Julian Lloyd Webber joins the anti-Rattle hall campaign

Julian Lloyd Webber joins the anti-Rattle hall campaign


norman lebrecht

December 19, 2015

The cellist, head of the Birmingham Conservatoire, has published a closely argued op-ed piece in the Times today stating the case against building the City of London’s vanity hall for the incoming LSO conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.



julian lloyd webber2

This week’s news that a state-of-the-art hall virtually next door to the Barbican Centre is a step closer to fruition must surely be greeted with elation? And what’s more, according to a new (£1 million) “feasibility report”, its £278 million cost is just half of what was being quoted last month. Of course there will be that little £34 million extra to spend on the existing Barbican Hall “so that it can replace classical concerts with more contemporary, jazz and world music performances”. Which is nothing compared with the £111 million spent less than ten years ago on refurbishing the Royal Festival Hall. So big (if contrary) figures regarding bricks and mortar are being bandied about. Yet all this money will fail to address the real malaise in Britain’s classical music scene — the woeful neglect of introducing our children to the music itself.


We cannot afford — literally or morally — to make yet another multi-million pound mistake. Music is not about bricks and mortar and “legacy” gestures. It is about the music itself and allowing all our children access to it.

Read the full article here.



  • Olassus says:

    He’s off-topic.

  • Brian Rosen says:

    Maybe this hall will actually ignite people’s desire to know about music and to get it taught more in schools..stop representing the side of the story you want to Norm. This hall, which is so necessary, will, with the reintroduction of Simon Rattle into our musical lives, make such a positive impact on muisc in London and then spread through the rest of the U.K. Why are you trying to get in the way of this happening? What right do you have to think that your self importance is all knowing and all virtuous. Just report the stories Norm if that’s what you want. You do NOT dictate what happens to the musical life of the U.K. It’s not all about you and what you think is right or wrong, some very important and much more knowledgeable (and caring) people think this hall is worth while. Let them get on with it. Report the facts, but don’t have an opinion. That’s not good journalism. Not that you really care….

    • RW2013 says:

      “with the reintroduction of Simon Rattle into our musical lives”
      mein Gott, he’s only a conductor, not the Messiah.

      • Jimmy says:

        Read up on what the Kurt Masur has done during his life time. A conductor (or anyone in such a position of influence) can be so much more than “just a conductor”.

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    Norman, the job of a music journalist is not to make something sour out of every other development in the musical world. You should know better.

    If concert halls are unnecessary, how much more unnecessary are sensationalistic blogs like this one?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      You’re quite right, Andrew. Why do you think the Barbican Hall is unnecessary?

      The Barbican Centre is the largest arts centre in Europe. It’s operated and funded by the City Of London – which guarantees ongoing funding into the future… no mean feat in the present economic climate.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Andrew R Barnard, Thank you for teaching me my job. No-one obliges you to visit this site.

  • Peter says:

    I agree entirely with JLW.
    Much has been made of Rattle being the only person who could line-up the right people to come up with the money. What a pity this supposed talent for getting the cash couldn’t have been directed to getting the same sums, but for music education and access for young people. And, if you must, simply better support for existing performance programmes. Imagine £200 million spent on that, rather than bricks and mortar.

  • Anne63 says:

    So the head of the Conservatoire in Birmingham, home of the highly regarded Symphony Hall, is against a similar hall for London?

    Sour grapes, by any chance?

    • Ulysses says:

      It is only slightly ironic then that someone who played a beautiful Strad for many years, wishes upon London a concert hall that sounds more like a factory instrument from the 70s. Coincidentally I had occasion to hear a concert in the Berlin Philharmonie and one in the Barbican only recently and my ears, fresh from these two chalk and cheese moments, make me feel that arguing about the price belies a lack of understanding of the value of good new hall.

    • Stweart says:

      Sour grapes only in London I think, with five or six cities in the UK with better halls.
      If they DO manage? to build anything decent we’ll never hear the last of it .

      • Anne63 says:

        “five or six cities in the UK with better halls”, but London wanting a better one is sour grapes? How does that work?

        I recall hearing quite a lot about Birmingham. Still do.

        • Halldor says:

          Such a shame that people can’t discuss London’s musical problems without this constant need to take chip-on-the-shoulder swipes at Birmingham. It comes across as terribly parochial.

  • Daniel Bloom says:

    Agree with Julian on this one. We were initially told that the hall was to be paid for by private money. Now it turns out it will require £200 million from taxpayers and the Corporation of London.

    This government has cut funding for the elderly, victims of domestic violence, disabled people, police, firefighters, the NHS… but somehow it does have £200 million to spare for a vanity project that will mostly benefit the same old audiences composed mostly of the great and the good?


    PS – Really, how does one spend £1 million on a “feasibility report”?

    • Michael Farrington says:

      Spot on! It is nothing short of a scandal that music in education has been so ignored and neglected by this Government and its predecessor over the past five and a half years. If new vanity projects are funded at the expense of music education in state schools, I dare say that the promoters of this concert hall will be the ones wringing their hands about the gradual dying away of audiences large enough to keep it going in future.

      It’s people like Simon Rattle who should be joining Julian Lloyd Webber and others in campaigning for the restoration of state funds for music education in schools so that we can begin to build the audiences and performers who will populate our concert halls to develop and sustain enthusiasm for ‘classical’ music in the future life of all parts of Britain.