There is an annual Festival of London, with many events happening around different location of London, and in addition, there is the 60 years anniversary of The Festival Of Britain on the South Bank, (The Embankment on the River Thames).
Having walked past some sad looking beach huts on the South Bank and wondering why they were there, totally misplaced and need of some imaginative overhaul, the sort that creative children could bring, I came across a woman who knew little of the beach huts, however, instead, she tried enthusiastically to guide me to a temporary vegetable garden on the roof of The Festival Hall, (a concert venue, for those who are not familiar with it) which externally, is a brooding utilitarian concrete block construction that was built in the early 1950’s as part of the original Festival of Britain. I have been to concerts there, including one given many years ago, by Joan Baez. The hall was a comfortable place to go for a concert or show.
Noticing I was not fired up with curiosity about the rooftop vegetable garden, the woman tried again. I was told there was a video presentation I could go and see of the post-war times in London. If I walked along a bit farther, I could also see a beach. The beach was a limited area of sand, transposed from I know not where, in which a few young children played with buckets and spades, like it was an extension of a play group or nursery session.
The whole thing irritated me. It was scrappy and severely lacking in imagination – no doubt a sign of the times, now, not then – and, as for it being a Festival Of Britain, it was definitely not! It never could have been, not even in May 1951 when the idea was first dreamt up. Yes, there were localised exhibitions, in the main though, the big showy stuff was in London, the capital city. It was always going to be more socially London and urban-centric and this current event clearly demonstrates it.
I would love to have seen the exhibition, such as it was, with a ‘then and now’ practical theme, such as using a scaled down prefabricated house,(colloquially known as prefabs) with a garden in which vegetables would have been grown. If beach huts must be part of the display, how about having one with clear roof panels and using it as a greenhouse. We are currently being exhorted to “grow your own”. What about an allotment, they were in use in the 1950’s and there is a great demand for allotments now.