“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Great day on the South Bank but .........

Iain Sinclair got a bit sniffy about the South Bank's Festival Of Britain 60th birthday celebrations, and to be fair to the old sage of psychogeographers, not without good reason. However, misgivings about this MasterCard sponsored event put firmly to one side I enjoyed my afternoon on the South Bank. The museum in the Festival Hall basement is full of interesting stuff and the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden is a genuine delight and a credit to the homeless folk who created it. To round off our day we took in the BFI's showing of the 1952 Festival Of Britain inspired film The Happy Family. On one level this is a classic British comedy of the era. Stanley Holloway, Kathleen Harrison, Dandy Nichols and a very young George Cole do what they do best in the kind of movie that old farts like me like to wax lyrical about now but would have just not bothered with at the time; preferring even the worst of Hollywood westerns or war films. But The Happy Family is not just a light hearted romp but is a profoundly political film that offers a critique of what is perceived as the authoritarian nature of socialism. The story revolves around the Lord family who are threatened with eviction from their corner shop to make way for the building of the South Bank Exhibition. Distributed just after the Tory 1951 General Election victory this is very much a celebration of the struggle of "little people" against a monolithic bureaucracy. Sixty years later we hold retrospectives about the Festival Of Britain and fight rearguard actions to save the last remnants of the post-war gains for working people - and it seems to me are no closer to formulating a coherent case for a libertarian socialism powered from the bottom up; and no closer to challenging the assumptions made in The Happy Family all those years ago.


Jemmy Hope said...

"... the kind of movie that old farts ... like to wax lyrical about now but would have just not bothered with at the time"

Spot on! But I loved "Hue and Cry" when I was ten, and I love it still, sixty-odd years later.

henry said...

Did Churchill really have the Skylon topple into the Thames? Or is that urban myth?

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