Monday, May 9, 2011
South Bank, London
Festival of Britain (2): Festival Games
I’m particularly pleased that Abram Games’s Festival of Britain symbol survives on the Oxford Street building in the previous post, as it’s good to be reminded of the flair of Games’s design – especially as the symbol has been simplified – and in my opinion sorely mangled – in the current reworking for the Festival anniversary celebrations. For those who don’t know the symbol, or don’t recall its details, here it is reproduced on the original guide to the South Bank Exhibition, and, in another 1951 iteration, on the Festival Souvenir Weather Forecast, provided so that people knew what to wear as they strolled, or dashed, from the Dome of Discovery to the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion.
The symbol is very much of its time, of course. It’s patriotic, its stylized Britannia presiding over the points of the compass rendered in red, white, and blue. It’s celebratory and bunting-bedecked. It could be stuck into a Festival map like a pin; or be placed like a finial at the top of a stylized maypole to advertise the Festival pleasure gardens; or float in space like a presiding spirit. Its combination of flatness and solidity, in tandem with that very 1950s Festival lettering, helped it exemplify the kind of modern design the Festival embraced – up to date and whacky, but with more than a toe planted in tradition. And such a combination of modern and traditional is worth celebrating, it seems to me.
For those who are interested in such things, I got my copy of the weather forecast when I bought the exhibition guide secondhand (I’m not quite old enough to have gone to the original Festival). The forecast is for 28th May 1951, when the outlook for the London area was “Mainly cloudy, Chance of some showers later. Rather cool.” Quite so.
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There's more about Abram Games here.