As completion of the Festival Hall’s extensive refurbishment draws ever nearer, news comes in of plans for the opening weekend, 8-10 June this summer. Basically, the Southbank Centre has a weekend extravaganza of free music lined up, intriguingly described by artistic director Jude Kelly as “just the beginning … reflect[ing] an exciting change of emphasis at Southbank Centre”. Various stuff is mentioned, including a performance from Brian Wilson; mentions of contemporary music are so far limited to a new Hallelujah by Julian Anderson, but with the London Sinfonietta also on the bill I expect there’ll be more to come.
I’m reserving judgement on how the RFH turns out. I hold the whole of the Southbank in great personal affection (the RFH is where I first heard proper concerts of music and it’s always had a central place in my musical development), but although several aspects of the Southbank’s development are greatly welcomed – the outdoor bar at the QEH, the Hayward Gallery’s new entrance – some I’m not so sure about, including the general move to soften up all the edges of this spectacular example of brutalism with natty paintjobs and other tricks that will soon look as dated and weary as the original concrete does to many people now. Some of the stuff added to the walkways out the front – such luminous green beams that neither support anything or provide shelter, just distract the eye – annoy me a bit, but these are just cosmetic. I’m reasonably optimistic that the functioning of the building will be improved enormously (cos there was plenty that could be changed…)