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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK
Festival Hall celebrates birthday
Joanna Lumley and Prince Charles at London's Royal Festival Hall
Joanna Lumley designed the badge she presented to Prince Charles
Actress Joanna Lumley has helped mark the 50th birthday of London's Royal Festival Hall by presenting Prince Charles with a badge she designed herself.

The prince was among guests at a gala concert evening on Thursday, celebrating the anniversary of the inaugural concert at the venue.

Miss Lumley, who is a chairwoman of the hall's 50th Birthday Gala Committee, said the Prince had been delighted to have the gold leaf "festival star" pinned on his lapel.

It attracts the grandest of the grand and the wildest of the wild

Joanna Lumley

The actress also designed Victorian-style tiaras for many of the female concert-goers to help recapture the 1950s era.

The celebration concert featured a fanfare by composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, commissioned as a birthday gift to the Hall by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

The concert line-up also included esteemed soloists such as soprano Angela Gheorghiou, pianist Murray Perhaia and baritone Demitri Hvorostovsky.

Proceeds from the programme will go towards a fundraising campaign to renovate the venue, which is the first post-war building to be given Grade I listing status.

Lasting monument

The Royal Festival Hall was the first major building completed in Britain after World War II.

It is the only lasting monument to the 1951 Festival of Britain and was the first post-war British building to be listed for preservation.

Royal Festival Hall in 1951
The venue has reached the grand old age of 50
The construction was completed in 20 months - despite great shortages of building materials - and cost 2m.

Under the foundation stone, laid in 1949 by then Prime Minister Clement Attlee, are buried contemporary coins, a copy of the day's Times, and the full score of Benjamin Britten's music for the wedding of Lord and Lady Harewood.

Miss Lumley, 55, said the appeal of the Festival Hall was due to its accessibility.

"It attracts the grandest of the grand and the wildest of the wild.

"I think it was originally a rather shabby-looking building.

"It looked out on a railway back yard and bombed-out areas and therefore never had a posh tag attached to it," she said.

Last symphony

Thursday's event was part of a month-long celebration to mark the Hall's 50th anniversary.

A weekend of music which celebrates the diversity of modern music as well as Britain's classical tradition is to follow Thursday's event.

On Friday, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave and David Thomas play live in Total Meltdown, a celebration of the hall's Meltdown series, one of Britain's foremost contemporary music events.

Composer Peter Maxwell Davies will conduct the premiere of his new Antarctica Symphony on Sunday.

He has said that the symphony, his eighth, will be his last.

It was commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra as a sequel to Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antarctica.

The building's birthday celebrations also include huge photographs of the building then and now, a list of the 10,000 performers who have played at the hall, and an exhibition of the experience of attending an arts event.

This year will also see a major fund-raising campaign and work on the entrances, public spaces and acoustics of the hall.

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It was rightly the centrepiece of the Festival of Britain"
King George VI unveils a commemorative plaque
Commentary by the BBC's Wynford Vaughan Thomas
Robert Mathew and William Allen
The Royal Festival Hall's architect and consultant discuss the building's design
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