The Voice of the Hall – Sean Azzopardi (Soaring Penguin Press)


I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about architecture, construction or any of the other disciplines and skills involved in the building of, well, buildings. But I can, and do, appreciate the passion that people have for, and invest in, the steel, concrete, brick and stone edifices scattered around the globe. That fervour appeals to the historian in me, because every single building has its own story. Over time, buildings witness so much human interaction that they almost seem to develop a life of their own, one born from the multitude of emotion and volume of activity that seeps into their walls, floors and ceilings, which almost sees them develop their own  ‘personalities’. While I’ve never been, or felt any desire to go, to Hornsey Town Hall, thanks to Sean Azzopardi and The Voice of the Hall, I’m now intimately acquainted with its decade story it’s rich and varied history.

As the first modernist hall built in the UK, the former seat of Hornsey’s council has, for the better part of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty first, been a central fixture of what is now Haringey. Time and tide though, they wait for no man or building, and like so many other things that we used to take for granted, this grand old building has become another victim of austerity, the government policy that punishes poor people and takes away what little they have so that the rich can get  little richer and avoid paying tax. Even though the subject matter is a little out of my wheelhouse, Azzopardi’s stark, wonderfully detailed art and method of storytelling is strangely compelling and brings the building and all that have passed through its doors to vivid life. Some of the dialogue feels a little clunky and stifled in places, but this minor shortcoming is overcome and kept in check by the raw energy and enthusiasm that imbues every page of The Voice in the Hall.  Who knew that architecture could be so much fun… Tim Cundle

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