In 1951 the Festival of Britain, which was an exhibition to celebrate industry, arts and science, lifted the country by showing the successful recovery from the devastation of war. Rationing restrictions were gradually eased and by 1954 all rationing came to an end.
King George VI died unexpectedly the following year but although he was much loved it was felt that a new era was beginning and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, in 1953. was seen to mark the start of a new way of life. Over 100,000 television sets were sold to watch the event and soon became the focus of family entertainment. Children watched puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Sooty; adults watched sporting events such as Stanley Matthews winning his first FA cup medal when Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3. In the same year Len Hutton and Denis Compton helped to win the Ashes from Australia at the Oval.
When the Independent television channel was launched in 1955 ‘adverts’ were slotted in between programmes. Tea bags, coffee, sugar coated cereals and washing powder that made whites whiter were all promoted, as were electric washing machines and refrigerators. Plastic in bright colours became widely available and lightweight buckets, washing up bowls, mops and brushes brightened up the homes. Formica, encouraged by the emphasis on hygiene, was ideal for kitchen surfaces as it was easy to wipe and keep clean. Housewives were encouraged to take pride in their homes and Do-it -Yourself became popular but power drills like the Black and Decker and Wolf were for the men. Furnishings were influenced by a new modular system by G-plan which was assembled piece by piece to individual room arrangements.
Self service shops started a new experience for shoppers who selected their goods and they paid on the way out, an assistant put the goods into the customer’s own basket and gave a receipt. Bolder, brighter designs were now needed to attract the customers. Supermarkets were introduced at the end of the decade and a new aggressive style of marketing was introduced from America with money-off coupons and price reductions promoted alongside the television advertising.
Man-made fibres allowed fabrics to be made with permanent pleats, shirts and blouses were made of polyester so that they were drip-dry and minimum-iron. Shirt style dresses with generous skirts were worn in the day while pencil skirts and fitted suits were worn in town. Fashions for young men included the Teddy boy long velvet jacket with drainpipe trousers and bootlace tie.
Successful television shows based on popular music coincided with the arrival of rock’n’roll. ..The new music was highlighted in the Top Ten charts which started in 1955; Elvis Presley entered the British charts in 1956. Hits started coming from British stars like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Billy Fury.
Harold Macmillan said in his1957 election campaign that Britain had ‘never had it so good ‘ although some did not agree and the first campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) took place in 1958.