Overture Festival - Southbank Centre, 8-10 June
The Royal Festival Hall finally threw its newly-refurbished doors open to the public at the weekend with a huge collection of free concerts and other events, the Overture Festival. It kicked off late Friday night, when a choir-packed barge was drawn up the Thames.
Summery temperatures on Saturday and Sunday helped bring in the visitors. With 18,000 mostly amateur performers, and events spread all around the Southbank Centre, inside and out, getting around the place needed patience. In true festival style, the ladies loos backed up one by one until half the facilities were out of action. But at least it wasn't too hard to find a seat, due to the many inflatable cushions provided.
Saturday afternoon saw cellist Natalie Clein bravely tackling solo (and wisely amplified) Bach before a crowd of chatters, crisp munchers and wailing babies. It was surprisingly easy to zone out the background hum though, and heartening to hear JSB cheered as if he'd just scored for England each time Natalie lowered her bow.
Natalie was followed by the astonishingly deft guitarist Xuefei Yang.
Later on, the London Sinfonietta led by Fraser Trainer were joined by students to tackle Terry Riley's minimalist masterpiece In C. The audience gave it five minutes or so of near rapt attention before resuming their chats and chair scraping when the penny dropped that it wasn't going anywhere too quickly.
In the Royal Festival Hall itself, I watched the engaging Flag, a suite of performances by amateur dance groups from all over the country.
Saturday's highlight was an impromptu performance by the London Bulgarian Choir in an upstairs bar. With a helpful mini translation before each number, they sang of rivers, of knitting socks, and of watching the ladies pass by with their colourful jugs. And they got the audience dancing too.
I somehow managed to miss every single one of Billy Bragg's many sets over the weekend, but I did catch fabulous folksters Bellowhead, who appeared in various subgroups and combinations. Here they are as a three piece inducing the audience to dance along.
Banjo wielding New Cross hillbillies Indigo Moss drew a deservedly big crowd, spread across several rooftops.
The various balconies which have been opened up around the Royal Festival Hall provided the best views of many of the weekend's acts - here, Kathak dancers.
One of the weekend's most popular attractions was Jeppe Hein's Appearing Rooms water fountain, first seen last summer. Walls of water spring up and recede around the fountain's centre, and although quick reflexes made it possible to get in and out of it while remaining perfectly dry, many chose the opposite course.
Dotted around the Royal Festival Hall foyer were noticeboards for visitors to add their memories and impressions.
The weekend's final Royal Festival Hall event was a performance of the last movement of Beethoven's Symphony no 9, where the LPO were accompanied by a choir of over 1000 - here they are willing the Southbank Centre's Michael Lynch and Jude Kelly to get on with their final speeches.