Monday, 17 February 2014

A community centre with concert hall attached

Foxtrotting in the Royal Festival Hall
Could someone please explain to me what the Royal Festival Hall foyers are for? If you wander about the foyers at anytime they are usually full of people; but few, if any, are there for a concert or performance. Most seem to be simply hang out, sitting with their coffees, chatting and surfing. The RFH foyers seem to have been turned into a giant version of Starbucks.

I can just about understand the need for the vast array of restaurants sitting underneath the hall. They do bring in some sort of income to the South Bank Centre (at least I hope they do), but the crowds attending them do rather make it unpleasant when actually attending concerts. What, however, does the opening up of the foyers, bars and meeting rooms bring? I'm sure coffee sales doesn't bring in a mint - mind you, woe betide you if you actually do want a quiet cup of coffee. The service in the coffee shop is admirably efficient, but there is rarely anywhere to sit.

I can't help feeling that such a large amount of space, including function rooms and bars could be put to better use during the day, for workshops meetings and such like. As it is we are faced with a plethora of people (not all young), meeting, reading, chatting, using the free wifi and generally hanging out. It is a useful club if you have a spare hour to kill in London.

Is that what we really want from an Arts centre?

I understand that the building itself is probably rather inflexible, but I can't help thinking that the management have put all their energies into the new festival wing rather than making the existing Royal Festival Hall work better. And when it boils down to it, what is the new wing going to give us? A rehearsal space/workshop which will be commercially lettable, more restaurants and a new foyer space, presumably for more hanging out by people.

Does that sound like a recipe for an Arts Centre,  or are we building a community centre with a concert hall attached.



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