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The Guardian view on the ‘festival of Brexit’: judge it on its results | Editorial

Festival UK 2022 has announced its participants – and there’s no sign of tub-thumping jingoism

The Festival of Britain in 1951 was conceived as a celebration of Britain’s victory in the war and a symbol of leadership to the empire, as well as a commemoration of the centenary of the Great Exhibition. Its actual form, as developed under a Labour government, was very different. Prompted in 1945 by an open letter from the editor of the News Chronicle, Gerald Barry, to Sir Stafford Cripps, president of the Board of Trade, it soon morphed into a celebration of British achievements in design, the arts, science and industry.

Along the way the press grumbled: it was a waste of money; it was the work of a small elite. Barry, who was put in charge of the event, pressed on. He decided it should be joyful: “a year of fun, fantasy and colour, a year in which we can, while soberly surveying our great past and our promising future, for once let ourselves go”. It was to be a “tonic to the nation”. Now, perhaps, it is best remembered for its mood of optimism against a backdrop of austerity, and the quality of artists associated with it, from Lucienne Day and Barbara Jones to Eric Ravilious and Laurie Lee. The last was particularly important in steering the tone of the event away from pomposity and towards a gentle self-deprecation – the kind of wry, fond, anti-patriotic patriotism that the British used to be so good at before po-faced Tories started grimly hoisting union flags at every opportunity.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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