Monday, May 9, 2011

The Englishman's Home

Garden on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall

To the South Bank Centre yesterday where the sixtieth anniversary of The Festival of Britain is commemorated in themed areas 'filled with pop-up structures, artworks, films and exhibitions. Each of these ‘lands’ is themed according to one of the most significant themes in 1951: Land, Power & Production, Seaside and People of Britain.'  These additions may not do much for the architecture of the site but they are clearly going to be popular with visitors and add to the vibrancy you always sense there in summer.  We had a drink in the garden installed on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall which features 'a lush lawn sprinkled with daisies and fruit trees that conjure up a country orchard. With over 90 varieties, the wildflower area is a celebration of the diversity of British flora, attracting insects and butterflies while providing nectar for bees from the hives on Royal Festival Hall’s roof. The garden has a patchwork of vegetable plots – a roof, after all, can be both productive and attractive. And a rustic pergola, clothed with sweetscented climbers, crowns a bridge to the Hayward Gallery punctuated with drought-resistant plants.'

John Piper's mural for the Festival of Britain, 
The Englishman's Home, 1951

Inside the QEH you can see the mural John Piper created for the Festival, comprising 42 separate panels with English buildings that he particularly loved. The Englishman's Home was later installed on the wall of Harlow Technical College's main assembly room, where it remained until the college re-located in 1992.  According to Frances Spurling's recent book on him, Piper was assisted in painting the mural by Joy Mills, who Myfanwy later described as "one of John's girls" and who was 'aware that John found her very attractive, and that Myfanwy knew this.'  Also around the QEH there are other 'Land' installations - a giant Urban Fox, Ben Kelly’s walled Enclosure, and a coal chamber, Black Pig Lodge, by Heather and Ivan Morison (which was roped off for repairs).  Apparently you can also hear 'a collage of sounds taken from across Britain’s landscape through the seasons', which 'reverberates across the incongruous setting of Southbank Centre’s concrete terraces and walkways.  Using an array of speakers and audio tracks, Marcus Coates and Geoff Sample have recreated the acoustic atmospheres of rural Britain.'  I couldn't actually hear anything but possibly didn't locate the correct place to stand - the installations are around until September so no doubt I'll be back at some point.

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