The Concrete Dreams exhibition runs as part of the programme of events celebrating the re-opening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, occupying backstage artist spaces with archive material both physical and projected, tracking the venue’s 50 year past.
It’s a scintillating experience for those of us with a weakness for memos typed in triplicate, architectural drawings, and hand-written ticket sale ledgers. I kid you not. They were writing down individual ticket sales in a ledger in 1968.
The lovingly-presented exhibition takes the visitor through the new artists entrance, into the old green room, and up into wood-panelled dressing rooms and cell-like bathrooms. The exhibition concludes with a clever multi-layered projection and choreography in the Purcell Room that reveals the QEH’s surprising heritage.
The part-guided backstage tour, part multimedia exhibition is an enjoyable one (though be aware that the close proximity of the big projections in the Purcell may well induce a bit of nausea) that goes some way to illustrate the important role Southbank as a whole (not just QEH) has played in the cultural life of London and the south.
Archivists have been working on this project for two and a half years now and are rightly proud of their achievements. They're also keen to point out there is a lot more material to be discovered, something that reminds me of the extent to which we take the Southbank for granted.
Concrete Dreams exhibition is open to the public from Tuesday 10 April. A weekend of music, dance, workshops and talks celebrating the history of the QEH runs from Friday 27 – Sunday 29 April. More details at southbankcentre.co.uk/concretedreams.
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