Major new venue opens in blaze of glory

KING'S Cross s answer to the Royal Festival Hall has opened in a blaze of music, film, sculpture and art.

KING'S Cross's answer to the Royal Festival Hall has opened in a blaze of music, film, sculpture and art.

Kings Place is an iconic glass building sandwiched between run-down York Way and the Regent's Canal.

In November it will become the new home of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers. Network Rail has already moved its headquarters to the venue and there is a plush restaurant, two bars and a café overlooking the water.

But it is music that Kings Place will become famous for. The development includes a 420-seat auditorium to rival London's top concert venues and a smaller 200-seat concert hall, as well as practice rooms, teaching rooms and rehearsal space.

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Both the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have set up their headquarters at what is the first new public concert hall to be built in central London for 26 years - since the Barbican Centre opened in 1982.

Peter Millican, the developer, who is also chief executive of the Kings Place Music Foundation, said: "What makes us different is that we've got a very wide range of different curators presiding over an eclectic mix of different genres. We've got eight weeks of Beethoven, but we've also got lots of experimental stuff.

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"We've some astoundingly good feedback from musicians who've played here, who say they can really hear their music come back to them from the hall.

"But because the main hall is smaller than some of London's other venues it means we can go for a slightly riskier programme of events which is quite exciting."

One of the notable things about Kings Place is that it will be open to the public. Anyone will be able to stroll through the grand main entrance and atrium to visit the bars and restaurant or the two stunning galleries.

Pangolin London is one of the capital's few galleries dedicated to exhibiting sculpture, while the Kings Place Gallery will present a programme of exhibitions by nationally and internationally renowned artists.

Mr Millican said: "We really want Kings Place to be somewhere people in the local community feel they can come, have a coffee, go to a concert and walk around the galleries looking at the artwork.

"We really want to involve people in Islington and we hope that this venue will be here for many generations to come.

"With the concert halls, The Guardian and Central Saint Martins College on their way and Macmillan publishers next door, I really feel King's Cross can become London's next cultural hub."

To celebrate the opening of Kings Place a five-day festival of events began yesterday. It includes 100 concerts from classical to jazz, from east to west and from voice to instrumental and runs until midnight on Sunday.

There are free music events in the cathedral-like atrium, free access to the galleries and public spaces, free art films in the St Pancras Room and videos about the artists due to appear over the next year. And tickets for the 100 concerts are just £4.50 each, or £2.50 if you book online.

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