Festival of Empire
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The 1911 Festival of Empire was the biggest single event held at
The Crystal Palace The Crystal Palace was a cast iron and plate glass structure, originally built in Hyde Park, London, Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. The exhibition took place from 1 May to 15 October 1851, and more than 14,000 exhibito ...
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since its opening. It opened on 12 May and was one of the events to celebrate the
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. The original intention had been that Edward VII would open it in 1910, however, this was postponed after his death shortly before the planned opening day. The Festival contained a display of landscapes and exhibits from the British Empire, mainly the dominion countries, to encourage emigration to those nations; and it contained a large scale pageant dramatising British history. It was described at the time as ‘a social gathering of the British family’ encouraging the ‘firmer welding of those invisible bonds which hold together the greatest empire the world has ever known’. It has since been described as the ‘ultimate imperialist propaganda showcase’.


Context

Robert George Windsor-Clive, first Earl of Plymouth, Conservative government minister managed and promoted the Festival as a sub contracted event; it was nothing to do with the Crystal Palace company which was in receivership at the time. The 1911 Festival of Empire was one of many imperial propaganda events staged in the early twentieth century in Britain and around the Empire, following the 1909
Imperial International Exhibition The ''Imperial International Exhibition'' was a world's fair held in White CityWhite City may refer to: Places Australia * White City, Perth, an amusement park on the Perth foreshore * White City railway station, a former railway station * White C ...
at London's White City and running parallel to the 1911
Delhi Durbar The Delhi Durbar (meaning "Court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice ...
in India. The 1911 Festival of Empire was staged at The Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill and had similar characteristics to the Great Exhibition, for which the palace was initially built, in that it displayed an array of products and exhibits from countries around the world and promoted a western industrial culture and pro-Empire view of the world.


Festival Design

The 1911 Festival of Empire was a considerable logistical exercise and it exploited much of the latest technology of the time to create a simulation of the landscapes around the British Empire for the British public to experience on home ground. This involved masses of painted canvas and re-landscaped parts of the park.


Buildings

At the 1911 Festival of Empire, exhibitions of products from the
countries of the Empire
countries of the Empire
were displayed in three-quarter size models of their Parliamentary buildings erected in the grounds, which were: *
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

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– based on
Parliament House, Melbourne Parliament House is the meeting place of the Parliament of Victoria, one of the parliaments of the Australian states and territories. Located on Spring Street, Melbourne, Spring Street on the edge of the Hoddle Grid, the grand colonnaded fro ...
c. 1855 *
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of . Its extend from the to the and northward into the , covering , making it the world's . Its southern and western , stretching , is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital ...

Canada
– based on
Centre Block The Centre Block (french: Édifice du Centre) is the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex on Parliament Hill Parliament Hill (french: Colline du Parlement), colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the sou ...
with
Victoria Tower The Victoria Tower is a square tower at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster in London, adjacent to Black Rod's Garden on the west and Old Palace Yard on the east. At , it is slightly taller than the Elizabeth Tower (formerly known a ...
, 1866 *
Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador (, ) is the easternmost provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada, in the country's Atlantic Canada, Atlantic region. It is composed of the island of Newfoundland (island), Newfoundland and the continental ...

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Colonial Building The Colonial Building located in St. John's was the home of the Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador (, ) is the easternmost provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada, in the country's Atlantic Canada, Atlantic region. It is ...
, c. 1850 *
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...

New Zealand
– based on
New Zealand Parliament Buildings New Zealand Parliament Buildings ( mi, Ngā whare Paremata) house the New Zealand Parliament and are on a 45,000 square metre site at the northern end of Lambton Quay, Wellington. They consist of the Edwardian Neoclassical architecture, neoclassi ...

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, pre-1907 *
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities ...

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c.1884 The buildings were constructed of timber and plaster as they were meant to be temporary. They were linked by an electric tramway called the 'All-Red Route' on which open-sided cars took the visitor on a circular tour of the dominions with typical scenery of each country around the buildings listed above. There were also many other exhibits within the Palace itself. In all, there were 300 ornate buildings constructed by 7,000 workers, one and half miles of track line laid, a mix of stuffed wild animals and real ones (1,000 real wild Australian rabbits and many New Foundland fish). Leolyn G Hart, theatre designer, oversaw the whole construction, engaging over 100 painters. The panorama building was adapted into an Indian pavilion, which included displays about Indian history and daily life and an exhibition of new Bengal art works curated by the India Society. It also included an Irish cottage village and an attraction named ‘Empire Caves’. Present day critics would say that exoticism played an integral role in simulating the colonies, especially in the way that colonised peoples were depicted. The colonial exhibits familiarised British men and women with Britain's "newly acquired and distant outpost". Metaphorically, it took British men and women to places they had never seen and, in all likelihood, would never see, as one observer enthused “the East Indian exhibits had the effect of impressing every visitor with the importance to such possessions of Great Britain”.


Exhibits on The All-Red Route Train Ride

The buildings of the 1911 Festival of Empire were linked by an electric tramway called the 'All-Red Route' on which open-sided cars took visitors on a circular tour of the ‘dominions’ with typical scenery of each country. There were displays of so-called "natives at work", including African tribesmen, Malay people constructing houses and Maori villagers. These were people invited to London to act out scenes from their life and work in mocked up environments. Most Festival visitors would know little or nothing of such people and would not have seen such demonstrations. Some scenes included mannequins to represent some of the people of those colonies, seen by critics today as reinforcing notions of primitivism. The route is shown in red on the map; the colour red and pink were used to denote the British Empire and its dominions on maps at that time. Bridges over small lakes represented sea voyages between the countries. Some of the cars may be seen in pictures included on this page. Scenes along the route included a South African Diamond Mine and an Indian Tea Plantation, photos of which are included below. There was also "a Jamaican sugar plantation, an Australian sheep farm" and "a jungle ‘well stocked with wild beasts’".


Pageant of London

A pageant, organised by 'Master of the Pageants' Frank Lascelles (pageant master), Frank Lascelles, dramatising the history of London, England and the Empire was held. The first performance of the pageant was on 8 June 1911; in four parts, performed on separate days, it celebrated the ‘magnificence, glory and honour of the Empire and the Mother Country’. Music was provided for ''The Pageant of London'' by 20 composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge, Cecil Forsyth, Henry Balfour Gardiner, Edward German and Haydn Wood. This was performed by a military band of 50 players and a chorus of 500 voices, directed by William Henry Bell, W.H. Bell. The best architects and designers of the day were also engaged in the orchestration of the Pageant, such as Edward Poynter and Aston Webb. The Pageant was so successful that performances were extended from July, when they were due to end, to 2 September, and a number of days were lost or spoilt due to bad weather.


The King's Day with the Children

“The King’s Day with the Children” was arranged as part of the Festival for 100,000 children to come to enjoy the Palace and Festival events on one day and meet the King and other members of the royal family. It was also considered a great organisational challenge. The children were chosen by ballot from London schools of all backgrounds.


Inter-Empire Championships

As part of the festival, an Inter-Empire sports championship was held in which teams from Australasia (a combined team from Australia and New Zealand), Canada,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities ...

South Africa
, and the United Kingdom competed in five athletics events (100 yards, 220 yards, 880 yards, 1 mile and 120 yards hurdles), two swimming events (100 yards and 1 mile), heavyweight boxing and middleweight wrestling. This is regarded as a forerunner of the British Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games), held from 1930 British Empire Games, 1930.Famous competitors included Stanley Bacon, Stanley Vivian Bacon (from United Kingdom, Great Britain), Harold Hardwick (from
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
), Malcolm Champion (from
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...

New Zealand
), George Hodgson and John Tait (athlete), John Lindsay Tait (both from
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of . Its extend from the to the and northward into the , covering , making it the world's . Its southern and western , stretching , is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital ...

Canada
). The limited event schedule and four-nation format came in for criticism by the correspondent in the ''Auckland Star'', who described it as not worthy of the title of Empire.EMPIRE SPORTS
''Auckland Star'', Volume XLII, Issue 198, 21 August 1911. Retrieved 2018-03-24.


Athletics

Results source. The team championship in athletics was decided on a points basis, with the countries' finishing position in each race totalling up a combined score. Canada won with the lowest score with eight points, having topped the podium in three of the five events, and was awarded the Inter-Empire trophy by Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, Lord Lonsdale. The United Kingdom ended with nine points and Australasia were third with 13 points. The Australasia team combined New Zealand and Victoria (Australia), Victoria athletes. Three scratch competitions were held alongside the championships proper: a 3/4-mile race, a 300-yard race and a two-mile team race. Ron Opie ran in both sprints as his teammate, William A. Woodger, took ill before the event and could not compete.


The End of the Festival

By the time it closed in October 1911, four to five million people had visited the Festival of Empire, including one million to see the Pageant. However, it clocked up a massive loss of £250,000 - a debt borne by the Festival's private backers not the Crystal Palace Company. Meanwhile, that Company had been in receivership and a date for the auction of the site had been set for 28 November. The Festival might well have been the last dramatic event at the site, before the land was parcelled up and sold off for housing. Fortunately, Lord Plymouth arranged a share offer, including £240,000 from him, to save the site.


Reception

The event was greatly praised by the newspapers of the day, impressed by its sheer scale and ambition. The Globe newspaper reported in May, 1911, “Nothing like this Festival has been attempted by any nation”. The Pall Mall Gazette opined that the grounds were transformed, “Aladin-like into a glittering group of white pavilions, like a cluster of snowy peaks recast in molds of beauty and geographical significance.” The Daily Telegraph reported, “never before… has the home-keeping Londoner been afforded the opportunity of realising… the varied aspect of different parts of the Empire.” Present day critics question the 1911 Festival of Empire, and other such colonial events, regarding their depiction of the colonies and colonised people. This has been critically examined in relation to the 1851 Great Exhibition and the way in which it ‘othered’ colonised ethnic groups to strengthen British national identity. Although the 1911 Festival of Empire claimed to be an opportunity to admire and seek amusement in “the charms, the wealth and the wonders of the Empire that girdles the globe” - as written in the official flyer - in recent years questions around the mode of ethics in which it showcased the “dominions” have been questioned. It was an event promotin
“Firmer welding of invisible bonds which hold together the greatest empire in the world”
yet other accounts recognise that there were underlying tensions and antipathies and that the festival did little to bridge the gap between the classes. The 1911 Festival of Empire, and other such events at the Crystal Palace, served to both integrate and segregate as it reflected and reinforced hierarchies not only within British society, but also served as a facilitator to the upholding of primitivism and the inaccurate representation of people from the "Orient", the continent of Africa and Oceania. The use of exhibitions where “human models were arranged into visual narratives that Robert Gordon Latham, Latham deemed representative of their ethnic traits”, promoted and reinforced ideas of what it looked like to be from Africa or India, and these people were commonly described as primitives and cannibals being “saved” by the act of colonisation. As written in ‘Exhibiting the Empire: Cultures of Display’, the visitors “were encouraged to compare themselves with the peoples on display and note their progress from the relatively lowly states of the human race”.


See also


References

*''Festival of Empire: the Pageant of London'' (1911, Bemrose & Sons, London) (souvenir book, 163 pages, edited by Sophie C. Lomas; master of the pageants Frank Lascelles),


External links


Souvenir book, digitizedA 1911 postcard
*[https://web.archive.org/web/20140212142054/http://www.commonwealthgames.org.au/Templates/Games_Overview.htm History of the Commonwealth Games from 1911, from the Australian Commonwealth Games Association]
Medallists at the 1911 Games (at top of page)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Festival Of Empire 1911 in British sport 1911 in London Commonwealth Games Festivals in London International sports competitions in London World's fairs in London Colonial exhibitions History of the London Borough of Bromley George V Multi-sport events in the United Kingdom Festivals established in 1911 Sports festivals in the United Kingdom 1911 festivals Crystal Palace, London