Adventures in South London

London skyline

If you don’t know, the Proms is a series of around 100 concerts that the BBC hosts every summer. They are great because you can go for a mere £6 (it used to be £5!), if you are willing to stand up. If you want to sit down, it can range from £10 for a quiet, late-night prom, to £50 for prime seats at a really popular event.

When somebody says “BBC Radio 3 Proms” to me, I think:

The Royal Albert Hall at night

This is because most of the concerts take place at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington; some of them take place in other venues. Usually these venues are other concert halls, churches, or potentially parks. So far this year I’ve seen two proms at the RAH and one at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, by the Globe.

They are not usually carparks in Peckham.

The Multi-Story Orchestra

This concert was part of the ‘Proms at’ series, but unlike anything that has been tried before. The Multi-Story Orchestra has made it’s home in this particular carpark for several years now. In case you were wondering, it’s no longer in use! In fact, it has a lovely bar on the top.

The location was sort of fitting because we went to see music by Steve Reich. Reich is a minimalist composer whose work focuses on short repeated phrases. His pieces have been compared to machines, the modern world, that kind of thing. So hearing his work in a concrete ‘concert hall’ makes a lot of sense.

It also overlooked a train track, with trains going past every 10 minutes or so. This aspect of the performance reminded me of Reich’s contemporary, John Cage, and his famous ‘composition’ 4’33”. This piece is entirely silent, with the idea that the ‘background’ noise is the ‘music’. It’s part of a movement about how music isn’t about isolation but rather is part of it’s surroundings.

A train track in Peckham

Getting to the actually concert place was an adventure in itself. We went all the way up the stairwell of the old carpark (which they had painted pink)…


…and then across the roof of the car park…


…where we saw the most wonderful views!


Obviously, a part of me hated the whole thing. It was very hipster, trendy, gentrified… right down to the chalkboard they were using to advertise the event! At least the RAH acknowledges and embraces the pretentiousness of the event. I find it grating when something is trying so hard to be something it clearly isn’t.


I’ve never been to Peckham before and I enjoyed the contrast between the old neighbourhood and the new. Hopefully in the next few years the two will integrate rather than sitting so uncomfortably, side by side. I think quite a few of the problems in London at the moment come down to this awkward, unhappy relationship between old and new residents.

Peckham fruit stall

Nonetheless, I’m quite disappointed that I live so far away from Peckham. I hear there are some very good nights out to be had, which would be great. I have no idea how I’d get home afterwards though, I guess I’ll need to make friends with someone who lives nearby… any takers?


Until next time x


4 thoughts on “Adventures in South London

  1. Nice piece….my experiences of Peckham make me more than happy to live a long way away from it. ….however, the car park auditorium is a wonderful idea but, being in London ( Peckham), has no chance of being anything but hipster or gentrified:)


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