Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Beethoven plays Europe's longest champagne bar
There will be plenty of coverage today on the BBC and elsewhere of the pop-up symphony being performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at St Pancras International station. And so there should be because accessiblity lies at the heart of this pop-up Beethoven symphony - accessiblity that is to the mainstream media and political decision makers. Let me explain...
St Pancras International is the London terminal of the Eurostar rail service connecting England to Europe. The station was opened in 2007 after an £800 million restoration and its passenger profile is heavily biased towards business travellers, particularly civil servants and politicians travelling to Brussels and other EU centres. The station's shopping mall hosts prestigious stores and independent boutiques, the newly opened St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel has a restaurant run by celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, and among the twenty-four bars and restaurants is the longest champagne bar in Europe, which is seen above.
On the orchestra's website we are told that the "BBC Symphony Orchestra will be treating commuters to a live performance at St Pancras International Station". Which is a cynical manipulation of the truth: because the performance takes place at 1.00pm. The few commuters who use St Pancras International have long since passed through the concourse, but 1.00pm is perfect timing for the media to place the story in the evening TV news and following day's newspapers. And of course the station is easily accessible from the offices of journalists and politicians, not to mention the BBC's headquarters. Journalists will doubtless enjoy a drink at Europe's longest champagne bar - "the largest selection of Grand Marque houses in the UK" - before deciding how to reheat the press release puffing the linked BBC TV and radio series.
This pop-up symphony and the associated 'coffee table TV' programmes are yet another attempt by the BBC to show how well it does culture ahead of the lobbying round for the 2016 Royal Charter and license fee review process. If accessibility is really what matters the symphony would have popped-up at somewhere like the Peckham Rye multi-storey car park used for a recent paradigm challenging performance of the Rite of Spring. But then Peckham Rye is rather a long journey from central London even for taxi addicted BBC executives, and there are not too many champagne bars in multi-storey car parks.
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