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The life and times of a beehive on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall


The Hive began life, like all great ideas, as a conversation in the pub. In May 2007 Mikey Tomkins (filmmaker, beekeeper and phD student specialising in Urban Agriculture) made the fanciful suggestion to Andrew Hinton (filmmaker, bee novice, and at the time an artist in residence at Southbank Centre) that it would be interesting to put a beehive on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall. On the bus on the way home, Andrew came up with the name, and the Royal Festival Hive was born.

To make the idea a reality they turned to Rob Mullender (sound designer, musician, and a damn fine carpenter). After a number of high level design meetings, a workable plan was drawn up to create a hive in the shape of a scale model of the Festival Hall, and Rob set to in his workshop in Herne Hill.

The shell of the hive was finished in time for the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall on June 09th 2007. It took another month or two of visits to prepare the hive for bee inhabitation. John Chapple the Chairman of the London Beekeeper's Association (and Master of the Beekeeping Universe), gamely agreed to lend some proper expertise to the endeavor and, after a suitable site on the roof had been found, turned up in his car with a boot full of bees from nearby Lambeth Palace.

The bees were swiftly taken up to the fifth floor in the lift and installed in the Hive without incident. They have been there ever since. Part experiment, part installation, the Royal Festival Hive is a shining example of the ability of our bee masters to bend humankind to their wishes. This blog will document the life of the Hive over the 2008 season.

**The bees would like to extend their gratitude to Southbank Centre, without whose support (and in particular the support of Shan Maclennan and the Learning and Participation Team) they would not currently be installed atop the most desirable residence in London. Honey will be forthcoming.


Modern architecture of the 1950s, honey, pollen, hard work, sunshine.