The Royal Festival Hall, a Grade I listed building part of the Southbank Centre, London.

The Royal Festival Hall, a Grade I listed building part of the Southbank Centre, London. © Historic England
The Royal Festival Hall, a Grade I listed building part of the Southbank Centre, London. © Historic England

Discover Jason Hazeley's Love Letter to the Royal Festival Hall

This February, we asked well-known personalities to tell us about the buildings they couldn’t live without. Here is a love letter by author Jason Hazeley. 

The Royal Festival Hall is a Grade I listed building.

You’re there for everyone – with your superinsulated concert hall and teeming eateries and poetry library and enter-where-you-fancy policy. By day, you’re a UFO full of sunshine. By night, you’re a three-bar fire warming the South Bank.

Inside the Royal Festival Hall, London,
Inside the Royal Festival Hall, London, © Historic England

Jason Hazeley's love letter to the Royal Festival Hall

"Dear Royal Festival Hall,

I miss you. 

Yes, we still shoot loving glances at each other twice daily as I cross Waterloo Bridge – and you’re as thrilling and handsome as you were when I first set eyes on you – but we don’t spend all day together as we did for eight years, and I miss that.

I miss the 10am scrummage waiting for the doors to open. I miss your effortless flow: those bright boulevards; those ample lungs; the gentle climb of your stairs – you make being perfect look so easy.

I miss working at one of your tables every day – the convivial to-and-fro of deskless writers rubbing shoulders with yoghurt reps and personal trainers and the other types: the linened roué dozing in his newspaper, the Arabic language teacher one-to-oneing with his pupil, the pollution expert finessing her particulates spreadsheet, the young dancers filling the spaces with the kinetics of rehearsal, the gamelan pulsing away just out of sight, the sparkling graduands tossing their mortarboards aloft for the camera, the homeless hauling their pullalongs in from the cold, the toddlers learning to walk in their modernist playground, the lunchtime jazz – truly, I never saw a building so alive.

Not everyone loved you as I do. Le Corbusier didn’t care for you – nor Frank Lloyd Wright, Noel Coward, Ian Nairn or Sir Thomas Beecham, who branded you ‘a Zeppelin on stilts’. (Tone-deafness is, it seems, not exclusively a musical shortcoming.)

But you were part of The Festival of Britain family – an astonishing credit-roll of the artistically stellar: Piper, Hepworth, Games, Casson, Epstein, Moore, Gibberd, Emett, the Days. Your creators, Robert Matthew, Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Edwin Williams, had so much to say and devised such abundant space in which to say it. And they sang it.

In short order, though (September 1951, five months after the Festival opened) all your brothers and sisters – including the magical Skylon – were massacred by Churchill (‘money wasted’) and you were left a glorious orphan.

You were, and still are, timeless in any direction. I can sit on the top floor, boozing in the view from The Biggest Window In London while, over my shoulder, casts of 500m-year-old trilobites embedded in gleaming Derbyshire limestone wall panels bear witness to the present from within your unashamed vision of the future.

Then-and-now is in your very materials: hardwood, fossils, plastic, Portland stone, steel, marble, ply, Jesse Collins’s curlicued door monogram. Outside, the pillars teethe with prehistoric brachiopods frozen in lime. Inside, the carpets dial up the flickering of oscilloscopes.

We’ve seen some amazing people together: Gustavo Dudamel; Ornette Coleman; Michael Palin; Marin Alsop; Brian Wilson – Brian f*****g Wilson. During ‘God Only Knows,’ I leaned over the rail of your swallow’s nest and dripped fat tears all over you.

You’re there for everyone – with your superinsulated concert hall and teeming eateries and poetry library and enter-where-you-fancy policy. By day, you’re a UFO full of sunshine. By night, you’re a three-bar fire warming the South Bank.

You were nearly called The People’s Palace. With good reason. You are and always will be the people’s palace.

I miss you, RFH."

Jason Hazeley
Jason Hazeley © Idil Sukan/Draw HQ

About Jason Hazeley

Author Jason Hazeley is one half of writing duo Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, the men behind the multi-million selling series The Ladybird Books for Grown-ups.

They write for Charlie Brooker's BAFTA award-winning Wipe shows, and co-wrote Cunk on Shakespeare, Cunk on Christmas and Cunk on Britain. They have also written for the award-winning Murder in Successville, the award-winning Miranda, the award-winning Mitchell & Webb, the award-winning Armstrong & Miller and a long list of shows and people both award-winning and so-far-award-avoiding.

They created and wrote the critically lauded but as yet un-awarded Angström for BBC Radio 4, and helped write both the award-winning Paddington movies. They are co-creators of spoof local newspaper The Framley Examiner (awards pending) and the bestselling but still-waiting-to-be-award-winning offbeat travel guides Bollocks to Alton Towers and Far From The Sodding Crowd.

They present the podcast Rule of Three (Guardian Guide Best 50 Podcasts 2018 - is that an award?) and divide their time between their office, where they keep their awards, and an award-winning pub.

Was this page helpful?