Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
60. When we talked to the RSC last week, whilst
they wanted to create a sort of Shakespearean village, it seemed
to us, which has some accommodation, there was no locus whatsoever
in what they were doing with the people in Stratford. There was
not a secondary school which was going to be a Shakespeare art
school or specialism. There has always been the Coin Street group,
and you seem to have located more friendship and warmth in them,
if I have understood you, but what exactly will they get? What
will the local schools get and what will the local people get?
This, after all, is on their back door, what are you going to
give that makes it more socially inclusive?
(Mr Mason) Good morning, if I may answer that question.
It is not only what we will give, it is what we are giving at
the moment. It comes in two parts: it is what we take in and what
we give out. If I can say first what we take in. If you were to
come down to the Festival Hall on a week in early July each year,
you would see something called the National Festival of Music
for Youth. You cannot move for bus loads of kids from all over
the country. They come from the Isle of Wight, they come from
Scotland, they come from Kendal in Cumbria, and they come to play
in the hall in this wonderful festival. They come from closer
to home too: they come from Lambeth, they come from Southwark,
they come from the inner London boroughs, and they come from outer
London boroughs too. That is one thing where we bring in school
children. We also bring people in at other times of the year.
We have special programmes for Lambeth school children. We do
this on our own proposals through our education department and
we do it in combination with our resident ensembles, with the
London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and
the London Sinfonietta. They are all active in the local borough,
in the local schools and with the local communities, encouraging
them to come into the Festival Hall and, if the halls are open
during the daytime, the other two halls too and the Hayward Gallery.
We had a very nice response the other day from a child, who said
to her mother apparently, having been to the Festival Hall, that
she had always thought and had always understood from her mother
that it was a place where rich people went and she had found that
that was not true, that there were people who were not rich there,
there were all sorts of people there. Then, if I talk about what
we do outside, reaching out, we run on our own account two major
programmes. One is the National Touring Exhibition service and
the other is the Arts Council Collection. They are both obviously
in the visual arts. The National Touring Exhibition Service takes
small exhibitions round the country and it takes them to municipal
art galleries and other suitable venues. It takes them into the
local boroughs and makes visual arts available to not only school
children but others as well, and it does it country-wide, so you
are likely to see one of our vans touring up in Banff in Aberdeenshire
as well as in Brixton. So we are doing a lot for the local community
and the local schools. Added to that, our programmes in the three
concert halls are very eclectic. If you come to the Festival Hall
on a Monday, you might see Baaba Maal; if you come on a Tuesday,
you might see the London Philharmonic Orchestra; on a Wednesday
you might see a very well-known rock star; you might see on Thursday
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. So we have a huge variety of programmes,
and with those programmes comes very wide and diverse audiences
and they range in all ages. We want to do more, more, of what
we are doing already.
(Ms Even) If I may just add to that as well, apart
from the 28 schools with which we have associations in the local
borough where we offer obviously our facilities and expertise,
we have a Lambeth residents card which offers discounts and free
deals for events that are on in the South Bank. We also have resident-only
events. For example, we had a Millennium-eve matinee for Peter
Pan which was an enormous success with local residents and their
children. We worked with a local primary school last year to make
a film about Harrison Birtwistle's opera The Last Supper
where the children actually came in and met and talked to Harry
Birtwistle, who is on our board as well, and then went out and
made a film about himself and the cast and the way that the opera
was being staged. We have taken young people from Lambeth to the
Cité de la Musique in Paris and had an exchange programme
with them and then taken their people back into Lambeth, into
our schools, and into the Gamelan Room actually in the centre,
and had an exchange, a cultural and educational week with those
children. So we are very involved and trying very hard to make
sure that the residents see us as an organic part of their community,
to enliven their community as well as give something back to us,
because this is what teaches usI mean, this is what makes
us alive, for goodness sake!otherwise, it would be a centre
without a purpose.
61. I had occasion to visit South Bank a number
of times in the pre-Christmas period and I would go into the Festival
Hall to look at the record shop, and what enthused me every time
I went in was that the place was absolutely overrun with children,
(Ms Even) Yes.
Michael Fabricant: I wonder if I may
focus first of all on the exterior of the building, as I am no
great lover of 1950s block-concrete culture or indeed
Chairman: It is a lovely building.
Michael Fabricant: I agree with the interior,
I think the interior is marvellous.
Chairman: No, the exterior as well.
Michael Fabricant: I think it is as ugly
as hell, just like Battersea Power Stationthough we will
not go into that again.
Chairman: You obviously never go there.
Get on with it!
Michael Fabricant: But I do go there
in the sense that I am a very keen walker. Really I wanted to
focus on the exterior with regard to the whole pedestrianisation
of the South Bank area, because it really is a very pleasurable
thing to be able to walk from Westminster, as one can do, all
the way to Tower Bridge or, as I often do, to the excellent Globe
Theatre and its even more excellent Globe Theatre restaurant (which
I recommend to everyone). The Rogers' plan, which I thought was
a very imaginative, talked about cascades of plants and took away
that ugly, dour sort of exterior that people in Manchester are
Chairman: It does not stop you wanting
to come to Manchester the whole time.
62. Enough of this banter. Could you perhaps
paint more of a picture of how you see the exterior of this development
as it faces out towards the Thames?
(Ms Even) Yes. I could not agree more with you in
some respectsalthough I must say that I love fifties' buildingand
it is the sixties' buildings perhaps that you are referring to
as well as the sort of concrete jungles.
63. We all have our crosses to bear.
(Ms Even) I leave you to yours. Personally, many years
ago when I first visited South BankI am a Canadian, so
I came here as a visitorI was disillusioned with the site.
I took away an impression of a concrete jungle on stilts, with
very dilapidated buildings in the sixties' cases, very unfriendly
and intimidating, and very uncaring, as you say, of the human
river that passes through it at all times of the day and night.
The beauty of the masterplan and what we are trying to do with
it, is that, for all its elegance and vision, it is extremely
human in its detail and its essence. What it gives us is really
what we want from everyday life, because what it is going to do
is give you greener spaces to walk in. We are going to enlarge
the park and try to make as much green area as possible. We are
going to have lovely squares, which have been mentioned, which
you can just walk through, sit down and have a coffeebecause
we are going to have a Festival Square caféweather
permitting, of course. We are going to have buildings whose entrances
are not up on stilts but down at ground level and we are going
to have frontagesand this is all part of the masterplanwhich
are active, which are filled with either commercial developmentwhich
means commercial artistic development, bookshops, things that
are obviously related to what a great cultural centre should give
people, cultural buildings you will be able to walk in and out
of. The new education centre will have a glass front, you will
be able to look right into it to see the masterclass or to see
people painting or to see children learning to dance, so that
it will all be visible, and the transparency will hopefully be
visible throughout the site and outside the site too. What we
want to do is give peopleit is the "rubbing shoulders
with the art form" ideaa chance to be able to rub
shoulders with a myriad of art forms both formal and informal
all across the site, so you could take in a foyer exhibition,
you could take in, as we said, a masterclass in the education
centre, and outside you could take in a wonderful free concert
that is transmitted in the park and on a nice day you could sit
down in the park and listen to that concert, but it will be a
friendly site. You mentioned the Globe. I leave you to the restaurant,
but that whole notion of a string of pearls, which is really important
for the South Bank, is one I think we feel very proud to be a
part of, that starts with Tate Britain, that continues along to
the Houses of Parliament, which of course is one of our world
heritage sites, that crosses over to the South Bank, that encompasses
Somerset House, that moves to Tate Modern and goes all the way
to the Globe. That is a wonderful cultural ring which we are very
proud to be a part of, but we want to make ourselves better. I
am ashamed of it as it exists now. I think it is good for audiences
and artists and it is very good for the community, because there
is, as I said, no point to it if it is not part of the community
and the communities cannot enjoy it.
64. Can I just press you a little further on
questioning the actual elevations? You spoke about glass frontages
at ground floor level, but apart from the Luddites on this Committee
there are others who feel that the upper elevations really are
very, very stark. How are they going to be softened? To what degree
are you going to be allowed to demolish some of these monstrosities?
Are English Heritage saying that they should be listed like Battersea
(Ms Even) We have already demolished the walkways
around that hemmed in the Festival Hall. That has been done a
couple of years ago. But there is more that we are going to do
through that area as far as bringing everything down to level.
There are some constraints on site but some of it depends on how
we refurbish the buildings.
65. What are the constraints?
(Mr McCart) The constraints really are, first of all,
being in a conservation area. Secondly, those buildings, although
two attempts have been made to list them, are adjacent to Waterloo
Bridge, which is a listed structure, and Festival Hall. Therefore,
in the masterplan framework we have made a decision that we wish
to refurbish the Hayward Gallery in its existing footprint and
certainly, if I were to show you photographs of the Hayward Gallery
when it was built brand new in 1967, it was a wonderful structure.
It has really come into fashion in the last four to five years
and we think there are huge benefits in retaining it and bringing
the foyers down to the ground. It needs a whole series of basic
facilities down at ground floor. With regard to the Queen Elizabeth
Hall and Purcell Room, we are leaving open to architectural competition
on that part of the site whether we retain the auditorium. Our
masterplan has made a very clear set of frameworks and priorities
really: firstly, the most important thing to do, if we can retain
it, is the auditorium; secondly, would be the foyers; and, thirdly,
would be the terraces. In any event, whichever architect is commissioned
on that site will take as a given the terracing effect off from
Waterloo Bridge down to the new square in front of Festival Hall.
That will be the basic way in which we will retain those sorts
of broad principles of that architecture. Maybe I can also answer
this point about why were pedestrians up at that higher level.
In the sixties it was very fashionable that people would be at
a higher level and cars would be at ground floor level. Unfortunately,
when Elizabeth House was built on the other side of York Road,
it then brought pedestrians back down to ground level and this
undermined the entire pedestrian route structure. One of the key
things we have been doing in our proposals is we have pioneered
the use of what I will call disabled access. The Festival Hall,
the South Bank site, finds itself dissected by these two high
level bridges and a high platform at Waterloo Station. This is
a huge barrier to people in wheelchairs, people with other disabilities,
mums with pushchairs and elderly people. Certainly we know that
lots of people would come and spend the day there if it was easier
to get to, so one of the things we have been working on is how
we improve disabled access. We are the first people to pioneer
in this country a set of development principles for access that
deal with the site rather than just the buildings. As you know,
the Disability Discrimination Act legislation in 2004 will create
a framework for access within buildings. We are actually very
keen to look at access to the buildings and moving around the
66. Indeed people forget that it is windier
at higher levels.
(Mr McCart) Exactly.
67. Finally, could I just ask, assuming Lambeth
Borough Council get their act together finally, what sort of timescale
do you see for this project?
(Mr McCart) I think within about nine months of a
consent the public will start to see some changes around Festival
Hall; for example, the café that Maya mentioned in terms
of Festival Square. That square itself actually is one of the
few places you can orientate yourself: you can see the Wheel,
the House of Parliament, Westminster, St Paul's and the bridge,
so it is a very important square. Secondly, we plan to introduce
a new wide staircase off Hungerford Terrace. At the moment 4 million
people are having to navigate a rather dangerous and rather narrow
spiral staircase. That number, when the bridge opens next year,
is going to be 7 million and so we want to deal with that. As
regards to the foyer, I think had we got the consent in 2002,
or what I will call 2001, we would probably have refurbished the
Festival Hall in a series of mini projects while keeping the facility
open, but we are now also involved in renewing the acoustic and
refurbishments to the auditorium and so, when we are clear about
that later this year, we will then decide whether to proceed with
Festival Hall improvements over four or five years, starting next
year, or whether to take it in a shorter period. As regards the
public realm, the park and the river walk, then I think with the
funding in place we could be looking at designs being presented
for public consultation towards the end of this year, consent
hopefully next year, and then moving towards an introduction of
the park starting in 2003-04. As regards the other sites, these
are really subject to much more detailed work but I think it is
unlikely that the whole site will be complete until 2008-09. The
whole point is that there will be constant change, constant movement
keeping the facilities open, but also lovely interest in seeing
how we are regenerating the site.
68. You mentioned the staircases. One of the
things I have noted, not only with the spiral staircase but with
the other staircases, is that when it rains they are ankle-deep
(Ms Even) I know. They are in very bad shape. We want
to restore the original staircase. The crazy thing about the site
and the changes that were made in the sixties is that people are
now lost when they are trying to get into the building. Restoring
the original staircase brings back the original sense of the building,
the beauty of the architect's plans. It was very simple. In fact
our architect now was taught by Dr Leslie Martin at Cambridge,
so he has all the sense of what the original architects wanted
to do with the site, to return it to its original sense of beauty.
69. I think it is worth saying that over the
last 10 years or may be 15 years the whole of the South Bank has
improved immeasurably from what used to be a really desultory
walk. Partly because of the Tate further on down, the fact that
you can now walk the whole length of the riverside has turned
London back into one of the most beautiful riversides in the world.
It is a bit depressing if you start from here though, because
you have to walk through ankle-deep McDonald's wrappers outside
County Hall. I hope somebody is going to look at that. I worry
about this business of your relationship with Lambeth and clearly
you doand we have only got you today, so we have not got
Lambeth to put the other sidebut I wonder whether part
of that is to do with the fact that there are very few windows
from any of the buildings that are on your side and further on
down to the National Theatre that look out towards Lambeth.
(Mr McCart) Exactly.
70. Everything looks out on to the river. It
feels a bit as if you have your back to Lambeth.
(Mr McCart) Exactly. That is the whole purpose of
the café and it is the whole purpose of the masterplan,
which is bringing the Hayward Gallery down to ground level and
those facades onto Belvedere Road. It is absolutely critical.
71. There was a phase when you went through
being called SBC1and SBC2 and SBC3 and things like that. Has that
(Mr McCart) Yes.
(Ms Even) That pre-dated me.
72. That was very perplexing. I did not understand
it at all. I notice you are doing a review of performance hall
provisionsand of course that is what you are talking about,
the various different halls. I think I have had three of my most
pleasurable evenings in my life on the site. One was for Mercedes
Sosa, the Argentinian singer, in the Festival Hallwhich
was, as you say, a thoroughly exuberant and rumbustious eveningand
one was in the Purcell Room. I have only ever seen Earlier English
music in the Purcell Room. Is that something that will remain?
(Mr Mason) The Purcell Room is a very small hall.
It only seats 370 people and even less if we are putting on some
dance events. It is very inefficient to operate and is not universally
loved by the people who put events on there. They would like a
larger hall. The reason they would like a larger hall is that,
first of all, they do not lose money on the hall, and, secondly,
they are able, whatever size the ensemble, to project more, they
can make more of their event than if it is as small as it is.
We would like to replace or refurbish the Purcell Room so that
it has more seats and more flexibility in the way those seats
can be configured. It might even be that for some events there
will be no seats at all, just a flat floor. Taking your Mercedes
Sosa, that obviously would not be the sort of thing you would
put in the Purcell Room, but for a similar sort of event, with
a lower attraction for audiences, you would have people able to
move around, stand up, dance or whatever. We would have about
three or four configurations which we would be able to use in
a flexible way, which would available to music, to dance, to spoken
word, to some smaller opera. That is what we would like to do
with the Purcell Room.
73. Can I just push you on this bit about early
English music. It seems to me that it is easy to get audiences
in for 59 performances of Tchaikovsky but there is another audience
(Ms Even) You are absolutely right. Our Director of
Performing Arts has been incredibly clever about it. We have mentioned
audience figures going up for the autumn season. She has looked
at what our audiences wantedbecause we have conducted a
certain amount of research to see what it is that they want, that
is going to bring them in in great numbers, because, we have to
be frank about it, audiences are a difficult thing to chase these
days. I know if you perform excellent things you will bring them
in, but you have to see what they want too. She has, by performing
across a range of music, drawn in those audiences very successfully.
Our concert hall attendance is up across the board and I think
it is because of very successful programming. It does cater for
all tastes, for early music as well as for all other forms of
non-classical music as well.
(Mr Mason) May I enlarge on that point? I am sitting
on the committee which is looking at the concert hall provision
and we are taking evidence from several groups which are involved
with early music and early English music in particular. They have
all said that they will perform in the Purcell Room but they do
not like it because it does not afford them enough opportunity
and flexibility. If we could make the Queen Elizabeth Hall a more
attractive space to work in, and that means not only financially
but also in terms of how they can perform and the number of seats
that we can put in there, they would be more willing to consider
that hall. The reason for that is that the volume and the space
of that hallthe acoustics primarilyare so good that
they like it. So if we can attract them there, that is their preference.
74. Is there ever going to be a film that you
can watch in the IMAX cinema?
(Mr Mason) I think the IMAX is something which is
the responsibility of another organisation, the British Film Institute.
75. But they are tenants of yours, are they
(Mr Mason) Not in the IMAX, no. The British Film Institute
underneath Waterloo Bridge is a leaseholder on a peppercorn rent
for a long lease. They are independent of us in terms of management.
76. The approach to that is gruesome.
(Mr Mason) It is indeed.
(Ms Even) It is now and that is going to change.
77. Last week I was very sceptical of the RSC's
plans, however I am not sceptical of yours, in the need for them.
With the RSC I was unconvinced after their presentation that there
was a need for them. Desirable, yes, but actual need, I couldn't
see it. With yours I think there is a definite need for this and
I welcome your access principles. Unlike my colleague I actually
would like to see the high quality fifties' and sixties' buildings
kept and I do think they are of high quality. Though they may
be of a particular aesthetic type which some do not appreciate,
I am not one of those. I like their modernism. I want to see the
pedestrianisation extended and the vehicles got out. Having said
all that, the great strength for me of the South Bank area is
its inclusivity. I am a regular user. I do not so much use the
concert halls and those sorts of facilities but the space. I am
concerned about the spaces between your major performance spaces,
as I think you are. The commercial development then sort of rings
warning bells in my head and so I would really like you to spend
some time now outlining for me how the free aspects (as I would
like to sum them up) would be kept, because a great pleasure of
the South Bank is to wander around and not be stopped from going
in. The Hayward is perhaps the bad example, you cannot get into
the Hayward without paying money, but with just about all of the
other things, the National Theatre, the Festival Hall, you can
get an enormous amount of pleasure and artistic "rubbing
shoulders" sort of thing and experiences without actually
paying any money. It might be more desirable for you to spend
money there, but you do not have to. I do not know quite how to
put it, but you get my point. Could you tell me the free aspects?
One small point: the skateboarders. I am going to stand up for
skateboarders. No, I do not like getting mowed down by them, like
anybody else, especially when I am taking a toddler down there.
However, there is not much for young men, in particular, who want
to do that sort of stuff. Is there no way that skateboarding could
be incorporated in a way that stops them going into other people
but gives them that excitement and brings them into that area?
(Mr Mason) Can we perhaps answer your question in
two parts? I will deal with the "for free" aspect and
Mike McCart will deal with the buildings and skateboarders aspect.
I can assure you that it is our absolute intention to continue
the "for free" activities. We have been extremely pleased
with them ever since the free foyers came into existence in 1983
and we are very glad that you and lots of others enjoy them and
have continued to enjoy them. We will continue the free events
in the Festival Hall. We will not only continue them but we would
like to put them back to what they used to be two or three years
ago, which is to have not only free music at lunchtime and in
the evenings but free visual arts and other types of activities
on the ballroom floor and other public spaces. We would like to
draw people into the Festival Hall and this is one means of doing
that. At the moment this free activity takes place at the main
level, which is level 2, where the catering and in-house shops
are, but we would like to draw people up into the building at
the front over the riverside, because there are not only wonderful
spaces to be explored in the building itself but there are marvellous
views over the river, looking up river and down river. So we would
like to encourage everybody into the Festival Hall and we will
use free events as a means of marketing that. There is, however,
something else we could do on this unloved part of the site that
is the Hayward Gallery. At the moment the Hayward is up at a higher
level, as you will know from its entrance, but most critically
it is closed for three months a year. The reason for its closure
is that between each exhibition you have to take out the last
exhibition before you can get the next one in. Quite apart from
anything else, it is very efficient, but it also means that the
Hayward is not available for a certain number of months a year
and that is not good for its attractiveness. Visual arts colleagues
of ours run a service on behalf of the Arts Council called the
Arts Council Collection and it is part of our proposals that not
only would be remodel the Hayward so that it was open all year
round, but that we would open a new gallery which would be open
all the year. It would be a continuing exhibition of the Arts
Council's Collection, so there would be something free in the
visual arts as well as in the performing arts and literature for
visitors to the South Bank. As far as the buildings are concerned,
may I hand over to my colleague to answer that particular point.
(Mr McCart) Before that, if I may, obviously Jubilee
Gardens has a great tradition of outdoor events for London families.
Under the GLC, there was the Thames Day Festival, which was London's
largest firework display. We are working in partnership with the
landowners to create an endowment which will enable us to sustain
a year-round programme of outdoor events and activities. Also,
for the spaces between the buildings we certainly would be looking
at the principle of working with the commercial partners that
we have within the site to extend the foyer areas to the spaces
between the buildings, certainly during the summer with outdoor
events and artists and musicians performing. We also see public
art as a key part: poetry, sculpture and so on, so that is another
way in which people can rub shoulders with the arts in a free
way. As regards skateboarders, I understand it is the Mecca of
skateboarding in the world, so that, if you are in San Paulo or
anywhere else, it is the place with which people are familiar.
We are very keen to find some means by which we can continue that
use. I was always under the impression that this was a somewhat
anarchic activity, where they would want to take uses that were
not designed for skateboarding and utilise them, but someone has
mentioned to me that there are two young Americans from Los Angeles
who have been very successful in creating a skateboard park, under
the Westway and elsewhere, where not only do they pay, not only
is there no graffiti, but they also wear hard hats and they enjoy
themselves. So I think there are some ingenious ways in which
we can do that, and it is certainly our intention to encompass
them within our proposals.
(Ms Even) Can I also reassure you on one other point
that you made about commercialism and commercial development of
the site? You are absolutely right, in many ways we do not want
to have ugly commercial development that is irrelevant to the
site, but, in another way, in centres like this they have to cater
for families that do act in a different way from traditional models.
When you go out with your family for the day, you want to go to
a centre where you do not just have one activity and then have
to drag them off for lunch or have to drag them off for tea or
whatever. You want to be able to stay at the centre. I want to
be able to take my children to a centre, have a place where you
can eat, inexpensively, good food; go to a good bookshop that
has a great children's section where the children can sit down
and read books and maybe have one of the authors there reading
to them as part of our literature programme; take in the Wheel,
which is a great family attraction now; and be able to play around
in the playground which South Bank has just opened in Jubilee
Gardens. All these things are forms of commercialismobviously
the playground is free but there are other things that are notthat
add to the experience rather than take away from it. What you
really want to do is to create an experience that does cater for
the practicalities of everyday life. If there is no place to eat
and no place to find a good book and no place to do something
which is not commercial but comfortable, then it is jolly difficult
to take families around like that.
78. What I was getting at really is much more
the commercial attitude and how you will manage to manage the
commercial attitude. Because if I am providing a good quality
bookshop, I do not probably want to provide an area where children
are going to read those books, play with them
(Ms Even) We want it.
79. Good. That is lovely. Things like the informality
of the South Bank, the buskers, which perhaps are a bit messy
frankly outside your nice, smart sort of shop that is selling
some nice smart art items. They do not want the buskers there,
but if you sweep them away and clean things up too much then you
are losing something, you are losing the quality. I want to know
really how you are going to maintain with commercial partners
something which is so subjective. How are you going to manage
(Ms Even) Because they want to be part of us. We are
a wonderful site. They all want to be there. It is a site which
has seen our revenue go up because of the extra activity on the
site, as a result of the Wheel, as a result of the extra things
that we are doing. These are the things that are going to attract
lots of people there and the commercial people want to be there,
so we are going to be able to pick and choose. We want to be selective.
(Mr McCart) Certainly if you look at the commercial
operations which exist in the Festival Hall, we know for a fact
that the Palace Restaurant is one of the most successful restaurants
on the river; we know that Books Etc and our Eat cafés
are outperforming high street sites, Oxford Street, for example.
That works very well. The concern that we have, and what we want
the development to achieve, is that we are not able to provide
the range of catering. For example, a lot of consultation work
is done with children. It is magnificent to see seven and eight
year olds giving you a 45 minute presentation on overheads on
what they think is wrong and what they want from the South Bank.
The key thing there is that we are not able to provide that range
of catering because the Festival Hall is a Grade 1 listed building
and it has to be primarily cultural in its focus but the site
gives us the opportunity of creating a much greater diversity
of range of shops and cafés, because people come for different
reasons, they come with different people on different occasions.