“On police advice, tonight’s London Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Southbank Centre is cancelled due to the ongoing security incident in Westminster.” A media email I found when I reached home from the not-happening concert.
The incident in question was a motorised terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge, pedestrians mown down on the pavement, right by the Houses of Parliament, followed by the fatal stabbing of a police officer by the driver to add to the other deaths and critical injuries. This particular afternoon I had not been in touch with messages or kept my customary ear on the news. I was unaware of what had happened until I reached London and met a more-informed friend who had just walked past the uninhabited RFH.
The bigger picture, the only picture, is that something terrible happened and, tragically, people lost their lives, yet the arising security arrangements did seem a little odd. The Royal Festival Hall was evacuated, including the rehearsing LPO, and the building locked, yet the very busy railway (which is that little bit closer to Parliament) continued to run, unaffected, the Charing Cross terminus typically packed. However, when approaching the RFH from Waterloo, access to the Centre was denied us, said SBC staff, although people from the Charing Cross side were unencumbered. So, going the long way round, interestingly finding the British Film Institute open and operating (although other shops and restaurants were closed) one could stroll round to where we would have been had the aforementioned way-in not been blocked (unnecessarily) and where people emerging off Hungerford Bridge had free rein to the RFH but with no officials there, the venue's riverside front door, to advise about the concert situation and why.
You can’t argue with a Police instruction, of course, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but maybe the concert should have taken place (the musicians being in situ) and would have been some sort of defiance to, in this case, an individual set on mayhem and who was also dead (shot) at the scene; admittedly, it’s easy to write this without having to make immediate decisions in response to an emergency and a potential aftermath. Then walking without restraint across the Bridge to an earlier than expected train, in spite of everything, as timetabled, it was instructive that the Strand and adjacent areas gave no qualms to the spectator; if one didn’t know something awful had happened, it would not have been suspected.