The Crystal Palace Bowl is an iconic South London venue with a musical tradition stretching back for more than 150 years! For more than a decade the Crystal Palace Bowl has lain dormant, but we intend to ‘reboot the rusty laptop’ (as it’s affectionally known by locals) and bring live music back to one of its spiritual homes in South London.
The first ever festival held in Crystal Palace was held back in 1857 (celebrating the works of Handel), while battle of the (brass) bands were regular occurrences until its destruction in the mid-1930s. The ‘Pageant Of London’, which took place during the summer of 1911 and attracted more than a million visitors, was held on the very same grounds that the Crystal Palace Bowl now sits on.
Fast forward to 1961 and the Crystal Palace Concert Bowl opened here with a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, which gave birth to the ‘Proms In The Park’ series featuring deckchairs, picnics and Pimms on Summer evenings. ‘Modern’ music made its debut in 1971 with the one-day Crystal Palace Garden Party festival and the likes of Pink Floyd and The Faces on the bill. Elton John and The Beach Boys played the second Garden Party during the same summer, with Elton liking it so much he returned the following year alongside the likes of Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, Roxy Music, Yes and Lindisfarne. Later Garden Party events saw Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, James Taylor, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello and many more.
Bob Marley played his largest-ever UK gig at the Crystal Palace Bowl in 1980 at the last ever Garden Party. More politically-charged concerts in emerged at the venues in the 80s with ‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Royal’ headlined by Ian Dury and The Blockheads taking place on the same day as the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, while Curtis Mayfield headlined the Peace Picnic in 1983 and Jimmy Cliff and Gil Scott Heron played a London Against Racism gig there in 1984. The following year an anti-heron benefit concert organised by Pete Townshend featuring Hawkwind and Dame Vera Lynn took place.
Over the next couple of decades, although the venue saw sets from The Cure, Pixies, The Sex Pistols and more the gigs grew more sparse and the long wait for music to return to this leafy corner of South London began…that wait is about to end.
Positioned in a stunning natural amphitheatre facing a lake, the Crystal Palace Bowl has won numerous architectural awards. South Facing Festival will take this iconic venue and innovate once again with a stage ‘floating’ on the lake.
Backed by Arts Council and National Lottery funding a new permanent stage was opened in August 1997. Drawing inspiration from the earthy colours of the ground and reflections of the sky in the ornamental lake in front of the stage, the architects used a single continuous surface of pre-rusted Corten steel, previously unseen in public UK buildings. Ian Ritchie architects aim was to create a “simple structure causing minimal disturbance” .