THE INDEPENDENT (UK): Shell pledges £1m to revamp Festival Hall (ShellNews.net) 13 April 05
By Louise Jury
13 April 2005
One of the Royal Festival Hall's neighbours on the South Bank in London has become the first big business to back its £91m fund for major refurbishment.
Shell UK pledged £1m towards the campaign to revamp the hall for the first time since it opened in 1951.
Lord Hollick, chairman of the South Bank board, said the announcement of the support was a tremendous boost.
"With the help of our funding partners, the work we are undertaking will ensure that the Royal Festival Hall, one of London's greatest cultural assets, will be fit to meet the demands of our public in the 21st century, alongside its peers in other world-class cities," he said.
James Smith, Shell UK's chairman, said the company believed it had a role to play in ensuring the South Bank Centre remained a great public asset. "As neighbours, we are delighted to be able to support the transformation of the Royal Festival Hall, one of the most important cultural centres in London," he said.
Redevelopment plans for the centre go back as far as 1988, when the first scheme fell victim to a slump in property prices. But after years of grand visions which never got off the ground, the arrival of Michael Lynch, a straight-talking Australian, as the new chief executive, and Lord Hollick as chairman, signalled a less ambitious but more achievable programme of improvements in phases.
The fund-raising for the centrepiece of the redevelopment - work on the fabric and the acoustics of the Grade I-listed Festival Hall - was launched a year ago and has raised £80m.
Contributions were initially sluggish, but a spokeswoman said yesterday that support was now beginning to arrive. Dame Vivien Duffield, the philanthropist who helped the Royal Opera House fund its redevelopment, is co-chairing the development committee and she has donated £5m.
The Government gave an extra £5m in addition to Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund money already committed to the project, which has left the centre confident they will raise the remaining £10m.
The Royal Festival Hall was built in 1951 as "The People's Place" for the Festival of Britain, but it has been dogged by criticism from performers about its acoustics.
It is due to close for 18 months of refurbishment in July, during which the South Bank programme will continue in the Queen Elizabeth Hall next door, and reopen in early 2007.
Other building work is also under way, including the opening of new shops and cafés by the riverside entrance this summer and a new office building along Hungerford Bridge.
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