed for four months.
Beach huts, pop-up structures and fairground rides will be among the features which will add to the celebrations, as well as exhibitions and performances.
Former Kinks star Davies will be the curator of a Festival of Britain-themed Meltdown festival at the RFH, while classical draws will include pianist Lang Lang and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment led by Sir Simon Rattle.
The original 1951 exhibition was attended by eight million people and was designed to be a post-war celebration of the nation, and saw the construction of the Festival Hall as well as the long-dismantled Skylon tower. It was described at the time as "a tonic to the nation", and also marked the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The new celebration, from April 22 to September 4, will see the Southbank transformed into four "lands" taking inspiration from themes of the 1951 exhibition. They are "people of Britain", "land of Britain", "sea and ships" and "power and production".
Highlights will include a temporary museum designed by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway dedicated to artworks, models, memories and photographs of 1951.
Other attractions include:
:: A major exhibition of the work of Emin - Love Is What You Want - at the Hayward Gallery from May 18 to August 29.
:: A "tea and sherry" event hosted by Blumenthal and Jancis Robinson.
:: Talks by "national treasures" such as Tony Benn and Meera Syal.
:: Themed weekends with performances by Bragg - from April 29 to May 2 - as well as a British comedy event curated by Stewart Lee, a piano season featuring Lang Lang and the Hemingways' "vintage festival".
:: A mass version of Handel's Messiah featuring choirs from around the UK.
Jude Kelly, artistic director of Southbank Centre, said: "The 1951 Festival of Britain was a landmark event, visited by millions, and its legacy and influence continues to live on.
"Coinciding with another period of austerity, Southbank Centre's anniversary festival will evoke the spirit of 1951 by celebrating Britain's leading creative and cultural role and by welcoming people from around the country and beyond to take part."
Southbank has been revitalised with a facelift over the past few years to create popular public areas with cafes, shops, markets and outdoor art projects.
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