Southbank Centre has announced today its festival programme and artistic highlights in 2015, including a major new festival, Changing Britain 1945–2015. This is just one of 14 festivals curated by Southbank Centre next year, which bring together thousands of artists, partners, communities and audiences to contribute, create and learn, and many of which explore the most pressing issues today.
Over the last few years, Southbank Centre has been developing its artistic and cultural programme, with annual and one-off themed festivals at the heart – from summer-long festivals filled with outdoor installations to WOW – Women of the World Festival. Southbank Centre’s festival approach provides encounters between audiences and the world’s great and emerging artists across many different art forms and across the whole site. With half of the programme offered for free it’s incredibly accessible. Each festival is put together in collaboration with hundreds or artists, organisations and communities, includes digital projects, artistic installations, experiences and commissions.
This festival focus draws on the site’s rich heritage, which began in 1951 with the nationwide Festival of Britain. Celebrating a new future for the country, the Festival was one of the most democratic, optimistic and imaginative gestures of the 20th century, with the South Bank Exhibition’s site at the heart of it. Today the 21-acre site is visited by 28 million people a year.
The Southbank festival season kicks off with Changing Britain 1945–2015, which will look into the last 70 years of British history, focussing on society, culture and politics (30 January to 9 May). Inspired by historian David Kynaston’s acclaimed books on the social history of England from the end of World War Two, the festival will ask if we still believe in the values of greater equality that were put in place in 1945, and explore themes including fairness and social justice since then.
Following the election, there will be a day on 9 May devoted to artists and audiences, who will give a message to the new government about the importance of creativity, including the London Sinfonietta, who will perform two sets of newly commissioned works co-curated by Matthew Herbert and the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: “Southbank Centre is the largest festival site in the world and we have been ambitiously growing our festival programme over the last few years. This has helped transform the site and provides a unique framework for everyone to engage creatively with arts and culture, and explore the most pressing issues of our time. In the lead up to the general election, a pivotal moment for the country, Changing Britain offers a different platform for people to actively get involved in the debates. We believe that the arts have the power to transform lives and my wish is that people will feel empowered and inspired by this festival to exercise their right to vote.”
David Kynaston, said: “I am honoured that my ongoing history of post-war Britain – so far Austerity Britain, Family Britain and Modernity Britain – is providing the inspiration for Southbank Centre’s festival about this country during the seventy years since the Second World War. There is huge interest in the history of our times and that of our parents, and this festival seeks to evoke and unlock the experiences of a rapidly changing society. Timed to coincide with next year’s general election, many of the key issues today – including welfare, immigration, inequality, housing and Europe – can only be understood through a deeper knowledge of our recent past, which this festival aims to provide.”
Changing Britain 1945–2015 begins with a series of BBC Concert Orchestra concerts with performances of music through the ages including Friday Night is Music Night: On the Wireless and off the Box conducted by Gavin Sutherland and presented by Ken Bruce on 30 January (and two more concerts follow on 7 February and 22 March). There will be a supporting programme of talks and events around the concerts, setting the music in context, a legacy of the recent critically-acclaimed The Rest Is Noise festival.
Also part of Changing Britain 1945–2015 is a major Hayward Gallery exhibition (10 February – 26 April), History Is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain. John Akomfrah, Simon Fujiwara, Roger Hiorns, Hannah Starkey, Richard Wentworth, and Jane and Louise Wilson curate a section of the show, each looking at a particular time in history over the last 70 years covering topics as varied as the CND movement, post-Thatcherite society and urban planning. Bringing together more than 250 works, the exhibition will shed new light on how we remember, rethink and reconsider the past and key artworks include Ben Nicholson’s Festival of Britain (1951), Richard Hamilton’s The State (1993) and Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1972 print series BUNK!
Other festivals in 2015 include (see listings release for full festival programme):
· the Imagine Children’s Festival (9–22 February), sponsored by The Book People, which has grown to be the largest children’s festival in the UK, and includes a diverse programme of events from performances by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker (15 February) to The Big Sleepover, when children and adults stay overnight in the Royal Festival Hall auditorium (16 February);
· the fifth anniversary of WOW – Women of the World in London, which celebrates the achievements of women and girls (1–8 March). Since its launch, WOW has become an international festival and has taken place in Sydney, Katherine (Australia) and Baltimore (USA) as well as regionally including Derry-Londonderry, Cardiff and Cambridge. 2015 sees WOW take place for the second time in Cardiff and Cambridge and in Harlem, New York and Brisbane, Australia in June with plans for it to be taken elsewhere;
· Alchemy (12–25 May), which is now the largest festival of Indian and South Asian culture outside India, and in 2015 Alchemy tours to Doncaster, Oldham and the Black Country. This festival has evolved into a hub for unique collaborations between the UK and South Asia, as well as across the Indian subcontinent;
· the Web We Want festival, which explores the profound impact the Web has had on individuals, governments and societies at large, culminating on 28–31 May;
· Festival of Love, which explored seven types of love as defined by the Ancient Greeks in summer 2014, returns for this rich and complex subject to be explored further. The festival was enjoyed by 1.6 million people. It will again feature the Big Wedding Weekend, when couples come together to marry in mass ceremonies on the Royal Festival Hall stage (27 June – 6 September);
· Poetry International, the festival co-founded by Ted Hughes, will have a special focus on TS Eliot to mark the 50th anniversary of his death (22–26 July);
· WHY? What’s Happening For The Young? supported by Mishcon de Reya, which explores all aspects of the current protection and promotion of children and young people’s rights in the UK, inspired by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, will return following its launch in 2014 (22–24 October);
· BAM – Being A Man, the second festival exploring what it means to be a man today (27–29 November), curated with the help of hundreds of men.
The other key part of Southbank Centre’s work is the year-round programme of classical and contemporary music, performance, dance, visual art and literature and spoken word. Southbank Centre has built a tradition of developing long-term partnerships with particular artists and orchestras and is delighted to be welcoming back Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Orchestra (on 8–9 January); Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker, in their second residency, in partnership with the Barbican Centre on 13–15 February; and Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin in two concerts in April. Barenboim will also perform a cycle of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas over four concerts (May & June). Maurizio Pollini and Stephen Hough will return on 17 March and 28 April respectively as part of Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series and among those returning to perform as part of Southbank Centre’s International Chamber Music Series are the Takács Quartet with pianist Marc-André Hamelin (18 May). Choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, will also return, this time with composer Elena Kats-Chernin, to premiere their collaborative work, a 21st-century take on Shiva, the Indian god of dance (16 and 17 September).
Southbank Centre is also expanding its international work and highlights include the WOW – Women of the World festival in Harlem, New York and Brisbane in June, and the acclaimed Light Show, first shown at the Hayward Gallery in 2013, which will open at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney on 16 April, and at Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE in September. This popular exhibition features 25 illuminated installations and sculptures by major international artists from the 1960s to the present, which explore the medium of light and respond to the surrounding architecture. Works include Dan Flavin’s pioneering minimal fluorescent sculptures, Jenny Holzer’s monumental LED signs, and David Batchelor’s use of bright, industrially-produced colour. Southbank Centre’s live presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has been touring across the world since its premiere at the Royal Festival Hall in 2010, will be performed at the Singletary Center for the Arts in Kentucky, USA (31 January – 1 February), the Gulbenkian Musica in Lisbon (7-8 May), and in the newly built Philharmonie in Paris on 30 and 31 May.