The People’s Place

Presenter: Harry Enfield
BBC Radio 4 – The Archive Hour – June 2007, repeated December 2007
BBC Radio 4 Extra – Saturday 22 August 2015

Producer: Susan Kenyon
Executive Producer: Anne-Marie Cole

Radio choices: RadioTimes and The Spectator

Harry Enfield has some musical fun and games as he relives some of the more extraordinary – and eccentric – moments from the Royal Festival Hall’s cosmopolitan past.

In June 2007, a splendidly refurbished Royal Festival Hall threw open its doors once again to the public after a two year closure.  In celebration, Harry Enfield introduces favourite stories and music from the BBC and Southbank Centre archives.  From exploding crinolines, musical watering cans, and the exploits of a young Paul Gambaccini, he finds out why ‘the people’s place’ has captured the heart of the nation for the past half century.

The Royal Festival Hall was the first major building to be completed in Britain after the Second World War, the centrepiece and only lasting monument of the Festival of Britain, and a symbol of the country’s emergence from post-war gloom.  It was more than just a classical music venue: with its spacious foyers and the largest ballroom in London, it hosted parties and fashion shows, and has always presented an extremely wide range of music and performers from classical to pop (eg the Meltdown Festivals).  Despite criticisms over the years of its acoustics and modernist appearance, the Hall continues to hold a unique place in the country’s affections.

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