The big test of any renovation is how well it is embraced by those who loved the buildings before the dust sheets went down. Thankfully, the early signs were promising.
Entering the refurbished foyer space, it’s hard not to be taken by the space, which brings the original architecture to the fore, somehow managing to be both stark and welcoming.
Who knew just how many of us had a not-so-secret love harbouring for all things concrete?
The newly installed curved banquettes on the Thames-facing side of the opened up foyer space were a particular hit among new and returning visitors alike.
As too were the circular leather seats, a nod to the original stylings and fittings when the venue first opened in 1968.
Helping us reopen the buildings back to the public were Chineke! The orchestra of black and minority ethnic musicians had been the last group to play the hall before it’s closure, so their return to mark this grand opening brought a pleasing symmetry as well as a pleasing sound.
Chineke! were not the only classical musicians helping us to celebrate Queen Elizabeth Hall’s return - later in the week the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment also took to the refurbished stage to give us Mozart: Master of Deception, with Sir Roger Norrington.
Coinciding with the reopening of Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room is Concrete Dreams, an exhibition which offers a unique backstage tour and dip into the archives of these incredible buildings.
The exhibition offers visitors to get up close and personal with these concrete architectural behemoths… often very close, and very personal.
But as well as celebrate the building’s past, the exhibition tours also give you a chance to really take in the impressive restoration that has been delivered by the architects at FCB Studios.
For the superstitious Friday 13th is considered unlucky, a day to fear, not for us. Friday 13 April saw the debut of Concrete Lates, our new regular club night.
Inspired by Andreas Gursky at Hayward Gallery and the artist’s love of techno, we welcomed a host of top electronic musical talent to Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer, including Pan Daijing, JASSS and Giant Swan.
Delivered in collaboration with Boiler Room the event proved both a daring departure and a great success; with artists and revellers alike making the most of the new space until 2am.
On Saturday there were two welcome returns to the Southbank Centre site. Firstly the sunshine - which at times this winter it has felt we’ve been as long without as we have our brutalist venues - bathed Queen Elizabeth Hall in light; highlighting just how much light enters the foyer space from the opened up windows.
Then on Saturday evening we welcomed back electronic artist, arranger and composer, Hannah Peel. A year on from performing Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia in The Clore Ballroom, Peel brought her new work Tubular Brass to Queen Elizabeth Hall to much acclaim.
Capping off a fantastic seven days, and giving a yet further dimension to the programme of our reopening week, on Sunday Queen Elizabeth Hall was filled once again for a special reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, delivered by a fabulous range of speakers that included Man Booker Prize-winning novelist and poet Ben Okri OBE, award-winning Nollywood star Adesua Etomi, and poet, performer and playwright Yomi Sode.
So, one week down, who knows how many more to go? These were just the opening seven days of a new era for our venues, which will see a greater focus on the best live music, bold programming, new artists, new commissions and artist residencies. The music and performance goes on, so take a look at the full programme and come and experience them for yourself.
The historic restoration of Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery has been made possible through generous support from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, thanks to National Lottery players, and through Southbank Centre friends, trusts and foundations supporting the Let The Light In campaign.