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Southbank Centre Archive

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2881
Held at: Royal Festival Hall
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Full title: Southbank Centre Archive
Date(s): 1949-present
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 225 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Southbank Centre | 1951
London County Council / Greater London Council
South Bank Music Centre


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal Festival Hall opened on 3 May 1951, providing London a replacement major concert hall to the Queens Hall destroyed in 1941. It was built by the London County Council as a contribution to the Festival of Britain, May-September 1951, and was the only structure planned to remain permanently on the site.

Responsibility for the design was given to a team at the London County Council architectural department. Robert H Matthew, Architect to the Council and J L Martin, Deputy Architect, were primarily responsible for the planning and design of the building. Edwin Williams, Senior Architect, was in charge of general organisation and progress and Peter Moro, was Associated Architect. In April 1988 Royal Festival Hall became the first post-war public building awarded Grade I listing.

The Hall initially included a large rectangular concert auditorium, which seats 2900 patrons, and a smaller recital hall. The building has been subject to ongoing development. In 1954, the organ was completed in main auditorium, and between 1962 and 1968 further building was undertaken on the site. Royal Festival Hall reopened in 1965, after eight months closure, with exterior walls slightly extended and refaced. In March 1967 two additional concert spaces were opened: the Queen Elizabeth Hall, seating over 900, and the Purcell Room seating more than 370. The adjacent Hayward Gallery opened in July 1968.

In 1983 the Greater London Council, successor administrative body to the London County Council, extended opening of the foyers of Royal Festival Hall to the public all day, seven days a week with free events and exhibitions being offered. In April 1986, the South Bank Board, a constituent part of the Arts Council of Great Britain, took over administration of the Southbank Centre concert halls following abolition of the Greater London Council.

In 1988 the Arts Council's Poetry Library, a collection of modern British poetry established in 1953, took up residency on level five of Royal Festival Hall.

From its beginning Southbank Centre concert halls have included a varied programme of musical and artistic events including orchestral, jazz and contemporary music, ballet, opera, lectures, recitals, readings and visual exhibitions.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Southbank Centre comprising:

Administrative records including:
Opening Ceremony book of distinguished visitors, 3 May 1951, containing signatures of guests; Visitors books (signed by performers), 1956-1966; Press releases, 1969-1991 (1 box); Annual Reports, 1992-present

Event diaries, 1951-present; records of attendance and ticket sales, 1957-1970s

Arts Board Recreation and Arts Committee files, 1976-1982; Visual Arts Committee files, 1978-1982; London County Council Committee orders files relating to Royal Festival Hall, 1949-1975; Southbank Board administrative files, 1985-present

Artist agreements, 1974-1976; administrative files 1970s-1980s; files relating to redevelopment

Records relating to exhibitions including administrative files, papers and photographs, 1951-1994; printed catalogues of exhibitions; card catalogue of exhibitions, 1950s-1980s; photographs relating to exhibitions, 1981-1993

Records of performances and events including Meltdown summer music festival publicity material, 1993-2000; music projects subject files, 1970s-1980s; South Bank Summer Music (SBMS) administrative files, 1969-1984

Card index of performances at Southbank Centre venues arranged by artist, instrument, conductor and composer, 1951-1985

Printed publicity material including Preview, South Bank Centre publication, 1991-1995; Scrapbooks containing printed programmes, 1951-1964 (18 vols); copies of printed performance programmes 1951-present; Exhibition programmes, 1976-1980s; publicity posters, 1980-2000; leaflets 1960s-present

Collection of published magazines containing articles or special issues relating to the Festival of Britain of the RFH, 1951-1995

Cuttings collection including newspaper cuttings, 1951-1964; Press Department cuttings, 1984-present; Education Department press cuttings, 1987-1993; cuttings and papers relating to site development, 1996; articles and speeches of Nicholas Snowman, 1992-1999; orchestral residency background, 1990-1995; redevelopment submission, 1991; seasons and launches, 1994-1996; cuttings re Festival ballet, dance, 1952, 1954; cuttings of concert reviews and events; press cuttings, 1984-2002

Scrap books of press cuttings arranged by subject including Royal Festival Hall organ, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1954; National Theatre and South Bank Opera House, 1958-1965; Philharmonia /New Philharmonia Orchestra, 1963-1966; Royal Festival Hall Competition, 1965; Queen Elizabeth Hall opening, and acoustics, 1967; South Bank Summer Music, 1964-1968; Orchestral Resources Report, 1970; Night of Nights-Frank Sinatra, 1970; Kirov Ballet, 1979; Calas/Di Stefano, 1973; Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, 1975; Royal Festival Hall 25th anniversary, 1976; Horowitz concert, 1982; Metropolitan Mikado, 1985; and The Soul of the Terracotta Army, 1987

Photographic collection comprising:
Files of photographs arranged by subject including aerial views, auditoria, backstage, brewer and South Bank Lion, Embankment, Festival Pier and Jubilee Gardens, Festival of Britain, foundation stone and topping out, furniture and fittings, Hayward Gallery interior and exterior, models and artists' impression, organs, Queen Elizabeth Hall under construction, exterior and interior, Royal Festival Hall construction, exterior and interior, Royal Festival Hall completion, site and views from the site, staff and miscellaneous images, 1920s-1970s
Scrap books of photographs relating to Royal Festival Hall construction, exhibitions, foyer exhibitions and other events, receptions, interior, exterior and models, Stage productions and films
Collection of photographs and negatives of artists, conductors, events and staff

Collection of visual materials including:
Portraits of - Bela Bartok, Artur Schnabel and Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Arthur Bliss, Walter Crane, Piero De Gamba, George Gissing, Gerald Moore, Paul Tortellier, by artists including Janos Halafy, Adrian Allinson, Wyndham Lewis, Sonia Miller, Bette Flashtig
Collection of drawings by Dr Willy Dreifuss including portraits of Sir Thomas Beecham, Clifford Curzon, Jascha Horenstien, Otto Klemperer, Rafael Kubelik, Artur Ribinstein, Adrex Segovia
Prints of Ludwig van Beethoven, Clara Haskil, Double Basses of the New Philharmonia Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini, by artists including Michael Garady, Doroth Bradford, A Rienzi
Lithograph of Sir Henry Wood, view of Somerset House from Waterloo Bridge, view of Waterloo Bridge from the west; 27 prints of musicians and singers published in Vanity Fair, 1872-1908

Collection of films and videos of programmes and promotional material, relating to the Festival of Britain, Royal Festival Hall anniversaries, architecture and building development, the South Bank development, [1951], [1976] 1983 -2001

Sound recordings including:
Commercial CD (100) and audio cassettes (50) recordings of concert performances held at Royal Festival Hall
Oral history recordings (on audio cassette, DAT, and CD) of interviews with managers, London County Council members, architects, musicians, staff and patrons, including Felix Aprahamian, Hugh Bean, Lord Birkett, Tony Blackwell, Harry Blech, Jack Brymer, Shirly Cooper and Ted Higgins, Nicholas Danby, John Denison, Maura Dooley, Rober Glazebrook, Noel Goodwin, Ian Grant, Reg Fulker, Illtyd Harrington, Victor Hochhauser, R G F Howden, Michael Kaye, Frank Kellond Jones, London Festival/English National Ballet, Ruth Mackenzie, George Mann, Sir Leslie Martin, Lord Menuhin, Peter Moro, Yvonne Pegler, Anthony Phillips, Richard Pulford, David Seigle-Morris, Dennis Spall, Anthony Steele, and Christine Wilde, 1990s
Recordings of miscellaneous interviews and broadcast radio programmes relating to Royal Festival Hall and the Festival of Britain, 1957, 1990-2000

Material relating to the Festival of Britain including:
newspapers, magazines, guides, extract articles, programmes and exhibition catalogues [1951-1993]; Festival plans and posters; Festival ephemera and objects including ash tray, curtain, head scarf, press pass, presentation soap [1951]; chairs and other furniture
Cassette and CD recordings containing extracts from BBC commentaries, relating to the opening of Royal Festival Hall, various events, and interviews with Robert Matthew and William Allen; Festival Times, publication of the Festival of Britain Society, 1989-present.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Since 2009 Southbank Centre has been embarking on a strategic development plan for the archive's future organisation and access. To enable the next stage of this plan to be carried out the archive is currently closed to public enquiries. This temporary closure will allow essential intensive work to be carried out on Southbank Centre Archive which will facilitate meaningful access to the materials for the public in future years including the archives use in participatory projects. Southbank Centre apologise for any disappointment and inconvenience this may cause but we look forward to welcoming your enquiries in the future.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Detailed hand list of oral history interviews and index of contents; handlist of signatures contained in the visitors books; unpublished Content List - includes videos, audio interviews, articles, ephemera,

Archival Information

Archival history:

Southbank Centre Archive (previously Royal Festival Hall Archive) was established in the Marketing Development section of the Commercial Department in 1993 and from then began to assemble surviving materials from internal and external sources including some artefacts, relating to Southbank Centre.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

Records of the London County Council are mainly held at the London Metropolitan Archive; records of the Festival of Britain Exhibition are mainly held at the Victoria and Albert Museum Archive of Art and Design; records of the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1939-1985 are held at the National Archives: Public Record Office, Kew.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; Music on the South Bank, and appreciation of the Royal Festival Hall, John Pudney, London County Council with Max Parrish, London 1951.
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2003; June 2010

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