This quirky and imaginative mural of five panels was originally made for the decoration of the Nelson Bar aboard HMS Campania.
The aircraft carrier was converted into a display space to tour British ports as a microcosm of the Festival of Britain exhibition in 1951, with Alan Sorrell’s mural celebrating British coastal fishing communities.
The charming individual scenes are separated by a decorative device of ropes held aloft by seagulls, and aboard small coastal craft fishermen are seen in the company of cats, dogs, sheep and cows, conversing or at work. A shark, tagged ‘O.H.M.S. Please return to the Indian Ocean’ drinks tea, while, at each end of the composition, sailors peer at each other, surrounded by mermaids. Both the craft and sea-life are accurate representations.
The Festival of Britain was organized to promote British contributions to arts, sciences and industries at a time of post-war austerity and recovery. Ships and the sea featured largely in the Festival, not only because of their aesthetic appeal and the role they played in the economy, but also because they symbolized a romantic, timeless sense of Britishness.