Next Friday the Royal Festival Hall will open its doors after two years of hefty refurbishments. We're a bit excited about the return of this jewel of the South Bank, and more specifically the launch weekend itself, which features water and candles.
Will the £100m price-tag attached to the work make the modernist building the world's best concert venue? Almost every single surface has been ripped out and then either adapted, restored or replaced. Splendid new things will include 35% more public space than before, under-seat air conditioning (and more leg-room), better acoustics, longer bars for that pricey interval bevvy, new rooftop terraces and balconies with panoramic river views, and Skylon - a new D&D (Conran) restaurant. The impact of the work has extended around the whole area too, which is as big as Trafalgar Square.
But enough dry stuff about facilities. The real reason we're bristling with excitement is the tantalising information we've heard about the launch event. To kick it all off on Friday 8 June, candlelit choirs will arrive by river to Festival Pier at dusk for an opening ceremony of "music, open-air dancing and spectacle". Over that weekend 24,000 free tickets will be distributed for special performances in the Hall, before an official first night Gala Concert on Monday 11 June. We'll be sneaking in for a cup of tea in the foyer, that's for sure.
The mastermind/genius in charge of all this is Artistic Director Jude Kelly - who also happens to head up the cultural side of the 2012 Olympics. So this gives us a good indication of what the cultural offering will be in five years time – expect lots of public participation, use of the river, and empty shelves in candle shops.
Image taken from Phil Gyford's Flickr stream