News & Events

Southbank Centre announces conservation project for Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery following Arts Council England Grant


Arts Council England is to fund the repair and maintenance of Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery with a £16.7m grant. Starting in late 2015, the building conservation project will address a £24m backlog of repairs. The Arts Council grant will meet 70% of the budget, with the remainder to be raised from trusts, philanthropists and audiences.

Southbank Centre is still working to resolve the funding of a wider scheme for the Festival Wing, which will deliver new space for art and culture, alongside major public realm and service improvements. It expects to make recommendations on this scheme in late 2014.

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Southbank Centre, said: “We are very grateful to Arts Council England for so generously supporting the urgent repair and maintenance of these iconic 60s buildings. This is an important step for Southbank Centre following the delay to our Festival Wing scheme in February.

“We still aim to create new space for our artistic and cultural programmes, once we have found a way through the substantial remaining funding challenge. This will enable us to meet the huge demand for our work following the refurbishment of Royal Festival Hall.”

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “The Arts Council is pleased to be able to safeguard the future of this vital part of London’s artistic and tourist infrastructure through this capital grant. This grant will enable the Southbank to carry out essential work to enhance its existing space, giving them the right buildings to deliver their fantastic artistic and cultural programme and to bring multiple benefits to the millions of visitors the centre attracts each year.”

Simon Hickman, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at English Heritage, said: “These uncompromising brutalist buildings reflect radical changes in British society and culture during the era of their design and creation. Their conservation could not be further delayed and we are delighted that Southbank Centre and Arts Council England are prepared to invest in them. This will enable the public to appreciate the buildings and their significance. English Heritage looks forward to working with Southbank Centre and sharing our expertise in the detailed development of the proposal.”

The new building conservation project will improve essential services, environmental performance, infrastructure such as workshops and backstage areas, and disabled access for audiences and artists. It will restore the buildings’ interiors to their original appearance and repair exterior terraces to maintain a key part of the site’s outdoor landscape. It will also replicate the iconic Hayward Gallery Pyramid Roof to allow controlled natural light into the galleries as originally conceived.

The project will include an extensive, permanent programme of learning and participation. This will allow people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the history of these important buildings, helping to change attitudes to 20th century architecture.

Southbank Centre continues to work on its Festival Wing plans with neighbours including the BFI and National Theatre, the GLA and Lambeth Council. It will be making every effort with skateboard groups to resolve their future in the Queen Elizabeth Hall undercroft, which is the subject of ongoing legal challenge.

For more information please contact Patricia O’Connor, Head of Press, Southbank Centre 7921 0632

Southbank Centre withholds Festival Wing in final search for alternative funding model


Southbank Centre’s Board will withhold its planning application for the Festival Wing, following Mayor Boris Johnson’s statement (15 January 2014) that the skate park should be retained in its current position in any redevelopment. The Board will now undertake a final search for an alternative funding model to keep the widely supported Festival Wing redevelopment scheme alive, along with the promise of free art and culture for millions each year.

The Mayor has the final say in the planning process and the scheme is therefore unlikely to gain planning permission without the retention of the skate park. The Mayor made clear that he supports the overall ambition of the Festival Wing scheme and understands the funding challenges faced by Southbank Centre.

The Festival Wing project would deliver major benefits, including full refurbishment of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, which are in desperate need of repair. It would provide free art and culture for two million people each year, including educational opportunities for 150,000 young people, while creating nearly 700 new jobs. It would include important new art spaces for musicians and artists.

Southbank Centre has consistently said that – even with no new buildings – the refurbishment of the 1960s buildings would require new commercial income. It planned to achieve this in large part by moving the skateboarders 120 metres along the riverside to a bigger, better space to make way for new restaurants. This model of commercial partnership proved successful with the redevelopment of Royal Festival Hall, transforming the South Bank for all to enjoy.

It is far from clear how the scheme might now proceed without exposing Southbank Centre to unacceptable levels of financial risk but it has committed to a final three month search with all parties, including the Mayor’s Office, Lambeth Council and the skateboarders. The aspiration is to find concrete and practical alternative ideas for funding the public realm works that comprise an unusually high proportion of the Festival Wing project but will not attract funding from the philanthropic or sponsorship community.

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Southbank Centre, said:

“This is a big setback to a scheme which would serve millions if completed. The case for closing the project down right now is compelling but we feel we owe a last ditch revival attempt to the many people that have supported us over the past four years of planning, not least the Arts Council England. Boris Johnson and Lambeth Council have both made clear that they wish to see the scheme proceed and we look forward to hearing their ideas.

“But we are under no illusions. We have been handed a massive challenge and we don’t yet see how we will make it work – it is not as if we haven’t already explored numerous options. Our battle has never been with the skateboarders, whom we have welcomed and guaranteed a future on our site. The battle has always been against the economics of bringing a set of crumbling and inefficient buildings into the 21st century, in the context of declining public funding.

“If we are to have any chance of finding new answers then we need, over the next three months, the help of everyone with an interest in putting the final touches to a world class South Bank cultural quarter. If we all fail to find a solution, the buildings problems do not go away. But the needs of the new people attracted by our success over recent years would have to wait to be met until a yet more radical solution to this hitherto intractable problem emerges.”

Lemn Sissay: ‘A letter to Mayor Boris Johnson’


‘Southbank Centre will continue working with and for minorities and marginalized voices. Southbank Centre will give the majority the quality experience we have come to expect. Southbank Centre will continue to offer its free spaces and keep up its conversation with London and the world not least through its diverse artists and audience.’

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The Stage: Simon Tait defends Southbank Centre’s Festival Wing in response to Boris Johnson


‘The Mayor of London has been a doughty champion of Kelly’s plans to open up the QEH, Hayward Gallery and Purcell Rooms and give even more free public space on the Southbank site, but as Lambeth’s preliminary planning meeting opened last week, he spiked it with yet another gesture towards the street cred he so desperately wants and (look at him!) can never have. He has told the hearing that the scheme should go ahead, but with the skatepark remaining at its heart. And he has the final say on planning in London.’

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Southbank Centre responds to Boris Johnson’s statement on Festival Wing


We are surprised by the Mayor’s unexpected statement.  We look forward to hearing how he intends to fill the financial gap that now stands between us and our ability to provide free art and culture to millions of Londoners. In the meantime the Southbank Centre Board must consider the implications for the future of the project if he fails to do so.

Jude Kelly interviewed on BBC London 94.9


Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre talks to Paul Ross and Penny Smith on BBC London 94.9 about skateboarding, the new skate spot and the Festival Wing. Listen here