Royal Festival Beehive

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The life and times of a beehive on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall. This is what happens when a filmmaker and an artist, both beekeepers, get together at a pub and have a great idea. They concocted a plan to create a hive in the shape of a scale model of the Festival Hall in honour of the reopening last June. Plunk the hive on the roof, and follow the bees' progress for a year. Invite some artists to visit the bees to add a touch of class and culture. And so they did. It is English eccentricity at its most lovable. To mark the first day of spring, they had a poetry reading: " The bees are flying. They taste the spring." The author of "The Cloudspotter's Guide" did a reading under Altostratus clouds ("the boring cloud") and a choral trio sang a traditional English 'round' written in 1260, "Summer is Icumen". Over the coming months they will be visited by other musicians and writers.

There is a serious point being made here. The filmmaker says: "It is a statement about urban agriculture and the idea of growing food in cities using spaces like rooftops." The pollen will come from all the surrounding greenery such as churchyards, trees across the river, St James's Park and even windowboxes.The hive is in full swing (buzz?) with a Queen bee and 15,000 bees. As the beekeeper says "there are getting to be so many now it’s becoming harder and harder to remember each of their names."


The bees were asleep in the hive until January and it has been a real education and hive of activity since then, with lots of bee jokes along the way. Apparently, most of the country's honey bees could be wiped out by disease in 10 years unless an urgent research programme is launched to find new treatments and drugs. Despite petitions by beekeepers, ministers say they have no budget for such a programme, so "the hive would like it be known that it fully supports this campaign, and as possibly the closest hive to the Houses of Parliament is prepared to fly peaceful sorties to the garden of Number 10 to raise awareness around the issue."


You rise in the morning, the residue
Of dream-honey on your eyelids…

There is barely time to shine your shoes

when, already at the window, the first drone
beckons you to court.

For a Beekeeper, Pat Boran

:: Royal Festival Beehive

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