In early 2013 the Southbank Centre announced it would be undertaking a project of urban renewal and ‘modernisation’ which will involve major changes to the architectural structure and ascetic presentation of the famous Southbank area. Part of this renovation plan, the ‘Festival Wing plan’, however, met with strong opposition from residents, visitors and the general public; the destruction of the Southbank Undercroft. For over 40 years the Undercroft has been a site of public creative space, particularly popular amongst young people, and a well-loved site of British skateboarding. Shortly after the renovation plans were announced the Long Live South Bank campaign was setup to campaign against the destruction of the Undercroft and permanent removal of a renowned urban cultural site.
The LLSB campaign has received support from wide sections of the general public; from mothers and dog walkers to academics, musicians and MP’s. Now a documentary and educational campaign video released has been released by the campaign highlighting the importance of the area as part of London’s cultural and historical landscape. The video features footage of the Undercroft skaters honing their skills, interviews with members of the campaign and includes discussions with British hip-hop artist Rodney P and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. So far ‘Southbank—The Bigger Picture’ has had over 60, 000 views.
Public support for the campaign has paid off as last month LLSB attended a meeting of the London Assembley’s Planning Committee, where they received strong support from the Committee for their campaign. Support has also come from the Twentieth Century Society, which seeks to protect the heritage of 20th Century architecture, whose architect Sally Rendel put forward an alternative scheme which would update Southbank’s buildings yet not require the Undercroft’s destruction.
Despite the Southbank Centre’s efforts to avoid public discourse and possible alternatives to their plans, LLSB lawyers are hopeful about their efforts to grant the Undercroft ‘Village Green’ status. They also hope to defeat the Centre’s appeal against Lambeth Council’s recognition of the Undercroft as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act. So far the group has garnered 70, 000 members and collected over 65,000 petitions opposing the closure, as well receiving 100% support at local residents meeting and managing to push for a debate in the House of Commons. The campaigners hope that with public support, as well as that of notable celebrities such as skating legend Tony Hawk, they can save the Undercroft and its popular, urban cultural legacy.