At Home? Discoursing on the Commonwealth at the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival

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    Abstract

    The Commonwealth Arts Festival was staged in Britain in 1965. With
    the working title of `The Commonwealth At Home' , the Fesitval was
    designed, ostensibly, to bring together far flung lands, connected by the
    legacy of empire, to establish goodwill through culture and the arts. This
    paper explores the cultural work to which the 1965 Festival was put to by
    advocates and detractors. Looking at archival sources from proposed plans
    for the London events, committee minutes, festival programmes and
    letters to the staging of the `Verse and Voice’ festival of Commonwealth
    Poetry at the Royal Court Theatre in London, the paper fleshes out some
    of the rationales and motivations for the event, examines tropes and
    metaphors used, and also situates the events within the context of recently
    passed British anti-immigration laws. The paper argues that who the
    Commonwealth was for - its locus and its meaning - can be excavated from
    the geo-political tropic deployment of space in its discoursing. In particular,
    the depiction of what was imagined as being at home and what was
    represented as distant lands tell revealing stories of disavowal for an
    empire (and a colonial legacy) that occurred somewhere else and to
    someone else. In this manner, Britain’s `fit of absence of mind’ also
    became a way of disposing of unwanted histories.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)97-111
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
    Volume48
    Issue number1
    Early online date6 Feb 2013
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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