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Festival made England merrie!
THE Festival of Britain, in the summer of 1951, was organised to tell the story of the country’s contributions to civilisation.
It came some six years after the war when we were still striving to rebuild both the fabric and economy of Britain.
Burnley was just one of the many towns which heeded the call to communities to join in the national event by organising its own activities.
The council agreed to sponsor the week-long festival and with the full backing of residents, the town planned celebrations ‘on a grand scale’.
The then Mayor, Alderman T Maxfield, said: “A great percentage of the manufactured goods produced in Burnley are what might be termed ‘top priority’ and, as dollar earning exports, are vital links in the country’s efforts towards economic recovery.
“It is therefore only fitting that the local festival arrangements should be in keeping with our industrial importance.”
Exhibitions of art. photography, and industry, a carnival, pageant and mannequin parade were among the special events organised for the town, as well as a performance of Merrie England in the Victoria Theatre and various types of sporting activities, such as cricket, bowling and boxing.
The town’s celebrations began in June that year, with a carnival procession to the Prairie show field, where there was horse racing and seven days later ended with a big agricultural show, which included dog, fur and feather classes.
There was also a competition for the best decorated street, while mills, factories and schools, as well as the fire station, held open days.
Mrs Joyce Riley was the festival queen and was crowned at Thompson Park.
The council also sought to give the town a face lift by planting trees — and that included on many of the town’s slag heaps!