Royal Festival Hall


Festival Hall desperate for organ donation, writes Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian.

I first visited the Royal Festival Hall regularly in 1979, in the last days of its first phase.

At that time only the ground floor was open to the general public. The first floor, under the auditorium, was ticket holders only, and still had the original crimson rectangular armchairs. I used to enjoy the tranquillity of this area before a concert. The only retail outlets were a little kiosk selling scores and booklets, and a wine bar round the back.

One amusing annual event was the interval in the Bach Choir’s annual mid-day St Matthew Passion. Large tables were set up and hordes of cheery, rosy-cheeked country families in check shirts and polished brown shoes would sit down with enormous wicker hampers and enjoy a sort of Pheasant Sandwiches and Sanatogen lunch, exchanging remarks such as “What does ‘ripieno’ mean?” “Oh, I think it’s something to do with angels.” I never saw them at other times and assumed they all lived in Hampshire with their ponies and EMI horn gramophones.

Then the area was opened up and shops installed and the place was never the same again.

My grandfather was responsible for some of the acoustic damping in the hall. I think it was the wool wadding in the bottom of the seats so that when the seats were empty it still felt like a full house. I rang him from the auditorium when I gave my first concert, but didn’t have the heart to mention that the hall was terrible.

I understand it’s much improved.


2 Responses to “Royal Festival Hall”

  1. …The writing reminds of the style of a young man…going back to the early 1950’s

  2. Thanks for the comment Albert.

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