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B&W Hallerne - From industrial stronghold to Eurovision venue

03 September 2013 at 12:55 CEST

When the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest takes place on Refshaleøen (a.k.a. Eurovision Island) in Copenhagen, it will be held in what was once Denmark's biggest workplace.

It was the Danish shipyard Burmeister & Wain (B&W) who in the early 60s built two halls, which at the time were used to construct ships.

This comes from Niels Jul Nielsen, who researches the industrial society of the 20th century at the University of Copenhagen and who has also published a book about B&W.

New construction method

"The story of the two gigantic halls goes back to the 1950s when B&W started to change the way in which it built ships. They decided to start building ships in sections after which these were joined together in the dock. That's why the two halls were built, where steel was sent in one end and sections of the ship were sent out the other", he says.

This method meant that B&W became the world's leading shipyard, and that the halls on Refshaleøen because Denmark's largest work place with between 2000 and 3000 employees.

In its time as a shipyard, the island was affected by the many workers, who were known for leaning to the left and supporting the Social Democrats. Often so far to the left that the Social Democrats had to consider whether or not it was a good idea for them to visit the workers, explains Jacob Bjerring-Hansen, administrative director of the Bornholm Museum and a previous employee of the Workers Museum.

Niels Jul Nielsen has come to the same conclusion.

B&W Hallerne under construction in the 1960s. Photo: DieselHouse Å

Coffee breaks and the Soviets

"It was an anarchistic place. The worders held coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon, even though it wasn't contractual. This led to management installing coffee stands inside the halls so the supervisor could control it better".

He adds that even the Soviets were aware of Refshaleøen and its union representatives and that is probably also one of the reasons why the Soviets made a number of ship orders with B&W.

After B&W declared bankruptcy in 1996, Refshaleøen's Property Company was established and is now responsible for hiring out the premises on the island. Since then a number of creative businesses and cultural events have moved in, which has led to the two halls now containing storage for The Royal Theatre and a paintballing facility. The contents of the halls will now be removed and the area made ready for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Even though the two halls, which are some of Denmark's biggest buildings, aren't designed for concerts, administrative director for Refshaleøen's Property Company, Christian Herskind, says that the sound will be good.

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Property Company - The sound will be good

"We have carried out many tests in the halls and all of them conclude that we will achieve a good level (of sound). So there is no reason to be concerned", he says.

Niels Jul nielsen thinks that the choice of Refshaleøen and the two halls can be developed into something exciting because the area contains so much history that can actively be used in the Eurovision show.

Refshaleøen has for some time hosted Copenhell, Distortion and a number of other festivals and concerts.

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest will be held at the B&W Hallerne on Refshaleøen in Copenhagen on 6th, 8th and 10th of May.