Restored Royal Festival Hall organ unveiled

Southbank Centre’s iconic Harrison & Harrison instrument to be heard for the first time in almost a decade

Royal Festival Hall organ

The Royal Festival Hall’s organ has been unveiled following a £2.3m restoration and reinstallation.


The organ is the largest ever made by the historic Durham-based firm, Harrison & Harrison, and was installed in the hall in 1954.

When the Hall closed for renovations in 2005, the organ was removed – and only a third of the instrument was reinstalled when the Hall reopened in 2007. In September 2010, Southbank Centre launched its ‘Pull Out All The Stops’ campaign to raise the £2.3m needed for a full restoration of the instrument.

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the project £950,000 and the public donated £1.3m. The final £100,000 was raised by a team of cyclists led by Southbank Centre’s chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite, who completed a sponsored ride from Durham to London earlier this summer.

At the time of the launch of the ‘Pull Out All The Stops’ campaign, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly, said: ‘My excitement at becoming artistic director of Southbank Centre was tinged with disappointment on discovering that the wonderful historic organ was still only partially refurbished. This invitation from the Heritage Lottery Fund supports our determination to reunite the public with this magnificent instrument which has played such an important role in the history of the Royal Festival Hall.’

The newly restored organ will be the focus of the Southbank’s Pull Out All The Stops Festival – An Organ Celebration, which takes place March-June 2014. Eight new works have been commissioned to celebrate the instrument's reinstatement by composers including Peter Maxwell Davies, Kaija Saariaho, John Tavener and Terry Riley.

The opening gala concert on 18 March will feature organists Olivier Latry, John Scott and Thomas Trotter. For more information, visit the Southbank Centre’s website.


Picture: Nick Rochowski