Around London in 80 days
In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.
Day 35: Musical lift
South of Waterloo Bridge stands the National Theatre. West of the National Theatre stands the BFI. And next to the BFI stands the Royal Festival Hall. A massive and complicated building which to this day remains a mystery to me. Concert venue, library, dance studio, bar, bookshop, café, museum, restaurant, market… the Royal Festival Hall is the swiss knife of public buildings. Built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain, it is an open space for people to congregate, with seating for whoever needs a rest, tables for whoever needs to write, calm for whoever needs to think.
At first, I didn’t really like the Royal Festival Hall. Too big, too impersonal, too confusing: was it a theatre? a restaurant? a community centre? This lack of clarity was making me uneasy. Over time, though, I have grown fond of the place: a venue unlike any other, an architectural platypus, it’s actually just the sort of building I should feel at home in! I started to explore it further, to come more often, to appreciate it properly. I enjoyed the luxury of having a comfy place to read or work without necessarily having to buy anything. And one day, I took the lift.
Not the small, boring lift that’s by the entrance but the other one, the beautiful transparent lift that hides at the back of the building, the beautiful lift one accidentally finds when exploring the corridors. I stepped in and pressed the button. The lift started moving… to the sound of a choir! I couldn’t believe my ears: many voices were accompanying my trip, singing higher and higher notes until only one soprano was left — the only one to be able to reach such heights, no doubt. “6th floooor”, she announced proudly in a incredibly high-pitched voice. I laughed so hard I forgot why I had come upstairs. So I went back down, accompanied with a chorus of increasingly low voices eventually leaving just the one barytone. “First Flooooor”.