Dan Dare Exhibition Reviews

Several newspapers and web sites have reported on the new Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi Tech Britain exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

The Guardian has posted a gallery of images from the strip and images of the exhibition, including a great shot of Frank Hampson’s glorious murals, painted back in 1977, while Jonathan Glancey offers a fascinating commentary on Hampson’s work on Dan Dare in an article titled “Sufferin’ satellites! We’ve built the future!

“Hampson’s drawings, together with the contemporary hi-tech ethos they evoked, affected both domestic life and scientific endeavour in 1950s Britain,” he opines. “Yet it was architecture – not the main concern of the Science Museum show – that was actually most influenced by the Dan Dare dream of a futuristic Britain.” It turns out that arhitects such as Norman Foster are among Dan Dare’s many fans. “”I loved the coloured, cross-sectional, technical drawings that appeared in the middle of the Eagle after Dan Dare,” Foster says of reading the strip, and he still does, as is Laurie Chetwood, one of Britain’s leading architects, whose most recent proposal is a $300m space-age sanctuary for world leaders in the Nevada desert.

“Although Dan Dare parked his spaceship for the last time nearly 40 years ago, the pilot of the future’s adventures continue to be played out in the architectural fabric of Britain and beyond,” Glancey argues. “Hampson died in 1985, yet his vision of a genuinely decent, exciting and even noble future – set in thrilling vistas made possible by science and daring design – remains an inspiration even in our own knowing, clever age.”

• Toby Clements also admires high-tech relics at a show inspired by a comic-strip hero in the Telegraph, in an article titled “Dan Dare: Where Dan dares, boffins follow“.

• Ben Hoyle focuses more on the science side of the period in his article for the Times, rather dully titled “Dan Dare exhibition latest to revisit lost era of the Fifties“. in it Chris Rapley, the director of the Science Museum, says that the show “revealed a surprising lost world of British technology and manufacturing when most things we bought had a national identity and the television in the corner was a Murphy [from Welwyn Garden City] rather than a Sony.” Hoyle also plugs another 1950s-styled exhibition running right now at the Imperial War Museum – For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond. More than 12,000 visitors have seen it since it opened two weeks ago, which author David Kynaston, writer of last year’s bestselling Austerity Britain, a 692-page social history of the years 1945-1951 puts down to a resurgence of interest in the 1950s that is principally down to demographics.

“There is always a desire in popular culture to go back a generation or two,” he told Hoyle. “A lot of people approaching retirement age now are interested in exploring the context in which they grew up and finding out about the world when their parents were young adults.”

New Scientist reports Andrew Nahum, head of the team that put together Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-Tech Britain, as explaining that Dan Dare embodied the spirit of the time, referring to the 1950s, but the magazine’s article (subscription required) focuses more on the work of real world hero and visionary engineer Theo Williamson. “Williamson had been honing his electronics skills since childhood,” the magazine explains. “As a boy in the 1930s he designed circuits and built receivers, transmitters and increasingly sophisticated amplifiers. In 1946, with Williamson now a fully fledged engineer, the magazine Wireless World published details of his latest amp. Far superior to anything that had gone before, it was an instant hit. Tens of thousands of people made the amp by following the instructions in the magazine. One US company manufactured and sold 100,000 of them. Williamson had unwittingly started the post-war craze for home-built hi-fi, a phase that lasted well into the 1960s, when manufactured equipment of similar quality became widely affordable.

• The Eagle Times blog also carries a full report on the exhibition, including links to some videos. “I can assure you that it’s well worth a visit,” advises Will Grenham. “That applies not only to fans of the original Eagle and their contemporaries, but to anyone who wants to know more about the development of technology in Britain between 1945 and 1970, and the impact on home life of design and innovation in those “Eagle Times”.

• MSN.com have put up some thumbnail images from the exhibition, while in Design Week, exhibtion Nahum explains how Dan Dare has been used as a “tempter” to lead people to discover designs including nuclear weapons, coal-cutters and gadgets at the Museum.

• Finally, the Evening Standard points out that although the show symbolises an age when Britain dared to be different, it is not all positive. The show also chronicles the crash of Comet 1, the world’s first jet airliner, as well as a lost world of British goods which, by 1968, were losing out to overseas competition.

Dan Dare and the Birth of High-Tech Britain runs until Sunday 25 October 2009 at The Science Museum, London. Bookings and Enquiries: 0870 870 4868.

Categories: Exhibitions

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