Jude Kelly, the Southbank and the principles of the Royal Festival Hall

Jude Kelly, the Southbank and the principles of the Royal Festival Hall

In a lecture for the excellent London Society delivered at St Marylebone parish church last week, Jude Kelly, who stepped down as artistic director of the Southbank Centre early last year, spoke eloquently about many things, including the founding principles of the Royal Festival Hall.

Kelly characterised these as being open and inclusive, concerned with embracing all Britons in a project offering hope and renewal after the destruction and trauma of the war. She said these principles were expressed in the Hall’s design and the welcoming public space within and around it. The Hall was opened in 1951, as part of the Festival of Britain. Here’s how the festival was promoted at the time.

Kelly said that when she she took up the artistic director post in 2006, she found that some of those founding principles had eroded – she showed photos of public space around the site lying empty and underused. Filling and enlivening those was, she explained, an expression of her commitment to making the arts accessible and welcoming to as many and as wide a range of people as possible. Hence the title of her lecture: Excellence and Egalitarianism Should be Inseparable Twins.

There is other film coverage of the Festival available online, including one called Brief City: The Story of London’s Festival Buildings, which was made for The Observer by its photographer Patrick O’Donovan and the chairman of the committee of festival architects, Sir Hugh Casson. It expounds some of the ideas Kelly referred to. The first part of it is here and the second part is below. Enjoy O’Donovan’s accent.

Jude Kelly also talked about her contribution to the cultural element of London’s 2012 Olympic bid, her Women of the World Foundation and the need to “hear and understand the stories of all of us, because that’s what culture is”. It was the latest annual London Society Banister Fletcher Lecture, in honour of the illustrious architect and architectural historian.

Dave Hill is a trustee of the London Society. You can become a member of it via here.



Categories: Culture

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