Festival beginnings

IT was the morning of Saturday the 23rd June 1951 and the sky above Leeds was overcast. On the section of Woodhouse Lane that borders Woodhouse Moor, and on adjacent streets, people had been gathering for over two hours to await the opening at 11.15am of the Festival of Britain Land Travelling Exhibition. By 11am, when the Princess Royal arrived by car to open the Exhibition, Woodhouse Lane was lined by thousands, in ranks five to six deep. The Princess’s car turned into the Festival site and the Princess emerged wearing a light beige coat and dress with matching gloves and hat.

The Princess was greeted by the Lord Mayor, Lieut.-Colonel F. Eric Tetley, wearing a robe of scarlet and ermine. Union Jacks fluttered in the breeze as the Princess walked towards the Exhibition’s imposing facade accompanied by the Lord Mayor and the Chief Constable (Mr J. Barnett) with the mace bearer walking in front. As they walked, they passed colourful bunting, newly laid lawns, and flower beds filled with brown irises

In the mauve-lined entrance foyer, they were met by civic leaders, the Mayors and Lord Mayors of other Yorkshire cities and towns, and by representatives of the service organisations. The Princess sat on a platform between the Lord Mayor and the Earl of Scarborough. Sir Gerald Barry (the Festival’s director general), was at the end of the front row, and behind were Alderman James Croysdale (leader of Leeds City Council),, Alderman David Beevers (leader of the Labour group), Mr. O. A. Radley, (Town Clerk), Dr. G. A. Chase (Bishop of Ripon) and Lieut.-General Sir Philip M. Balfour, the G.O.C.-in-C. Northern Command.

Leeds Festival Exhibition night lights

The Lord Mayor, Princess Royal and Earl of Scarborough at the opening ceremony. A Yorkshire Post photo.


The Land Travelling
Exhibition in Leeds

THE Princess said it gave her very great pleasure to open the Exhibition among her fellow citizens in a county for which she had such great affection. She recalled that the King in his speech from St Paul’s had described the Festival as a symbol of Britain’s abiding courage and vitality. She went on:

“This nation-wide event must be seen as a magnificent gesture of fortitude and determination by a people who have put pessimism aside, a people aware of their tremendous past and secure in the knowledge that the dark moments in their history have often been noble ones. Trials and tribulations, war, poverty, devastation, are powerless to destroy the living spirit of a great nation. Like the air we breathe, the Festival spirit is all around us, and you yourselves are part of it.

Everyone has a part to play, though of course this varies in size and importance from those who have created the many beautifult exhibitions and festivals


The Lord Mayor's speech

AFTER introducing the Princess, the Lord Mayor recalled that the Great Exhibition of 1851 was opened by the Princess Royal’s great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. He said, “Across the road there is a statue erected in the memory of our great Queen Victoria, and it would seem right to say that, looking as she does across to this Exhibition, she would be amazed at the differences brought to our notice here compared with what she gazed upon 100 years ago at that great exhibition.


This Exhibition shows examples of science and of every feature of our life developed to an extra-ordinary extent. Although science lately has dealt particularly with destructive invention, from it is being learnt a great deal for the good of mankind in the future. Whether we admire some of the things we shall see in this Exhibition I shall leave to you but it does show an enormous advance during the 100 years since the Exhibition of 1851, and I think we can be justly proud of the achievements that have been made.”


of art, to the men and women working to produce the local celebrations in towns and villages all over the British Isles, and the individual giving hospitality to a visitor in his own home, or offering helpful advice to the stranger asking his way in the street. In a diversity of ways we are exhibiting the skill of our scientists, artists, engineers, designers and craftsmen, and all they have contributed to the well-being of mankind. This Festival proves, if proof were needed, that we have our part to perform among the nations, now as always, because the values and virtues of democracy are sorely needed in a univer-