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How South Bank became Europe’s largest arts complex

South Bank was once a purely industrial part of London and is now a shimmering constellation of concert halls, galleries, theatres and more, writes Andy Martin

Sunday 12 September 2021 00:00
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<p>The once cratered wasteland was reborn in 1951 for the Festival of Britain</p>

The once cratered wasteland was reborn in 1951 for the Festival of Britain

Is the South Bank actually south? “Look at the map,” says Nic Durston. “It’s further north than Victoria.” The South Bank may be south of the Thames, but the river hangs a sharp left (and therefore south) after Blackfriars so, in effect, the South Bank can reasonably claim to be more central to London than say the West End.

The other thing I was not fully aware of until I spoke to Durston, CEO of the South Bank Employers Group, is that the South Bank is Europe’s largest arts complex – a shimmering constellation of concert halls, galleries, theatres and more – all under the gaze of the London Eye. It stretches from Blackfriars Bridge upriver to Lambeth Bridge and encompasses the Oxo Tower and Gabriel’s Wharf at one end and the Garden Museum at the other. With a skatepark nestled in the middle of it all, beneath the Purcell Room. And a handy hospital. Not to mention the network of big corporations and small businesses and all the people who live there.

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