An artificial field of hop plants has arrived at the Southbank as a sculpture that recalls the history going hopping in the 19th-century. Although condemned in 1519 as a “wicked and pernicious weed”, hops helped to transform thick ales into far more appealing bitters and lagers.

Kent was filled with fields of hop plants, and each summer, thousands of Londoners would take a working holiday to Kent to work in the fields to bring in the harvest, while also getting away from the polluted city. The arrival of the railways turned this into a mass exodus, as the railways saw their morning trains usually leaving London empty having dropped off the office workers filled with hoppers heading to Kent.

This summer, Artist Jyll Bradley has installed a modern hop field outside the Southbank Centre, although this time made from wood, metal and plastic.

The Hop (c) Southbank Centre

Jyll’s installation echoes the geometry of Kent’s unique hop growing structures where vines were arranged to expose the crop to the maximum amount of sunlight, and in the right sunlight, the pavilion projects a spectrum of colours onto the Southbank’s Brutalist architecture.

It’ll be outside the Southbank Centre until 2 October.


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