What has nearly 8000 pipes with names like poetry and makes a sound as humungous as an elephant?
The answer is the spectacular organ at the Royal Festival Hall, which has spent the last two years being restored and is ready to play again from next week as part of the Southbank Centre’s grand gala launch and Pull Out All The Stops organ music festival. The Southbank Centre asked me to work with two schools, Telferscot Primary in Balham and Annfield Plain Junior School in County Durham, to create a children’s guide to the organ, for and by children, and the guide will be given away to visitors to the festival.
I got the children to imagine the organ as a living organism, a community of different animals making different sounds, and then I put their drawings together and matched them up with the different types of pipe (which have the most marvellously evocative names). We also invented a board game, which is on the back of the guide and can also be downloaded here, and instructions to make your own organ, which you can download here.
You can watch the two fantastic films the children created with animator John Harmer and film-maker Samantha Harrie, explaining how the organ is made, and how it works, here. It’s been a very exciting project to be involved with, and I am looking forward to seeing all the children again at the launch – they were very inspiring to work with and had so many brilliant ideas. Many thanks to all the children and staff at both schools, to Alice from the Southbank Centre, and to John and Sam for being such fun to work with – and of course to the organ itself!