Sunday 24 October 2010

219 Oxford Street W1

The Festival of Britain spawned a mass of art, music and literature, but nothing as curious as these three plaques on an anonymous shop/office block in Oxford Street.
The architects, Ronald Ward and Partners, clearly felt the need to acknowledge the Festival even though they were not involved and Oxford Street is miles away from the site. Perhaps they wanted to associate the building with the sense of a new beginning that the Festival projected - 219 Oxford Street was apparently the first new commercial building to go up in London after war's end. Ironically, by the time it was complete most of the Festival buildings had already been cleared by the incoming Churchill government, which regarded them as too socialist.
According to City of Westminster archives the sculptor is unknown.
The plaques show (above) the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon, with a clutter of navigational paraphenalia; (middle) the Festival plaque by Abram Games with the date; and (below) the Festival Hall, the old shot tower with the curious 'radio beacon' that was put on top for the duration and a clutter of musical impedimenta.
I remember my father pointing out the shot tower as we walked over Hungerford Bridge on our way to a Robert Mayer Childrens' Concert about 1960, raging at the announcement it was to be demolished. It came down in 1961 to make way for the Queen Elizabeth Hall.


Rose C'est La Vie said...

Thrilled to see these references to the Festival of Britain. I have been trawling the internet for images of it for a while now. My parents took me there when I was barely three yet I am convinced I can remember a glimpse of it. It must be the reason I have a deep longing to recreate and revisit it.

Jane said...

I love this building. Whenever I am on a bus going past it I always hope the lights will change to red so that I can stop and have a better look at it.

Hels said...

I love this building too.

You note that by the time it was complete, most of the Festival buildings had already been cleared by the Churchill government of vandals, which regarded them as too socialist. Surely the Festival was specifically about getting past the tragic recent past (the war), progress, top quality design, equality for all citizens and hope for a bright future.

Utter vandals, they were :(