Family Festival

Family Festival

Date: 02/07/2021 16:58

The Festival of Britain, brainchild of Labour MP Herbert Morrison, is often associated with the famous centrepiece on the South Bank in London. The festival was a piece of post-war boosterism designed to raise the spirits of a population that had been battered by years of privation, but it reached beyond the metropole and this beautiful clip, Family Festival (1951) captures the festival's iteration in Northern Ireland. 

Its scope ranges from cultural and sporting events to royal visits, taking in the almost-forgotten farm and factory exhibition that was set up in Castlereagh at that time. The site included a Farmhouse of the Future, built on stilts and designed by Henry Lynch-Robinson.

One of the most evocative segments of the film comes from a festival in Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone, where a cavalcade parades through the streets. Crowds of people, many in fancy dress, gather for the event, and skeins of children pelt across summer meadows in running races typical of rural sports days across the countryside.

Everything looks wholesome and optimistic, and the deeply saturated colours lend an intoxicating sense of well-being that persisted in Northern Ireland Tourist Board films, even into the early Troubles. It is a reminder of a time gone by, but also of the persuasiveness of film in cultivating a particular image of society and preserving it with crystal clarity through the intervening years. The sense of nostalgia is so strong that if you breathe deeply, you can almost smell the TVO from the wee grey Fergies.
You can view the full clip here.