Benincasa-Sharman, Caterina (2020) Identities of Place: The 1951 Festival of Britain in York and Liverpool. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis responds to a call from two visual historians to plug a gap in the historiography of the 1951 Festival of Britain by examining the Festival’s creative and artistic narratives of Britain from the vantage point of the regions. In 1996 Barry Curtis asked lecturers in art and design to challenge the usual, London-based case studies they chose to represent the Festival in their lectures, and Becky Conekin recognised the need to look to the regions to gain a nuanced understanding of the Festival’s role in the ‘autobiography of a nation’. Similarly, historians have argued that there is a need for analyses of regional civic cultures to balance the emphasis on metropolitan practice and expressions of identity, and the need to pay attention to representations of Britishness that followed the Second World War. This thesis is the first comprehensive study of places awarded Festival of the Arts status that looks at the popular and the fine arts in England using new and primarily local - archival sources. Taking the case-studies of York and Liverpool, it seeks to enhance our understanding of the articulation of vernacular, regional and national identities in the post-war period. Rather than relying upon metropolitan visions of Britishness as articulated by the Executive Festival Committee in London, this thesis switches perspective to demonstrate that the Festival was a catalyst for change in Liverpool and York, where the ongoing interests and agendas of local elites were promoted and programmed. Liverpool created a Festival that was inclusive, yet York’s Festival depicted a city where Victorian structures of the civic and social lives of their residents endured. Deconstruction of the fine and popular arts, exhibitions, performances, architectural restorations, and new build social housing reveals that each city saw the Festival as a tool to resurrect, maintain or create new narratives of local, regional, and national identities.

FINAL THESIS - Benincasa-Sharman.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 4 October 2030.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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