This is the Royal Festival Hall which as I’ve spent the last few years explaining to anyone who’ll listen is the only surviving physical presence of the 1951 Festival of Britain – that strange and wonderful celebration of being alive that came out of the disaster of the second world war. The auditorium, and indeed the hall itself, always had its detractors and when I first came to London at the fag end of the last century, the place was reached by a terrifying strip across the Thames that clung to the side of Hungerford Bridge before depositing you in a concrete wilderness. A bit of Masterplan later and it’s all open plan, bars and shops but best not forget what’s at the heart of the place – this space for music.
They’re still not finished of course. As any fule who read Private Eye kno when the RFH closed in 2005 for a full refit they took the organ out and didn’t actually put all of it back in. Tut tut. But it’s being done now with the first notes scheduled to boom out in 2014. Should you wish to have limitless potential to crack mighty organ jokes you can even sponsor a pipe. I’m not such a fan of organ music but it will be nice to have the – erm – huge instrument back to complete the Hall.
You can see this shot of the auditorium large here. But speaking of the Festival of Britain, here’s a Pathe film about it. From when Britain was a very different place – the past is a strange country but they do seem to dance better.