On Saturday afternoon, before attending my third and final play for the weekend, Helena and I went to the Royal Festival Hall. A friend of hers was performing with his Ceilidhs band called License to Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee.) The Royal Festival Hall is a large tiered open space with a couple coffee bars, an open ballroom, and a bar. You can see the band from in front, next to, behind, or above and you can clearly hear them anywhere.
What I like about the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre is all of the open space allowing there to be community and culture. While the band played, pensioners sat and tapped their feet at the tables between the band and the long bar. In the ballroom behind the band and one flight of stairs down, families danced. Mainly toddlers danced and parents bobbed along behing them ready to pick the up. In the basement under the band, but open still to the music and the ballroom, little boys raced and yelled.
I appreciated that little kids could come and get cultured and run, dance, yell, and giggle at the same time. And run they did. And dance. And one little boy, in a red fleece and tan pants, stood in front of Tom and played airguitar mimicking all of his moves. Tapping one foot and then two, swaying from side to side. His dad, wearing a Hackney shirt, sat on the floor a few feet away.
On the red couches in the ballroom, young couples sat talking and sharing a beer or a coffee. Watching the dancers and the children, listening to the Irish Jigs and Reels, and of course the Ceilidh. Out of the east windows you can see the top of the London Eye and from the west window the gallery with the Roy Lichenstein show.
Community and culture actually mixing in a public forum. What we might call a poor use of space in the states, lots of wasted space. Couldn’t we fit another commercial outift over there?
No, but we can let more kids dance an Irish Jig with a pensioner.