'Festival of Britain'

Scope and Content

Nine of the files explicitly deal with the development of relevant policy issues. Eleven relate to the associated international Design Congress organised by the Council and held at the Royal College of Art in September, and cover administrative arrangements, correspondence, accommodation, agendas, speakers" papers and the production of a Congress report.

A further 11 files relate to a major Festival initiative which had a long-lasting impact on future Council activities. The "Stock List" was developed as an information resource to manage all the data relating to the products being exhibited. This became "Design Review" and after 1956 became publicly accessible in the Design Centre, the Council"s permanent London home. The List comprised some 2,000 products arranged in categories.

Six files relate to the Crystal Pattern Group, a Festival initiative under the leadership of Dr. Helen Megaw that devised decorative schemes based on the microscopic patterns visible in crystal structures. The remaining files cover the development of the Council"s role; its engagement with the Festival Authorities and government departments; estimates and financial planning; the design of the Festival symbol (by Abram Games); the preparation of a catalogue and other Festival publications; and the evolution of the thematic exhibitions. Lastly there are lists of the product suppliers, designers, architects, artists and craftspeople with whom the Council worked.

Administrative / Biographical History

When the British government announced plans for a national celebration in 1951 called the Festival of Britain, the Council of Industrial Design was charged with ensuring high design standards on the major festival sites, and entrusted with large parts of the exhibition planning. The London South Bank site was developed around a set of themes, and the built infrastructure was architecturally and artistically progressive. The Dome of Discovery and the Skylon, in particular, are remembered for their space-age references. Through liaising with manufacturers, artists, designers, architects and craftspeople, the Council effectively designed the content of many of the pavilions.

The Council"s high profile involvement with Festival planning necessitated the definition of a dedicated series,as with the 'Britain Can Make It' exhibition (DCA/14A).


The surviving files have been retained in their original numeric order as allocated by the Council"s Registry. This means that records in a series do not necessarily have consecutive file numbers, and may not be located together.

Access Information

Researchers wishing to consult the collection should make an appointment. Telephone 0044 (0)1273 643217 or email: designarchives@brighton.ac.uk

Archivist's Note

Record created by Lesley Whitworth, with minor edits by Sue Breakell, August 2010.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish any material from the collection must be sought from the curator email: designarchives@brighton.ac.uk

Related Material

For further information relating to the Stock List see DCA/31 (Design Index).


Banham, Mary, and Hillier, Bevis, (eds), 'A Tonic to the Nation: the Festival of Britain 1951', London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.

Conekin, Becky, ""A new language" or "Totally frivolous"? - contested modernism in the Festival of Britain", in Conekin, Becky; Mort, Frank; and Waters, Chris (eds), 'Moments of Modernity? Reconstructing Britain - 1945-64', London and New York: Rivers Oram Press / New York University Press, 1999.

Forgan, Sophie, "Festivals of science and the two cultures: science, design and display in the Festival of Britain, 1951", British Journal For The History Of Science, 31:2 (1998), 217-240.

Harwood, Elaine, and Powers, Alan, (eds), 'Festival of Britain: Twentieth Century Architecture' 5 (Journal of the Twentieth Century Society), London: Twentieth Century Society, 2001.

Catherine Moriarty, "A Backroom Service? The Photographic Library Of The Council Of Industrial Design, 1945–1965", Journal of Design History, 2000 13: 39-57.