Rattle hall campaigners pretend Brexit never happened

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, leader of the Simon Rattle campaign for a new concert hall in the City of London, has returned to the fray after a period of quiet contemplation. He argues in the Telegraph today that, after the Brexit vote, ‘London and the UK will need standout projects: the sort of infrastructure that will help fuel our economy, and attract both visitors and artists who want to come or continue to work here because of our thrilling cultural scene.’

Which is exactly what he argued before Britain voted to leave the EU.

The case for a new hall on the site of the Museum of London has some merits in a sunny economic climate, which is a thing of the past. In present conditions it will (a) cost half a billion pounds, (b) be furiously resented by the rest of the UK, specifically those parts that voted for Brexit and (c) lack any kind of political backing now that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, its chief nodder and winker, has been sacked from the Theresa May government.

To make the case now for a new hall displays woeful timing and an astonishing lack of emotional intelligence. Mrs May is unlikely to be amused.

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  • We hear time and time again that Rattle is the person to deliver this new hall, indeed the only person. I would say if his power, charisma, leadership, figurehead(ness), whatever you want to call it is so amazing, why does he have to use it for bricks and mortar? Barbican Hall isn’t great, but for the majority of the audience it’s perfectly fine. Use the fundraising efforts to deliver a world class and MASSIVE arts education programme. I would rather have hundreds of thousand of enthusiastic kids and disenfranchised adults, who potentially are customers in years to come, than an amazing piece of ‘infrastructure’ full of all the usual suspects.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more as a Londoner. I was born, educated and brought up in London, and only recently left to go and live in West Yorkshire. We have a wonderful scheme up here in Leeds for kids, done through the auspices of Opera North and the even more unseen work of the Catholic Diocese, but that all goes quite unnoticed. All this summer, kids have had the opportunity to go and play with members of the Opera North orchestra, and sing in the children’s choir. Yet we don’t have one concert hall in Leeds, we don’t have an opera house, and yes, the lovely Town Hall, but you try singing in some of those seats for the Ring – as we did with our cushions – and Bayreuth would never moan again. But all these p projects still work, and the Opera North and all the other orchestras we get manage somehow. Next year St George’s Hall will be reopened in Bradford – a magnificent concert hall that is being refurbished. It’s where the Halle come to and many visiting orchestras, and where they put on War Requiem not so long ago – no hall in Leeds to do that!

      As a visitor now to London, and often at short notice, I have yet to worry about whether I can get into a concert at the Barbican or the South Bank – and as for the Proms, they nearly always manage to squeeze you in. So until all the concert halls are full to bursting, go and put some money, Simon, around some of the other cities in the country so that there can be some touring (as used to be of old from ROH and ENO to Manchester at least). And don’t put the halls out in the Styx as the Lowry is in Manchester. Makes it impossible to get home to Leeds or Halifax or Huddersfield or Newcastle or Liverpool when you have that tram ride as well. Luckily the Halle have the Bridgewater right beside a mainline station. Everything is so London-centred, even the trains and the new high speed one. Get the North functioning!!

      • I don’t disagree with you necessarily but I was born and brought up in Bradford and have probably known St George’s Hall much longer than you have. I don’t, however, agree with the implication that poor provision in the North is largely the result of some London based conspiracy. London’s superior provision is a consequence of international visitors and the huge number of commuters who effectively increase its population and, dare I say, it has had a more open minded attitude to the arts for much longer.

        Things might be better now but I clearly recall many decades where there was little widespread interest in classical music provision in Yorkshire, and little concern about the absence of a Yorkshire based full time symphony orchestra in the country’s largest county (after 1955). And before the M62, access to and from Manchester was far from easy.

        For a long time there has been a deep seated “not London” streak of aggressive philistinism in Yorkshire. There are signs that this is passing, which is all well and good, but I remember the Billy Elliot syndrome well; it was a harsh home grown reality. Certain artistic endeavours were ring fenced and considered “respectable”, many were not.

        Lastly, before anyone mentions it, I am well aware of the Halle’s long association with St George’s Hall.

      • I agree with many of Una’s sentiments but should like to make a couple of points. To say that Leeds does not possess one concert hall or an opera house is wide off the mark. Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House (note full title!) is one of the UK’s finest and most beautiful opera theatres, and the homebase of Opera North since 1978. The 1550 capacity Town Hall has a wonderfully spacious acoustic which is ideal for large scale choral works such as the War Requiem. Sorry Una but I have attended at least three very fine performances of this great work in Leeds Town Hall over the past three decades. Opera North’s Ring Cycle at LTH sounded incredibly clear – it was an unforgettable sonic experience in this quite intimate setting. On the question of a new c2000 capacity concert hall for Leeds, it is fair to say that Leeds City Councillors of whatever political complexion remain tunnel-visioned. A feasibility study commissioned some ten years ago by the City Council projected a likely cost of some £80m for a new Symphony Hall which is peanuts compared to the estimated half a billion for London’s proposed “Rattle” Hall. London doesn’t actually need another large concert hall. The argument that such an investment in the City of London will benefit the whole of the UK is pure dinkum.

      • I agree with many of Una’s sentiments but should like to make a couple of points. To say that Leeds does not possess one concert hall or an opera house is wide off the mark. Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House is one of the UK’s finest and most beautiful opera theatres, and has of course been the homebase of Opera North (and the company’s full time professional symphony orchestra) since 1978. The 1550 capacity Leeds Town Hall has a wonderfully spacious acoustic and the platform capacity to accommodate such large scale choral works as Britten’s War Requiem. Sorry Una but I have attended at least three superb performances of the great work in Leeds Town Hall. Opera North’s quite amazing Ring Cycle sounded incredibly clear and it became an unforgettable and sometimes overwhelming sonic experience in this relatively intimate space. On the question of a new 2000 capacity concert hall, it is fair to say that Leeds City Councillors of whatever political complexion have remained steadfastly tunnel-visioned. A feasibility study commissioned some ten years ago by the City Council projected a figure of £80m for a state of the art Symphony Hall. It’s peanuts compared to the estimated half a billion for the proposed “Rattle” Hall in the City of London. London doesn’t actually NEED another large concert hall and the argument that such an investment would benefit the whole country is utter dinkum.

      • “Everything is so London-centred…”

        Simon Rattle is going to be Music Director of the LONDON Symphony Orchestra, which is based in LONDON and the driving force behind the new hall, along with its major partners, the City of LONDON.

        Is it really that difficult to work out why their new hall won’t be built in Leeds?

      • I think I’m right in saying that, from the 1960s, Leeds had an indoor Olympic sized swimming pool (the “Leeds International” – now demolished and replaced) whereas London didn’t until 2012.

        Different cities, different priorities.

  • “has some merits in a sunny economic climate” – well, today’s revised figures from the BoE are decidedly more sunny, by a very long way, than any of their pre-referendum predictions of scenarios post-Brexit…

  • “The case for a new hall on the site of the Museum of London has some merits in a sunny economic climate, which is a thing of the past.”

    I think you’re confusing the UK with Greece – that huge EU success story that you don’t want to talk about.

  • There is no huge EU success, Maria. All the schemes up here didn’t get any EU funding as Ireland did and continues to do for even Tralee train station I noticed in January!

    • I think that you’re missing Maria’s tongue-in-cheek meaning, Una. Everyone knows that the EU’s southern economies are pretty much a disaster, even including France (now known as the ‘Home of the Strike’). God bless the EU and it’s Euro.

  • The notion of a ‘Rattle Concert Hall’ seems to predict a repertoire reflecting the sound of current media debate.

  • Given that London has three world class symphony orchestras (and the BBC SO and RPO are pretty good too), but two of them have to share a residency at the Festival Hall (which has pretty poor acoustics in many of the seats, unlike the Barbican which I find is perfectly fine). Wouldn’t it be better to build a new concert hall for either the Philharmonia or the LPO, and leave the LSO at the Barbican, so each of our three world class orchestras could have their own hall? The hall wouldn’t even have to be in the City.

  • Just face it. There is no world class concert hall in London! Top notch orchestras only exist if they can rehearse/play in good acoustic conditions. Get in new Paris Philharmonie and you’ll know what I mean. Music education? That’s fine and indeed necessary. But if education becomes and excuse not to invest in great music making then something must be wrong.

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