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"It's almost the only place I can think of in the world, which is stepped, almost like a mountainside, with wonderful views,"

 

is how Jude described her feelings at being in the Southbank Centre, " so you feel like you can stand on top of the world".

A very romantic picture to formulate of art as a refuge from an unromantic, violent world. This cosiness and security only increase when you step inside the Southbank which is beautifully warm and packed with people, full of joy and celebrating 'Women of the World', WOW, for the weekend. It is internationally attended and as always I enjoyed inviting family; on Friday it coincides with Women's Day and on Sunday with Mother's Day..

 

So I am not surprised that a bubbling Helena Kennedy comes up to my mother

"What a great way to spend Mother's Day" upon which I tell her of Angela Neustatter's book "A Home for the Heart" which I have nominated with Ann Pavett for the first 'London Literary Peace Award'.

 

Kennedy's quote on the back of Home for the Heart says it all: "Angela is one of our best social commentators."

Then my mother gladly meets old friend Jude Kelly whose brainchild the whole festival is.

 

"Is it true that we come alive not once but many times?We are drawn back to the image of the seed in darkness Or the greying skin of the snake that hides a shining one", are the words that introduce the latest Youtube on 'the Festival Wing at the Southbank Centre' read by poet Lemn Sissay, written by Edwin Morgan as part of "The Second Life".

 

"My first memory of London was also my first memory of the Queen Elisabeth Hall and actually it opened my eyes to London as an incredibly cosmopolitan and open place.." says Shobana Jeyasingh.

 

The Southbank Centre is in a time of expansion with a twenty million pound government grant to start planning the intended refurbishing and new pavillion of spectacular looking glass.

For Arun Ghosh, clarinettist and composer, "the beautiful thing about the Purcell Room is the sense of intimacy, its a very pure place to play in but when full it feels like it's bursting to the rafters.

 

"I am delighted by the Women of the World Parliament on Sunday at Southbank Centre.The panel discuss with the audience, as "the commons" and Sandi Toksvig as Speaker, whether women should be more involved in government, say fifty percent put in empty seats or generally, which in fact is voted for as a motion and other speakers, Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and Catherine Mayer, the Europe Editor for TIME, continue so intelligently that it becomes clear we are starting a petition, which if it reaches a hundred thousand will force the matter to be debated in Parliament."

 

Considering the Festival Hall started so long ago it is hardly surprising it needs changes and renovation. As well as improving accessibility for disabled, such as choreographer Celeste Dandeker describes needing "a ramp to get up on stage so that it is then very difficult to get off again".

Peter Clegg, the architect for the Southbank, describes how he saw it in the Architectural Review in 1967.

"The history of the site has always excited me," Jude confesses. In 1951 after the Second War, when people were thinking how do we really make the world better and one of the ways to do that was to create a site which was dedicated to the idea of the people's imagination."

" Women of the World Unite"

Someone astute in the audience has suggested women might not want to be in Parliament!

 

I am left wondering about it, as Sandi jests:"You mean we have better things to do" after an extended, comic pause, causing general, satiric laughter that could not be more damning.

"The Southbank has integrated the arts and is continuing to," as Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward puts it, "but the skylights on the top floor of the Hayward which are meant to uplift you haven't worked in twenty years."

Considering the age of the buildings started so long ago with the Festival of Britain it is hardly surprising it needs changes and renovation. "I still find the concrete a bit difficult on a grey wintery day though it would be a great improvement if the outside were as welcoming as the inside," Shobana adds. According to some psychological studies women have a stronger sense of place, so fittingly people continue to add enraptured: "There is something about sharing physical landscape and the symbolism of congregation." Jude adds:"It is packed out all the time and we want to fit even more people in. Peter Clegg, the architect for the Southbank, describes how he saw it in the Architectural Review in 1967. "I was kind of knocked out by it and it was very much a new kind of architecture in those days; it was sculpture rather than architecture, and it was a kind of challenging response to the politeness of the Royal Festival Hall.The Southbank is integrating the arts and the challenge is to bring these three buildings together and integrate them as much as possible."

Professor of Architectural History Adrian Forty"The architects have been interested in looking at the city as a single building, at how all buildings and infrastructure merge together into a single whole; it's a relic of a great idea."

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On Jude Kelly

I am grateful to Jude for a long, meaningful, artistic friendship. "There is something about physical landscape and the sharing of congregation " Some say, her father instilled in her a sense of belonging, and wish to prove herself. "The history of the site has always excited me "

I first met Jude when I was at Battersea Arts Centre in my youth. She had already achieved a status as the woman who had turned the old Battersea Town Hall round into a very popular arts centre." At the time she was already running Westyorkshire Playhouse and had invited me to do a reading of a play I later put on at the Berliner Ensemble, Jungle of Dreams.

After that I remember reading that Jude was nominated to head the National Theatre.

Left also dear friend and Chair of Board Francis Earl of Ennismore; trustee of three children's charities. His father was the last Secretary of State for India and a very impressive, engaging man like his son

I am impressed by Ann Pavett, travelling to Mosocw after perestroika to translate and help in any way she can, as well as South America on humanist platforms, as well Australia to her grandchildren, and also Angela Neustatter with children and grandchildren to India for a month over Christmas. It reminds me how adaptable and cutting edge women can be, like Shami Chakrabarti, as Levinson board member...

William Brittainā€ Caitlin; life long friend and published author; Baroness Shirley Williams is his aunt, daughter of writer, author and pacifist Vera Brittain

He has contributed regularly and powerfully to the debate on offshore banking and the isolation of those onshore

Baroness Shirley Williams remembers well the starting of the Southbank in 1951

" It was a remarkable thing, and people looked at it and thought:'we are starting again; this is just

wonderful, the seeds are flowering "