Today marks fifty years to the day since Pink Floyd’s legendary Games For May concert, right here at Southbank Centre. It was a gig which would test the boundaries of live music, as well as testing the patience of our bosses.
In early 1967, whilst in the midst of recording their debut album, Pink Floyd were approached by the promoter Christopher Hunt with an idea to take Floyd’s approach of incorporating light shows and film projections in their live sets and go one louder.
The newly opened Queen Elizabeth Hall was to be the venue for Games For May, a show billed by Hunt as ‘space age relaxation for the climax of spring’ incorporating ‘electronic compositions, colour and image projections, girls’ and of course Pink Floyd.
However, absent from the promotions were the two aspects that would ensure the performance’s notoriety. The first was Pink Floyd’s pioneering use of quadrophonic sound. With the help of Abbey Road technician Bruce Speight, the band set up speakers in the four corners of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, for which the sound distribution was controlled by a single joystick. This allowed the operator to effectively move sound around the auditorium, making Pink Floyd’s Southbank Centre appearance the first ever surround sound gig.
The critics and the audience may’ve been suitably impressed, but the bosses of Queen Elizabeth Hall were somewhat less enamoured. Pink Floyd’s elaborate finale, involving bubble machines and flowers thrown into the crowd, left it’s mark in more ways than one, with the Hall’s leather seats permanently marked by the mixture of petals and water.
As a result Pink Floyd’s members were duly banned from Queen Elizabeth Hall, a ban which remained in place until just last year, when we finally let Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason (left) return to the scene of the crime for a photoshoot with Ferrari magazine.
Today the Queen Elizabeth Hall is once again undergoing restoration work, though this time it involves a bit more than the removal of daffodil petals from theatre seats. We’ve been working hard to restore the venue to its 1967 glory and are now getting set to reopen, ready for the next fifty years of iconic performances.
Find out all about our project to restore and Let The Light In to our arts venues and see how you can support us.