A new Southbank Centre exhibition, Concrete Dreams, is announced today, bringing to life the creative spirit of iconic arts venues, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room and celebrating their public reopening after two years of extensive restoration and redesign.
Encapsulates three full days of inspiring live performances and participation
The immersive audio-visual backstage journey sees a discovery of the rich history and behind the scenes secrets of the venues, including Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery which opened in January this year, through previously unseen archives. Free hourly tours will take place from Tuesday 10 April - Sunday 29 April 2018. The exhibition culminates in a special three days of performances by artists who share a history with Southbank Centre’s venues, in a Concrete Dreams Weekend from Friday 27 - Sunday 29 April 2018.
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, thanks to National Lottery players, and designed by innovative theatre company Klanghaus and design practice LYN Atelier, the exhibition investigates the history of these cutting-edge, creative Brutalist buildings with an exclusive glimpse into the world of the performer, on intimate tours transforming the audience into the artist. Entering through the Queen Elizabeth Hall artists’ entrance, audiences will follow in the footsteps of all the legendary artists who performed on these stages at the start of their careers in the swinging 60s, with a soundscape roll call from Pink Floyd to Cleo Laine and Daniel Barenboim. After collecting their stage pass, visitors are given rare access backstage, travelling through the working scene dock, visiting an artists’ lounge, experiencing pre-concert jitters in the dressing rooms and ending on a surprise finale.
Audiences will discover unique archives in the most unusual places, and a flow of voices from the past and present. Highlights include 60s and early 70s archives of live performance footage, poetry recordings and print materials from stars including Deep Purple, London Sinfonietta, Imrat Khan, Tyrannosaurus Rex, David Bowie and dancer Celeste Dandeker, founder of Candoco Dance Company. Also featured will be special live film footage of the very first performance of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 1973 and the seminal performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet in 1967, featuring Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim, all historical moments revealing these buildings’ diverse artistic work. Original architect Denis Crompton gives his personal account of constructing the conceptually experimental venues, added to by present day architect Richard Battye of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios who has led the recent two year restoration.
Concrete Dreams captures the spirit and heritage of Southbank Centre’s 1960s buildings and their artistic beginnings - from a bathroom where Hayward Gallery’s Kinetic psychedelia shines through into dressing room mirrors, to previously unseen terse correspondence between London County Council and the venues’ young architects, and early original photography and architect blueprints from 1961. Over 1000 images of personal dressing room door signs are revealed, made exclusively for the first performances of up and coming stars. Audiences will encounter a very young bongo playing Mark Bolan with John Peel, and will be able to leaf through production notes scribbled on programmes from the very first concerts by John Williams, Itzhak Perlman and the evolving folk revival including The Spinners, exhibiting the creative curiosity, collaboration and experimentation that are the ethos of these venues.
Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London said: “From Bowie to Brutalism, this exhibition, funded by National Lottery players, celebrates a triumphant age of post-war ambition for a new tomorrow... writ large! Truly, a festival building as pioneering as the musicians it inspired. And Southbank Centre is just that; a gloriously confident concrete jewel for us all to savour.”
Rachel Harris, Creative Producer Southbank Centre says: “Concrete Dreams is a celebration of the vision of these unique buildings that were at once ground-breaking and pragmatic, emerging from the idea that the artists and audiences were a living part of the architecture. It tells the stories of the individuals who poured their passion to do things differently into the concrete and remembers the artists who have contributed to the site's history, leaving a thrilling legacy. To complement the exhibition, a selection of performers whose work is intrinsic to the buildings - our artistic family - join us for the Concrete Dreams Weekend. Over three days of live performance and participation established artists and next generation innovators lay down the blueprint for the next 50 years.”
Concrete Dreams Weekend, Friday 27 - Sunday 29 April, encapsulates three full days of inspiring live performances and participation, with every inch of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room filled with music, dance, workshops and talks celebrating the dynamic and vivid performance history of the 1960's buildings, whilst looking firmly to the future.
A multitude of free events includes 60s Big Sing, a participatory vocal performance workshop celebrating songs of the 60s - from Bowie to Pink Floyd. Sitting side by side with iconic historic performances are new works inspired by the refurbished venue, including responses to the new foyer area. These include a new collaborative contemporary dance and music piece Our Veranda, performed by Freddie Opoku-Addaie, a new music composition Echoes in Time: Drake Music and dance company Corali’s new work 9 Windows Reimagined.