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Festival of Great Britain and NI – but what is it?

Written by on October 1, 2018

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Article Written & Published By: Sky News

May outlines plan for Festival of Great Britain and NI – but what is it?

A post-Brexit festival has been announced by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Plans for the event, called the Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, have been revealed as the Conservative party conference gets underway in Birmingham.

What’s the point of it?

The festival is being billed as an event to show off Britain’s business, technology, culture, sport and arts expertise to the rest of the world.

“We want to capture that spirit for a new generation, celebrate our nation’s diversity and talent and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration,” Mrs May told The Sunday Times.

 

Theresa May made the announcement as the Tory party conference began
Image: Theresa May made the announcement as the Tory party conference began

 

What does that actually mean? What will it actually be like?

The festival is designed to pour money back into the economy through tourism and foreign investment.

The event draws on two similar festivals – the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain.

The most recent of the two, the Festival of Britain, was a bid by the then-Labour government to regain the support the party had been losing ahead of an election that year.

It was also intended that the festival would reassure the country that it was recovering from the Second World War that had ended six years before.

 

Royal Festival Hall was regarded as the world's most sophisticated concert hall in 1951
Image: The Royal Festival Hall was regarded as the world’s most sophisticated concert hall in 1951

 

The main area was a 27-acre stretch of the South Bank in central London. Artistic structures, including the Royal Festival Hall, popped up. A new wing of the Science Museum opened, as did a 400-seat state-of-the art cinema.

Down the river in Battersea, a funfair opened with pleasure gardens and rides open to the public.

 

The activities weren’t solely in London. Other events included an exhibition on industrial power in Glasgow, a folk festival in Wales, and an Ulster farm and factory exhibition in Belfast – as well as some travelling events.

 

It also served as a centenary celebration of the Great Exhibition, which was the first ‘World’s Fair’ showcasing the industrial strengths of different countries. It was attended by the likes of Charles Darwin and Charlotte Bronte.

 

Part of the events of the 1951 Festival of Britian included a fun fair in Battersea Park
Image: Part of the events of the 1951 Festival of Britian included a funfair in Battersea Park

 

When will the festival take place?

Pencil it into your calendars for January 2022.

Significantly, it will fall four months before the next scheduled general election.

 

The Queen will celebrate her platinum jubilee in 2022
Image: The Queen will celebrate her platinum jubilee in 2022

 

It will also coincide with a number of events that are likely to see the country celebrating already.

The year will also mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee (she would be the first British monarch to reach the milestone), the Commonwealth Games taking place in Birmingham, the 100th birthday of the BBC and the 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festival.

Who will organise it and who will pay for it?

The government will set aside £120m to plan the event.

Part of that money will be used to hire a creative director.

Names already being touted include Greg Nugent, the brand director of London 2012 Olympics, and Neil MacGregor, the broadcaster and former director of the British Museum.

Reaction to the proposal

Already, the announcement has irked some who believe the £120m should be spend on other areas, such as tackling child poverty.

The 1951 festival attracted similar criticism over the use of the funds and critics derided the quality of the different events and art pieces.

However, it proved popular among Britons – with historian Richard Weight estimating that half of the 49 million national population took part in some way.

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