Pull Out All the Stops – Schools Film

Lambeth and Durham school children learn about the organ, April 2013Watch footage of Lambeth and Durham school children learning about the Royal Festival Hall organ.

Alongside the restoration of the Royal Festival Hall organ Southbank Centre is undertaking a learning programme exploring the organ and documenting its return. As part of this project, we are delighted to share with you a film made by schoolchildren from Lambeth and Durham about their visit to the Royal Festival Hall in January 2013 and to the organ builders Harrison & Harrison in February 2013.

Pull Out All The Stops – reinstallation timelapse footage

Reinstallation work in the auditorium

Watch timelapse footage of the reinstallation of the central section of the organ in January 2012.

With two teams working 24 hours a day for 5 days, the frame was constructed, the reservoirs and soundboards lifted into position and the wind trunks, which convey wind from one section of the instrument to another, were connected. Some of the largest pipes were moved into position and the rest of the pipes in this section will be reinstalled this summer.

Pull Out All The Stops – Restoration work


Follow the link to watch a film of the incredible restoration work which took place in September 2011 at the organ builders Harrison & Harrison Ltd in Durham.

Pull Out All The Stops – Launch video, September 2010

Here is the video we created to launch the campaign to restore the Royal Festival Hall organ back in September 2010.

Progress update on the Royal Festival Hall Organ – July 2011

The organ builders at Harrison & Harrison are currently working on constructing the framework of the central section of the organ. At the lowest level of the framework, the wind reservoirs are already in place and a handful of soundboards for the pipework are also in position.


The new spotted metal 16ft Pedal Principal is currently being constructed in heavy gauge metal. In order to prevent the pipes from sagging under their own weight in years to come (a fault with some of the largest pipes, as designed in 1954), zinc sleeves have been made to reinforce the pipe feet. The metal has been cast for these pipes and the photos show the first stages of them being soldered and put together on the benches.

The central display of tin and copper pipes, known as the monogram, has been found to be coated in a lacquer which is not from the original design and, in addition, yellow nicotine traces can be seen on the tin pipes because smoking was permitted in the hall during the 1950s.

One important question has been to understand how the pipes looked in 1954. As there are no surviving colour photos of the pipes as first installed, it has only been possible to understand how the pipes looked in 1954 by studying footage of a BBC film of Gillian Weir playing the organ in the mid 1960s. Although the colours in the film are rather faded, they allow us to see that that these pipes were probably originally intended as vibrant and contrasting design elements and, after discussion with the organ builders, it has been decided that the pipes will be cleaned and restored to allow this effect to re-emerge.

Progress of the restoration and reinstallation of the Royal Festival Hall Organ

Work has now begun on the central section of the organ with the cleaning, restoring and making of components having started in the Harrison & Harrison workshops in Durham in January and February of this year.

The central section of the organ comprises much of the Pedal Organ as well as the Great Reed Chorus 16, 8, and 4 and the Mounted Cornet that are both at the front of the top level. The mechanism associated with this pipe work consists of soundboards, underactions, reservoirs, wind trunks and the framework for the instrument. At the front of this section sits the Monogram, the central design of dummy pipes which will be restored but not fitted until the final section of the instrument is in place.

Materials including leather, timber and glues have been purchased enabling work to be carried out to the tremulants for the manual divisions which are comprised of leather membranes, paddles, valves and encasement boxes. Other items under construction include the new wind reservoirs. The underactions have also been removed from storage and are now being acclimatised before restoration work begins on the leather motors.

We still have £1million left to raise to complete the project and hope that you will help to restore this magnificent organ by sponsoring one or more pipes – there are pipes available from £30 to £10,000. In return for your donation, you will receive a certificate and details of the pipe/s you have sponsored, and your support will be acknowledged on our website. We will also keep you up-to-date with the project’s progress and invite you to the celebratory performances in 2014. Please click on the link below to sponsor a pipe:

The Royal Festival Hall organ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

Southbank Centre was delighted to welcome Richard Ingrams and Dame Gillian Weir to the Hall last month. Richard Ingrams, who is a keen organist, was guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme between Christmas and the New Year, and he was very interested in featuring the Royal Festival Hall organ and current campaign. He interviewed Dame Gillian Weir about the importance of the organ and they both played the third of the organ that’s in the Hall, which Richard said ‘was a great, great privilege’.