The sun was setting on the river as I arrived at Battersea Power Station. Most guests arrived in cars, but I chose to walk along the Thames, and across the barren landscape to the main building.
IIt was like walking onto the film set of a blockbuster centred around this brick cathedral.
It wasn’t, however, a film set, but Gabrielle’s Gala, a now annual event hosted by songwriter and socialite Denise Rich. The cause - leukaemia and lymphoma research in the UK - was a great one, the speakers were moving, the calibre of star supporters – Tom Hardy, Jeremy Piven and Duffy – high, and the entertainment – Jessie J performed a set – was very entertaining.
But the unsung star of the night, was the building itself. Although it finally stopped working the year I was born, it is one of the most recognisable and, to employ a much-overused word, iconic buildings in the country. When I moved from south London, where I had grown up, to the north side of town, my family gave me a painting of the place to remind me of home.
I have been inside a handful of times since in the past couple of years, but only because work has taken me to expensively funded parties.
After years of being held onto by various developers as a safer investment than a bank, it seems that something is finally going to happen to the station rather than just existing as a venue for exclusive events: with a “new development” offering the “real estate opportunity of a lifetime”.
Despite the obvious housing crisis, I’m not sure that the country needs more luxury flats that offer river views. Nor do we really need more of the generic chains that make every high street in Britain another soulless replica of its nearest neighbour.
It’s hard to tell from lush, colourful computer-generated images what it will actually be like. And it might be wishful thinking, it would be nice if there was a combination of public space and unspoilt views of the building.
As we left, after midnight, the darkness battled the massive spotlights illuminating the walls, making the building look even more striking. The site is opening to the public later this month for the first time for the Chelsea Fringe Festival. Whatever is on there, it would be worth going to see the building up close.
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