[A piece I wrote for BAC BURST Blog about the building's Grand Hall, for those who know it and those who don't]
Pull open the small wooden doors into the grand hall and the first thing that strikes you is the bigness.
The Grand Hall is vast
This feeling only grows as you step echoingly out into its emptiness. You pull away from the safety of the low ceilinged entrance into the full hugeness of the main hall, cast adrift in an ocean of space.
The Grand Hall is really fucking vast.
It is shiny wooden floorboads racing off into the distance. It is arches rearing up into the sky. It is a crane your neck your neck up up upwards vaulted ceiling. It is a pipe organ stolen from the gods. It is door after door after door after door. It is window after window after window. It is dizzying. Vertigo-inducing. It is symphonic.
It is vulgar in its bigness. Bigness is all it seems to strive for. Look closer and it is tattered and sad around the edges. Cracked panes of glass. Peeling paint. Smashed ceiling panels revealing the gaping blackness of the attic above. Discarded wires and microphones and out of date sound equipment litter its corners. It is not quite nice enough to be grand or regal or majestic, not quite derelict enough to be eerie or resonant or atmospheric. It is more cumbersome than it is colossal. More sad than melancholic. More injured than ruined. It is the girl with the hunched shoulders forced to play netball against her will. It is Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history, with his glasses, and his hand-made shoes and his quiet, lonely smile staring out from an old black and white photo.
The Grand Hall is almost apologetically big. Cumbersome. And though we are dwarfed by it, tiny and child-like and insignificant, you can’t help but have a tenderness towards this gentle giant. This fragile, elephantine creature.
These are some of the things I remember:
I have seen the severed arm of a polystyrene angel bathed in dusty white light in front of a lighting rig hanging in the darkness
I have watched an army of tiny well dressed children jumping up and down in front of row upon row upon row of empty chairs
I have seen cycled across its squeaking, whirring floor in great glorious circles in an otherwise empty building
I have stood at its centre, staring out at nothing, listening to music
Here are some things I’d like to see:
A ladder made of white bed sheets dropping gently to the ground from one of the holes in high, high up in the ceiling
Two people standing at opposite ends of the hall, in almost total darkness, watching each other, listening quietly to the same piece of music played on headphones
A giant game of tag
A bed to lie on in the middle of the empty hall and listen to the story of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history