Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Concert Platform

Few parks can be as rich in myth and memory as Crystal Palace. The headless lady and her few surviving stone friends linger on like ghosts reminding us of Paxton's long gone masterpiece, and the sphinxes remain solemnly on guard. Elsewhere the buzz of the remote control cars racing around their miniature track remind us that the greats of racing, including James Hunt, once sped around the park for real. While the annual gatherings of vintage minis recall Michael Caine shooting a scene from the Italian Job, right here, on the terraces. Grand dinners in the belly of a dinosaur, and whispers of entombed Victorians in an abandoned railway tunnel, FA Cup matches, a ski slope, and raves in a half forgotten moorish subway all make their contribution. And then there's the music. From the great Handel concerts held regularly in the palace to Bob Marley et al, playing to huge crowds at the concert bowl back in the 70s and 80s. Long after those heady days, an award winning new structure was built on the lake by architect, Ian Ritchie, to create a permanent performance space, but alas the striking Corten steel design had its flaws, and it's been many a year since any legend trod its now rotting boards. Like many other things in this park, its future is shrouded in rumour, doubt, and mystery.

However, the building flickered back to life at the weekend, as part of Open House London, in conjunction with hugely oversubscribed annual opening of the Subway. The backstage rooms housed an exhibition of work by local artists, photographers and school children, under the theme: 'Inspired by the Subway'. In another room an impressive working train set model of the former Crystal Palace High Level Station was installed, of which the subway is the only actually surviving remnant. The weekend was a huge success, thanks to the tireless work of  Jules Hussey, Sue Giovanni, and a team of volunteers. The subway had 757 visitors, the exhibition in the concert platform had 951, and a grand total of £1460 was received in donations.

Mirror by Beth Mander
Julian Davies, Photographer

Matt Bannister, Artist

Sinead Taylor, Artist

Film footage of the Subway and High Level Station

Houses on Farquhar Road, still under construction.

Enter, stage right

The Stage
Early the next day, I returned to the park to capture the concert platform in the soft september morning light.

The non-functioning water feature by Gustafsson Porter, designers of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in  Hyde Park.

Friends of Crystal Palace Subway