Wednesday 30 December 2015

Drumming Up A High Note

As well as rising water levels the rain has raised many questions about what governments are for, what their agencies should be doing, who makes the real decisions and how much notice do they take of those people most affected.

There is a long list of items for spending projects at present and no shortage of debate about which might have priority.  The list is growing and the discussions are becoming shriller.  A lot of items have dropped off the radar of the main media but they are still going on.

An interesting example is the proposed new major concert hall for London.  We are said to "need" one in that some major cities have grand new ones which are better than any of ours.  Also, need seems to related to the status of those involved and who will most benefit.

The concert hall project has come up again because Sir Simon Rattle, our Liverpool national treasure conductor of classical music is leaving the Berlin Phil' and is wanted by the LSO, the London Symphony Orchestra, leading candidates for such a hall.

His price includes a commitment to build one.  The present estimate of building cost is less than £300 million, that is just to put it up.  What the annual running costs etc. will amount to is not known.  At present you could run Everton Football Club for that given the deal at present on the table.

These ten questions are asked by Jessica Duchen, the music maker and writer.  She would be expected to be strongly in favour and admits her wish for such a hall.  But she does ask real questions and points to some aspects that do not make sense.

One crucial matter is that she is clear that the money for this will have to impact on other spending areas and there are real costs there which are worrying.  Also, what else could this kind of money be spent one?  She does not actually say "vanity project" but she is not far from implying that this is what it could amount to.

Certainly, having had long experience of going to London venues I would like to see a splendid new hall with all the facilities and technical bells and whistles, but the probable real cost building figures and then running and performance costs look scary to say the least.

The bigger worry that this is just one item and far from being the largest in a long list of projects that will not yield earnings but entail major continuing liabilities for the future.

Sir Simon however can point to the other projects and their costs among them football ones.  West Ham United who are moving into the Olympic Stadium in effect have been gifted hundreds of millions of taxpayer money.  What Chelsea and Tottenham might do at Wembley when their stadia are being rebuilt is likely to be in the same league.

But football now at the top level has become something for the oligarchs and the property and financial moguls.  It has a place in the geopolitics of our time, in that the men involved are close to the persons and pockets of our politicians, the people who build on the flood plains but have stopped dredging the rivers and clearing the drains.

Perhaps it is time for some lateral thinking.  There could be new football stadia in place in London in the near future.  With retractable roofing, the right design and the acoustics taken care of might it be possible for the LSO to ground share with Chelsea or Tottenham or even Crystal Palace?

Could Sir Simon change his tune?


  1. That's an idea we can kick around.

  2. "how much notice do they take of those people most affected."

    Not a lot until it is too late. Even then they hide behind their PR people.