Thu, 10 Jun | Morley College London (Waterloo Campus)

Penny Lecture: Healing the Nation - the Festival of Britain after 70 years

Some see the 1951 Festival of Britain as an assertion of traditional patriotic values, but Alan Powers will argue that it attempted a difficult task of looking to the past and future, and showing British people a better version of themselves in line with post-war hopes.

Time & Location

10 Jun, 18:00 – 19:00
Morley College London (Waterloo Campus), 61 Westminster Bridge Rd, South Bank, London SE1 7HT, UK

About the Event

Some see the 1951 Festival of Britain as an assertion of traditional patriotic values, but Alan Powers will argue that it attempted a difficult task of looking to the past and future, and showing British people a better version of themselves in line with post-war hopes. It was a reward to the senses after years of austerity. The lecture will match the motivations of the leading creators of the Festival to their achievements, especially in the centrepiece, the South Bank exhibition, in healing a war-scarred nation looking for a new role in the world.

Alan Powers teaches at the University of Kent and the London School of Architecture. He was co-editor with Elain Harwood of a book on the Festival published by the Twentieth Century Society in 2001, and met many of those involved in creating the exhibition.

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This event is being presented in collaboration with Morley College London.

Morley College London has a rich history which began in 1882 with a series of ‘Penny Lectures’ at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo. The lectures were organised by our founder Emma Cons and beginning with The Telephone or how to talk to a man a hundred miles away and covered a wide range of interesting subjects such as Why is the Sea Salty?, Curiosities of Insect Life and Microscopic wonders of the sea. Topics were chosen to encourage new thinking and ideas and provided illustrated lectures at affordable prices…a penny!

The lectures were a huge success, quickly developing into evening classes and the establishment of the Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women. As the original TED Talks, the penny lectures began with subjects in science and technology, but broadened over the decades to include the arts and humanities.

The lectures continued into the 1960’s and there is a list (held by Elaine Andrews, Learning Resources Manager at the Waterloo centre) of the hundreds of Penny, and later Public, Lectures that Morley organised and hosted. The speakers at these lectures include some of the most influential minds of the 20th Century including

  • In Philosophy: Mary Warnock, Bertrand Russell, Elizabeth Anscombe
  • In Literature: Edith Sitwell, L P Hartley, Angus Wilson, H G Wells, Vita Sackville West, Alistair Cooke
  • In Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Michael Tippett
  • In the Visual Arts: Eric Gill, Ernst Gombrich
  • In Dance: Rudolf Laban, Antony Tudor
  • In Politics: Ellen Wilkinson, Harold Nicolson

Sadly Virginia Woolf, although she taught here as a young graduate for several years, wrote to Morley College in March 1941 to regretfully decline the opportunity to give a penny lecture. This was just after she left London following the destruction of her home during the Blitz and just before her death.

At the celebration of the College’s 125 year anniversary, Morley revived the Penny Lectures for a whole new generation of adults to enjoy and be inspired by. Entry to the lectures themselves remained at the original cost of one penny to reflect Morley’s founding vision of making adult education accessible to all and our ongoing mission to lead excellent, inclusive and inspiring adult education.

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