The Culture Mile, Beech Street and the RSC

Went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest – a quite remarkable staging.  The special effects were awe inspiring and was pleased to hear a week or two earlier that the RSC was being involved in the talks revolving around the Culture Mile – the latest reworking in the development of what was previously known as the Cultural Hub.  If the talks are successful in bringing the RSC back to making the Barbican its principal London venue – to the theatre which was built for it – that will be another great feather in the Culture Mile’s cap.  There is already seemingly a strong rapport being developed between the Barbican Centre and the RSC – we will be seeing four RSC productions in the theatre at the end of the year and running into next with the Romans season, with three of the productions being played in rep, which will bring the theatre’s spectacular fly tower into its original use to hold three sets of scenery at the same time.  (The Conservatory was built to camouflage what might otherwise have been an unsightly addition to the Barbican Centre’s profile).

But in truth the possible return of the RSC to the Barbican is but icing on the proposed cake and the whole ambitious and expensive Culture Mile concept basically revolves around the transfer of The Museum of London from its current site to the Western end of Smithfield and the construction of a brand new state of the art Concert Hall where the museum stands at the moment.  Thus it is a long term enhancement project which will only see the light of day perhaps by the middle of the next decade, if then, and will involve raising a huge amount of capital to accomplish this.

The ‘mile’ part of the scheme is to try and ensure that the Museum of London on its new site remains a part of the Barbican Arts Centre’s cultural environment, along with the new Concert Hall.  Of particular interest to Barbican residents is that the scheme would also involve a reworking of the over-polluted and unsightly Beech Street tunnel, perhaps involving artwork and retail outlets, to make the journey on foot from the new Farringdon Crossrail station, which will have an exit in Long Lane, to the Barbican Centre a more pleasant experience.  How this will actually be achieved is very much up in the air at the moment, but if it can be managed will be met with enormous approval from the Barbican’s population and anyone else who traverses the existing tunnel on foot.  While never mentioned, the possibility of some future reworking of the Smithfield meat market a la Covent Garden could certainly help make the whole Culture Mile idea come together.  That this might happen is pure speculation on the part of this writer, but logic suggests that it will eventually make sense for the meat market to be moved to London’s periphery, as have the fruit and vegetable and fish markets before it and to re-utilise the site within its Grade ll listing confines.

To change the subject entirely, we occasionally receive letters to the editor which we publish when we have the space available.  However we will NOT publish letters we receive anonymously – who knows what the agenda may be of those who submit them!