History on Display: Future Exhibition Makers on the Open Foyer Policy

David Carter

Presented by the participants of our Future Exhibition Makers course, this archive display uncovers the history of the decision to open up the Royal Festival Hall.

Throughout March 2023, a group of young people aged 13 – 18 joined us for an intensive course to learn archiving, curating and exhibition-making skills.

Working collectively, they delved into the archives of the Royal Festival Hall’s 1980s exhibition programme to create an exhibition of their own, marking the 40th anniversary of the open foyer policy.

The result is History on Display: Future Exhibition Makers on the Open Foyer Policy, which can be seen between 31 March – 16 April 2023 in the Archive Studio, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall, as well as here in this online gallery.

About the ‘open foyer’ policy

Introduced in 1983 by the Greater London Council, this policy meant that the public could access the foyer areas of the Royal Festival Hall all day, every day. Along with this access came a range of free programming, including exhibitions, lunchtime chamber concerts, evening jazz performances – a big step towards making arts centres more welcoming for everyone.

Our Future Exhibition Makers chose six very different foyer exhibitions from the 1980s and related themes to explore, including Notting Hill Carnival costume designs, feminist activism and a collaborative project with the Brecht Centre in what was then East Germany (or the German Democratic Republic).

Together, in the spirit of the open foyer policy, these collections showcase a different side of art, uncover and amplify hidden stories and reflect on the radical and inclusive ethos of both our 1980s programme and its modern legacy

Watch video by Mireya

Shot and edited by Future Exhibition Maker Mireya, we invite you to view the launch event, exhibition install and listen  Southbank Centre Archivist, Clare Wood, reflect on the project, the radical nature of the Open Foyer Policy and how the Future Exhibition Makers have brought unknown stories from our past to light.

People viewing the archive display at the Future Exhibition Makers on the Open Foyer Policy
Pete Woodhead


Future Exhibition Makers

These collections and the associated texts were curated and written by Siddra, Audrey, Viktoria, Magpie, Carys, Joe, Maggie, Ezrah, Josh, Jason, Kitty-May, Isabel, Millie, Valentina, Mireya and Emma.

With generous support from the Rothschild Foundation.

Image permissions

We have taken all reasonable efforts to trace copyright holders of these images and obtain permissions for the reproductions in this digital collection. If you hold intellectual rights to any of these images, please email to let us know.