Royal Festival Hall organ to be refurbished

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'Pull out all the stops' fundraising campaign launched

A campaign to raise money for refurbishing the Royal Festival Hall organ has been launched. London's Southbank Centre needs to raise £1.35 million over the next three years to complete an overhaul of the 1954 organ.

Over the course of the refurbishment, nearly 5,000 organ pipes need to be cleaned by hand, a new organ frame needs to be built, the electrics revamped, and the bellows and wind system that power the organ renovated. As part of the Pull out all the stops campaign, people are being invited to sponsor the instrument's 7,866 pipes, which range from just one foot to 32 feet long.

A third of the organ was reinstalled in time for the opening concert of the renovated Royal Festival Hall in 2007. Work on the rest of the Harrison & Harrison instrument – the largest ever built by the famous organ makers – is due to begin in February 2011, carried out by the original company.

Fondly remembered by musicians and public alike, the organ was designed by Ralph Downes and its unusual open-plan design paved the way for a new style of organ building. Currently being rebuilt in Durham, the instrument will be returned home in time for a reinauguration in 2014.

Of the £2.3m needed to complete the work, £950,000 was awarded in June this year by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

‘I will never forget, as a very young boy, being taken to hear my father’s organ recital at the Royal Festival Hall,’ says cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, member of the Southbank Centre’s board of governors. ‘That magnificent array of pipes and the splendour of the instrument’s sound have remained with me ever since so I am overjoyed that it will soon be restored to its former glory!’

Rebecca Franks