2013 / 2014

I adore New Year. I find the opportunity to reflect irresistible. Sure, in the wrong hands there’s a risk of sliding inexorably towards self-pity. But, exercise a little self-discipline, and reflection can be really quite good for the soul. It’s even been endorsed this year by the Queen (or whoever writes her Christmas Day speech).

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New Years Gongs 2014

Loads of honours awarded in the New Year Gongs. Special warm applause to the following, whose inclusion made me smile with appreciation. Much deserved.

Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Gillian Layne, Roger Perry (The Globe), Katherine Jenkins, Gillian Humphreys (Concordia), Loretta Tomasi (ENO), Margaret Murray (music teacher from London), Marios Papadopoulus, Steven Large and Gordon Speers (Portadown Male Voice Choir).

And the best saved until last … musical theatre goddess Angela Lansbury, and especially Elizabeth Barnes from Diss for ‘services to bell-ringing’.

Southbank unveil design improvements to Festival Wing

How and artist thinks the Festival Wing could look. I’ve always had a weakness for artists impressions.

Southbank Centre has today unveiled an artists impression of what the proposed new ‘Festival Wing’ will look like, after an extended consultation period with local communities.

The artwork (pictured above) – the final element in its year long campaign to win the hearts and minds of the local people and re-development rubber-stampers – accompanies a bold statement promising free art and culture each year to two million people of all ages and backgrounds. Audiences are expected to quadruple for the festivals, events and exhibitions in and around the redeveloped complex.

Personally, top of my list of wants will be access to the big glass box set behind the current QEH entrance with its views across the river and north London. But by Southbank’s calculations, I’ll have to share the opportunity to watch orchestras rehearse in the ‘Glass Box’ with an estimated 250,000 other visitors. Form an orderly queue people. I’m going first.

Other ‘free access’ opportunities will come about as a result of the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer being opened up to the public for free all day long (in the same way the Festival Hall is presently), new year-round access to the QEH roof gardens, and a range of free education programmes for children and young people in and around the site. All this potentially bringing an additional 2 million new visitors to the site over and above the 3.8 million visitors to free events during the Southbank’s summer festivals.

The figures are the result of an extended period of consultations with communities conducted over the summer which in turn have prompted amendments to the original plans for regeneration. The revised plans include opening up the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer with increased amount of glass panelling, improving the accessibility of the steps linking both the Festival Wing and Festival Hall sites and adding a small new cafe in the central foyer opening out onto a patio next to Waterloo Bridge.
These proposals, the new artist’s impression and the re-siting of the skate space brings Southbank to a major 2013 milestone in the development of the Festival Wing and leaves approval of the proposal and subsequent build phase tantalisingly closer.

How the Festival Wing will look at night from north of the River Thames.
How the Festival Wing will look at night from north of the River Thames.

Want #2: Grimes on the Beach on Blu-Ray

grimesonthebeachA Blu-Ray of one of the best things from 2013. Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach from Arthaus Music is a must-have. £20 from Amazon.

In the same vein, the concert performance recording of Grimes from the opening night of the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival is also a definite for the growing Thoroughly Good Britten collection.

NB. I’ll pass on Boosey and Hawkes’ Britten-themed products. They’re a bit tacky.