Southbank Centre proposals for Festival Wing transformation

Design Study of view of Southbank Centre from Golden Jubilee Footbridge and the river credit FCBS

Much excitement at the Southbank Centre today. New plans for the Festival Wing transformation have been unveiled.

Introduced by the genuinely and infectiously enthusiastic Chief Executive Alan Bishop, the proposed development was described as “not just refurbishment, but in some cases, repair” and will see (essentially) a big glass box appended to the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery, in the process adding another communal space for the public.

The ‘landmark’ building as explained by Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly, will see a poetry and literature library and heritage space on the ground floor, an ‘educational floor’ on the first, an experimental culture space on the second floor and – the crowning glory – a glass-walled orchestral rehearsal room on the top floor with views across central London. All artists impressions are designed to salivate, the one of the rehearsal room – a collaborative space for multiple orchestras to share ideas and experienced, watched by the public – was a particularly exciting one.

This transformation doesn’t appear to be insular. The transformation has been sold on the way in which it will improve the experience for audiences new and old alike. More communal spaces outside the newly created entrance to the Festival Wing with cultural ‘spaces’ inside sitting comfortably alongside retail and food outlets. In this sense the proposals echo what the Southbank Centre’s USP has been for years – that of a welcoming airy space, multi-culture for audiences and a destination not just for progressive and ‘traditional’ performance but ground-breaking collaborations. Linking the BFI, QEH, Hayward Gallery and Purcell Room into one ‘unit’ eliminates the idea that this is a collection of competing cultures, and projects a undeniable feeling of inclusivity.

Striking as it is pleasing on the eye, it seems almost impossible to imagine anyone would object to the updating of the much-dismissed aggressive concrete structural add-ons of the 1960s. The undercroft skaters might object having to move a little way down the Southbank during construction (personally, I rather hope they’re made to feel connected to the Southbank complex if and when its completed as I think they are a cultural addition to the area), but from a distance the improvement to the site will enhance the approach across the river by potential new audiences in a way that other cultural venues across London just don’t.

The plans are available for public viewing in the Southbank Centre from 7 March. After consultation, planning permission will be applied for. If approved, the construction will take between two and three years with a total cost in excess of £100 million (with an expected £20 million capital funding from Arts Council England).

Form this :

Not very high on the top ten list of 'Choice Views from the Office Window'.
Not very high on the top ten list of ‘Choice Views from the Office Window’.



To this:

Design Study of Southbank Centre's Festival Wing - day shot credit FCBS


£1m Kurzman legacy to Arts Council England

Nick Clark (Independent) asks ‘Who is Diana Kurzman?‘ picking up on last week’s Arts Council England announcement that Aldeburgh Music, Orchestras Live and Music in the Round are to get a share of a near £1m donation left by piano playing Kurzman who died 10 years ago.

A decade ago, Diana Kurzman died alone in a flat in Windsor Court, close to Brent Cross tube station in Golders Green at the age of 59. She was unknown in the arts world, and leaves little record behind. Yet her substantial donation to Arts Council England to back classical music will see her legacy marked later this year.

Starting his new job as Arts Council chairman later this this week, Peter Bazalgette talked about how he’ll tackle ACE’s cut in funding as well as that  of local authority arts spending. Tristan Jakob-Hoff (Lelio Blog) wrote of Bazalgette

… he continues a refrain spouted by many an arts bureaucrat, and one which I find concerning.  By emphasising the financial achievements of the arts in this country, he is lending weight to the notion that, for arts investment to be considered a success, it should be able to demonstrate sound economic benefit.

Bazalgette is participating in a live online chat on 5 March next week. More info on Arts Council England website.

Southbank Centre unveils Festival Wing exhibition

I must be a nerd.

I don’t know anything about architecture, but I know I have a strange love of the 50s and 60s buildings that make up the Southbank Centre.

The Festival Hall is a delicious throwback to an era which looked to a positive future even if life was really quite hard for the majority at the time it was built.

The add-ons next door – the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery – are breathtakingly ugly, they’re almost a work of art in themselves. How is it a collection of buildings can pose so many questions .. like ‘Who the hell complied that?’

Not very high on the top ten list of 'Choice Views from the Office Window'.
Not very high on the top ten list of ‘Choice Views from the Office Window’.

Ugly yes, but there’s a warmth there. We don’t seek perfection in pursuit of formative experiences. Disconnected, unsympathetic spaces demand forgiveness. And when they get forgiveness they are elevated to a different (special) place. Aren’t they?

I’m getting carried away. Let’s reign in the emoting (for now). Because, today the Southbank Centre announced that on Thursday 7 March the first images of the proposed new ‘Festival Wing’, will be presented to the public in a part of the Royal Festival Hall which overlooks the actual Festival Wing site.

In a beautifully thought affair, everyone will be able to judge in situ whether or not those who have come up with good designs or not. Which is good for me, because I adore judging things.

For those who can’t get along, the plans for the ‘Festival Wing’ are also available online at the Wing website.

Rough Book #4: Scandal, education, Britten, Bach & the RPO

The aftermath of the Michael & Kay Brewer trial has gained considerable web traffic on this blog and (presumably, a great many others like Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc and Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music Blog) over the weekend following the news that one of the witnesses for the prosecution – violinst Frances Andrade – had committed suicide. The Guardian also published correspondence between RNCM management concerning the appointment of Malcolm Layfield to the position of Head of Strings at the College. Today, The Guardian has also identified more women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by a different teacher at the same school as Michael Brewer. There’s a full set of links available here.

Still on education, Lancaster University are a step closer to shutting down their music department. Lancaster has long demonstrated a respectable return on its musical education investment. The year I graduated, there were professionals, semi-professionals not to mention countless arts administrators-in-waiting, most of whom continue to prosper today. Read More

Review: Lutoslawski Jeux vénitiens \ Symphony No. 3 \ RCM Symphony Orchestra \ Franck Ollu \ QEH

Lutoslawski Jeux vénitiens
Debussy Nocturnes
Lutoslawski Symphony No. 3
Roussel Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2

Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Franck Ollu


Taking some time to reflect on a performance seems preferable to rushing a review hours after the orchestra has left the platform. There’s a chance to let the more memorable moments bubble up to the surface – far easier than the process of straining to make out the original meaning of the notes you scribbled down surreptitiously (or maybe not so) in the auditorium.

So it is with this review of the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra who performed works by Lutoslawski, Debussy and Roussel on Wednesday 6 January 2013 as part of the ongoing Woven Words festival.

Read More