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Please note the opening times for are from 4-5pm on Tuesdays and Fridays ONLY. Due to security restrictions at the British Council offices, all visitors must pre-register their visit by emailing us at

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the First Manned Space Flight and the installation of the Yuri Gagarin statue on the Mall, the British Council presents , an exhibition on the life of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the early Soviet space programme, from 14 July to 27 September 2011 at British Council headquarters.

The exhibition showcases some extremely rare space items from the ('East'), manned space programme rarely seen in Britain: the first space suit – SK-1, including the padded inner lining, blue rubberised pressure-suit and outer orange layer; and an ejector seat of the model used by Gagarin when he parachuted out of Vostok 1 at an altitude of 7km. These exhibits are complimented by Soviet posters from the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics; a film made by Roscosmos showing original footage of the early training programme and the 1961 launch itself; a model of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite in the world, launched in October l957; an array of space food; and one of the earliest dog space suits, used prior to man’s first spaceflight to test the capacity of living creatures in space. As there are few items from the early Soviet space programme on view in the UK, this is an exceptional opportunity to see some of the earliest space items, which marked the launch of man’s venture into space.

Accompanying the artefacts is a photographic exhibition telling the story of Gagarin’s life, featuring over 80 photographs from the Gagarin family archive and other sources, many never been published before. They show the small town of Klushino where Gagarin was born; the devastation brought about by the Nazi occupation; and the tale of a young man of modest beginnings gradually becoming a pilot, then a cosmonaut, then – within an instant of his return to earth – the most famous man on the planet. A special section is devoted to Gagarin’s visit to Britain from 11 to 15 July 1961, with photographs of the extraordinary welcome given to him by the British public, and of his meeting with politicians and people alike.

Exhibition Curator: Andrea Rose
Designer: Nick Coombe and Mark Thomson

Listen to Elena Gagarina, Yuri Gagarin’s elder daughter, in a rare interview with Andrea Rose, who curated the exhibition

Watch an amazing video message from the International Space Station recorded to mark the unveiling of a statue of Yuri Gagarin in the Mall in London

Exhibition Admission
The British Council is a working office building, and will be open to the public on Tuesday and Friday afternoons only, from 4.00-5.00pm. Entry is by registration on a first come first served basis, and members of the public are invited to register at:

Gagarin in Britain
14 July – 23 September 2011
British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN

To accompany the statue unveiling and the exhibition, the British Council has published , an extensively illustrated, 160-page catalogue, exploring the life of Yuri Gagarin, his visit to Britain in July 1961, and the legacy of the Russian space programme. The catalogue is edited by Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, and includes texts by Piers Bizony, biographer of Yuri Gagarin; Dr. Christopher Riley, writer and filmmaker; Vix Southgate, author of ; and Dr. Svetlana Boym, Curt Hugo Reisinger Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literatures at Harvard University. Illustrations include technical drawings from the Moscow State Archive for Scientific and Technical Documentation showing the development of the parachute and ejector seat equipment that have never been published before in the West. Priced at £25, the catalogue will be available for purchase from Cornerhouse Publications online at

British Council Arts

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