KlangHaus Concrete Dreams huge success…

Concrete Dreams: new show celebrates Southbank’s history of performance

Exclusive: exhibition looks back on London cultural centre’s legacy through 50 years of archive material

The Concrete Dreams tour ends with a live performance at Southbank’s Purcell Room.
The Concrete Dreams tour ends with a live performance at Southbank’s Purcell Room. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

An innovative new exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre gives visitors a performer’s perspective of its newly renovated brutalist venues, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room.

Concrete Dreams, which opens on Tuesday, is a tour through 50 years of archive material, imaginatively presented in dressing rooms, bathrooms and other backstage areas.

It is a tribute to the eclectic talents who have played there over the years. Rifle through a box of index cards and find handwritten notes recording performance dates for Stan Getz, Roaring Jelly and André Previn.

In one room, you can watch a Deep Purple gig, scan one of David Bowie’s set lists, see Cleo Laine’s dressing room sign and programmes for poetry festivals featuring Wole Soyinka.

Meticulously kept attendance books list artists who played there and how many tickets they sold. Pick up the receiver of a dial telephone and hear oral histories from those who worked at the venues.

Concrete Dreams is heaven for architecture nerds too. Original hand-drawn plans for the building line the corridor walls and are used in animations projected on to office windows, accompanied by Steve Reich’s music.

The exhibition features original plans of the building.
The exhibition features original plans of the building. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

You can watch TV documentaries about London’s 60s building boom and listen to Harold Wilson’s 1963 speech about the “white heat” of technology. In wood-panelled dressing rooms, concrete cores removed from the QEH during rewiring are displayed alongside scale models.

The tour ends with an arresting live performance in the Purcell Room that captures the venues’ incredibly eclectic artistic history with sophistication, style and humour. The finale features footage of Merce Cunningham’s dancers, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Lemn Sissay among many others.

The exhibition has been created by design practice LYN Atelier and performer collective KlangHaus, who had a hit at the Edinburgh festival in 2014 with an atmospheric gig-come-installation staged in a former small-animal hospital. That show was a sort of musical mystery tour, with projections on the walls and performers popping up in unexpected places, playing right under the audience’s noses.

The company’s ethos is to make “a collaboration with buildings” and they say they became obsessed with concrete while preparing the new exhibition. They have even used tracks by musicians who trained as architects: the composer Iannis Xenakis and Pink Floyd.

The bathroom is used to display images from the Hayward Gallery.
The bathroom is used to display images from the Hayward Gallery. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

KlangHaus’s Jon Baker explains that they chose to open and end the tour with birdsong – a reference to the bird noises on Cirrus Minor by Pink Floyd, who played at the QEH in 1967, and to the influence of birdsong on other artists whose work has been heard at the venues, from Olivier Messiaen to gamelan musicians.

“We had this weird notion that when you build a building, what you’re actually doing is enclosing the outside. You’re colonising a space that was once outside,” says Baker. “So we wanted to bring the sound of birds into the building.” As part of the Concrete Dreams season, there will be a concert of Sam Lee’s Singing With Nightingales, an evening of “human-bird duets”.

Georgia Ward, participation producer at the Southbank, said: “We wanted to talk about the amazing history and design of these buildings, but also the performative history. There were some real firsts here: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, Jessye Norman did an extraordinary performance, Different Trains by Steve Reich. We knew KlangHaus could play with the archive in a beautiful, creative way.”

The multimedia performance in the Purcell Room.
The multimedia performance in the Purcell Room. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

The Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall was built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. Sixteen years later, it added the QEH, for classical music, dance and opera, and the smaller Purcell Room for chamber music, solo concerts and cabaret.

Concrete Dreams also acknowledges the history of the Hayward Gallery, which opened in 1968. A backstage bathroom features displays from the Hayward’s 1969 pop art show and the 1972 exhibition The New Art, where Gilbert and George were billed as George and Gilbert. On the bathroom wall, beautiful silhouettes of photographed visitors at the gallery’s 1970 Kinetics exhibition stand out against the white tiles.

The free, one-hour guided tours, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, are designed for 15 visitors at a time. Concrete Dreams runs until 29 April and culminates in a three-day festival including a workshop run by the Rambert dance company who once rehearsed in the QEH’s foyer.


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Exhibition Designing . . .

We are embarking on an adventure in exhibition design for the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Rooms. Klanging in concrete once again. We love the Southbank.

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KlangHaus recording film and vinyl

The KlangHaus team are off to Eve Studios near Stockport to record songs from KlangHaus 800 Breaths and make a film. The Neutrinos and Sal Pittman are working with producer David Pye in his favourite studio, which the describes as being in a domestic house and is a genuine KlangHouse! Thanks to the support from PRS for Music Foundation and Arts Council England for this adventure.

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Thanks to who all who came and saw 800 Breaths at the Southbank Centre, always special to see some familiar faces. We had an exhilarating run with loads of sold out shows, great reviews and delightful audience feedback. We have been invited back to be part of the Queen Elizabeth Hall re-opening and we have new Klangs, in new locations in the pipeline……

Our next step is to create recordings to rival the live show and thanks to support from the PRS for Music Foundation we have started field recordings with producer David Pye and will be recording in Eve studios late September. Vinyl release slated for Jan 2018.

Southbank reviews here….

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800 Breaths

KlangHaus: 800 Breaths is up and running and wowing the audiences at the Royal Festival Hall.

Take a look at this RFH Blog post attempting to explain the show.

PLEASE NOTE: Audience members will be turned away by RFH staff if they are wearing flip flops or heels as you have to descend a ladder during the show – so please please come in (reasonably) sensible shoes!!

Here are some of the audience feedback cards…We were gonna change the question this year… but it just invites such varied responses and if we’re lucky, some drawings!

how to make your breath box . . . . .

tickets are here!

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KlangHaus 800 Breaths Announcement

We are proud to announce a bold new show for London’s Southbank, KlangHaus 800 Breaths, 1-23rd July 2017. Tickets will be on sale from Wednesday March 22nd. More details to follow when Southbank links go live this Wednesday.

Until then…. a sonic memory from last year’s sell-out run of KlangHaus On Air…..



KlangHaus: 2017

We have early news of more shows in London in July 2017. As soon as tickets go on sale we will let you know all the details, it’s the most ambitious KlangHaus yet…can’t wait to spill the beans. We’re are also planning a tour to far flung parts of the UK. If you know of a building that you think we could/should Klang in, get in touch. We are currently scouting Kings Lynn, Bradford, Sheffield, Glasgow, Bristol and Newcastle… C0OhuNrXgAEB9fx.jpg