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Save the Sunbathers

We need your help to rescue a remarkable discovery from the Festival of Britain.

The 1951 Festival of Britain was a national celebration that inspired a whole generation. Showcasing the best in art, design, craft and sport, it was a beacon of hope for a bruised and battered post-war nation.

At London's South Bank, the Festival showcased the best in public art. The artist Peter Laszlo Peri was commissioned to create the sculpture The Sunbathers, which greeted Festival visitors at Waterloo station.

Sunbathers sculpture on the north wall of Station Gate
Photograph of The Sunbathers on the north wall of Station Gate at the Festival of Britain, 17 May 1951. Image credit PA Images

Most of the art created for the Festival of Britain has sadly been lost or destroyed, but last year something amazing happened. Historic England asked the public to help track down lost pieces of public art and with the public's help, we tracked it down to the garden of The Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath, London.

The owners bought the sculpture at auction in the 1960s, but didn't realise just what a rare Festival of Britain survival it was. Since then, countless hotel guests have enjoyed the piece, with generations of children scrambling over the figures at weddings and tea parties. All that love means the sculpture now needs some care and attention.

Remains of the Sunbathers sculpture
The Sunbathers at the Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath, in February 2017

We've launched a crowdfunding appeal to restore The Sunbathers and get it back on public display, taking pride of place at the Royal Festival Hall for three months as part of the Southbank's Summertime Festival. After that, we'll work to get the sculpture on permanent public display for a new generation.

The Sunbathers is a remarkable survivor. The Festival of Britain gave a tired public optimism, hope and colour. Help us recreate that spirit and donate. Together, we can get The Sunbathers back home.

 

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