Nostalgia: Remembering 1951 Festival of Britain in Leeds, York and Hull

It was a national exhibition in the heart of London which the Labour Government promoted as a beacon of change for a postwar Britain. But the optimism of the Festival of Britain 70 years ago was felt far beyond the capital.

12th May 1951:  Visitors stroll outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, London during the Festival of Britain..  (Photo by Frank Harrison/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
12th May 1951: Visitors stroll outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, London during the Festival of Britain.. (Photo by Frank Harrison/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

While the Bradford playwright JB Priestley was sending the whole thing up in Festival at Farbridge, his comic novel about a small town putting on its own celebration, irony was absent in the Yorkshire cities that entered into the intended spirit.

This very week in 1951, a travelling exhibition could be seen on Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, while Hull mounted a naval event and York revived its medieval tradition of Mystery Plays, dormant since Tudor times. And a race to bring TV to the North meant that those with sets didn’t even have to leave the house to see the highlights.

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17th April 1951: A locomotive constructed for the Indian Government Railways by the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow, on show at the Festival of Britain on London's South Bank. The train will be sent to India as soon as the Festival ends. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
12th May 1951: The River Thames curving past the Dome of Discovery, Festival Hall and Skylon during the 1951 Festival of Britain. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
circa 1951: People in a queue for the 'Dome of Discovery' at The Festival of Britain. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
May 1951: A view of the Transport Pavillion at the Festival of Britain with suspended gliders and Schneider Trophy winning Supermarine S6B. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
December 1950: Ale wives in costume sample ale at the site of the Festival Inn, Grundy Street, Poplar in anticipation of Festival of Britain. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
May 1951: The Royal Festival Hall and other specially erected buildings at the site of the Festival of Britain on the South Bank of the River Thames, London. The exhibition was held to celebrate the centenary of the Great Exhibition and gave a boost to the morale of post-war Britain. (Photo by Jimmy Sime/Central Press/Getty Images)
23rd November 1950: The interior of the Dome of Discovery at the Festival of Britain. Girders supporting the light alloy curved roof present a futuristic appearance as they are caught by the strong arc-lights used by the builders. (Photo by William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
23rd June 1951: The Transport Pavilion at the South Bank in London, venue for the Festival of Britain exhibition. Original Publication: From colour transparency. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
28th May 1951: The river walk on the South Bank, London, during the Festival of Britain. The sculpture of 'The Islanders' and part of the Skylon are visible. (Photo by Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)