Pictures at an Exhibition: Concrete Dreams at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

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

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Inside the refurbished Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre

A refurbishment that successfully retains the QEH’s original design aesthetic, celebrating the features that shape the building’s identity. Concrete has never looked quite so good. I like a good set of refurb pics – permanent records of an untarnished architectural endeavour. Artistic vision fully realised, preserved in a moment potent with anticipation and brimming with pride. Pictures of concert halls without an audience make the location irresistible – moments when concert halls are seen in all of their magisterial beauty.
Inside the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London – wood french-polished, concrete treated with latex poultice. Tasty.
Concert halls don’t need to be opulent. They don’t need to be spaces with gilded edges, velvet cushions or busts of composers dotted around. They are locations for special events. Their interiors should be not like any other you would normally step into. The senses need to be come alive when you step inside them.
The Purcell Room feature the most comfortable concert hall seats in London, possibly even the UK.
Both the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room return to use in early April. Pictures have been released today along with the list of works that have been completed that give the venue a much-needed refresh. The restoration includes: fully refurbished and updated auditoria; refreshed and redesigned back of house areas; a new artists’ entrance; a revamped foyer able to hold 1000 people. Improved access, and new ventilation, lighting systems
The newly restored QEH foyer can hold up to 1000 people
Concrete has been restored using Arte Mundit, a latex poultice more commonly used on classical sculptures and stone conservation projects. New timber lining to the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage will improve the acclaimed acoustics for performers on stage. Aluminium and leather seats have been re-upholstered by hand.
New dressing rooms backstage at QEH
Artists and performers get new accessible dressing rooms a brand new artists’ entrance and a backstage bar.
New artists entrance
Backstage area for the artists
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Southbank and especially for QEH. I love the Brutalist architecture (not many do), and I adore the elegant simplicity of the interior. The restoration – work carried out by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) with Max Fordham, Arup and BAM Construction – celebrates the elements which make this such a special destination. The project was funded by the support of the public, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, plus National Lottery players, corporate partners, trusts and foundations and individual major donors. Chineke! Orchestra opens the Queen Elizabeth Hall with a concert of Daniel Kidane, Benjamin Britten and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 on Monday 9 April at 7.30pm The first event in the Purcell Room is on Sunday 29 April. Fifty Poems from Five Decades will celebrate the opening of both QEH and Purcell Room.  All pictures credit: Morley Von Sternberg