THE Inquiring Yorkshireman has made his first tour of the South Bank Exhibition of the Festival of Britain.
He found a Bank of Wonderland, crammed with treasure that looked as though someone had broken into the next century and looted it.
The kind of thing you see in a Hollywood dream sequence is the kind of thing the Inquiring Yorkshireman saw on South Bank.
Beneath roofs of glass and aluminium – often suspended on steel cables and cradles of wood – and within walls of canvas and concrete and bamboo, he gaped his way around this fair of the future, its 30 pavilions grouped like sideshows around their big top, the Dome of Discovery.
The Dome of Discovery bears a marked resemblance to the Leeds Corn Exchange in that it is the same shape and has balconies. But when the Inquiring Yorkshireman looked down from those balconies it was not upon men selling corn, but upon men working among the Seven Wonders of the World.
If you imagine everything in the By Keith Waterhouse world all in a row, that is the Dome of Discovery.
It has ships and greenhouses and bales of wool; it has an icebound Polar exploration base, complete with huskies and a Polar theatre; it has an escalator into “outer space,” where the Inquiring Yorkshireman was able to gaze trhough darkness into a carbon copy of the universe, watching worlds spinning around in space.
It took two hours to make a very superficial tour indeed of the 30 pavilions and 13 restaurants.
In all of them were men working against time on finishing touches. Last minute structures were going up like lightning; and people passing a pile of “rubble” could return five minutes later to find one more fantastic futuristic shape placed in position.
What is it all like ? These are random flashes from the crammed mind of the Inquiring Yorkshireman.
The Land of Britain Pavilion goes back 450,000,000 years for information about the earth, “the blanket of man’s birth” they call it. It has maps that float on the water, pictures that change into other pictures before one’s eyes.
The Country Pavilion – Approached via a giant pair of hands clutching ears of corn, it has its own super-tiled milk bar, where Festival visitors will be able to drink milk straight from the South Bank’s own electrically-milked cows.
The Natural Scene Pavilion, dominated by a giant white opal, relays birdsong with illuminated pictures of the particular bird at present performing.
The Transport Pavilion had everything from the latest kind of bus stop to a seaplane, a locomotive and the bow frames of a 4,000 ton merchant-man. Throughout the Festival, displays of cars will constantly change to give every car a fair showing.
Those are one or two of the things to be seen in one or two of the pavilions.
World of colour
Throughout it all is the same theme of bright colour, weird shapes and ambitious design. Phrases like breeze blocks, cladding, tetrahedrons, tungsten filaments, box-girders and sound baffles, became familiar to this Inquiring Yorkshireman’s Ear.
And here are some more impressions:
Shapes,- Round shapes, hexagonal shapes, shapes that the Inquiring Yorkshireman never knew existed.
Figures,- Man-made of plaster, women-made of wickerwork, lions of rope, boys of straw.
Pictures,- Pictures of people with real woollen garments, instead of painted in clothes. Hundred foot long murals telling the story of the ages.
Men,- Men, painting, plastering, carving, carrying, sawing, shovelling, hammering.
To get an overall view, the Inquiring Yorkshireman had to climb the 200 steps to the tower over the new Schools Pavilion – one of the highest points on the South Bank – and look down upon the Festival.