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Southbank Centre Highlights 2017


One of London’s major arts hubs, the  Southbank Centre outlines its programme highlights for 2017 including a year-long immersion into Nordic culture and society, an exploration of what it means to be human in the 21st century, and a journey through some of China’s most innovative contemporary art and culture. Also featured are programmes curated by under-18s, a summer-long look at love and the return of flagship festivals WOW – Women of the World and BAM – Being a Man.

With over 15 festivals and 4,000 events during 2017, and a global touring programme reaching six continents and 37 towns and cities across the UK, Southbank Centre brings together thousands of artists, partners, communities and audiences to contribute, create and explore the most pressing issues of today.

All events take place at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, unless otherwise stated.

Brian Cox presents Science Matters – Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Tuesday 10th January 2017, 7.30pm

The Royal Society and Southbank Centre present an evening on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence with English physicist and Royal Society Professor of Public Engagement, Professor Brian Cox. He is joined by an expert panel including Professor Jon Crowcroft FRS, Professor Joanna Bryson and Dr Sabine Hauert. The event will be live streamed on The Royal Society’s website and YouTube channel.  


Nordic Matters

2017 – all year. Opens Friday 13th January 2017

For the first time, Southbank Centre will dedicate an entire year to the arts and culture of one region of the world. Audiences are invited to immerse themselves in all things Nordic, from much-loved favourites such as the Moomins, LEGO®, hygge, saunas and gastronomic treats and techniques such as cinnamon buns, smoking, pickling and curing, to the most inspiring and intriguing of Nordic art, mythology, literature and music. The programme explores the Nordics’ reputation as world-leaders in their approach to play, children & young people, gender equality and sustainability and asks what we in the UK might learn from our Northern neighbours.

Nordic Matters launches on Saturday 14 January, featuring Nordic mythology from Icelandic poet, novelist, and lyricist Sjón, folk music and storytelling from Norwegian musician and social activist Moddi, the unveiling of a year-long installation Falling Shawls by Sami artist Outi Pieski and more. Around a third of artists, authors and performers participating in events at Southbank Centre during 2017 will have a Nordic connection and regular festivals will take on a Nordic focus, including artists and authors from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as well as lesser known voices from Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.


Adventures in Moominland

Friday 16th December 2016 – Sunday 23rd April 2017

The world of acclaimed Finnish author Tove Jansson and the Moomins is brought to life in a major new immersive, interactive exhibition Adventures in Moominland – the first UK exhibition devoted to the Moomins.The exhibition presents new insights into Jansson’s life and the influences behind her work with rare archive objects and illustrations built into the experience, augmented by a script written by children’s author Laura Dockrill and narrated by Sandi Toksvig. Full press release here.

Outi Pieski: Fallen Shawls

Friday 13th January – on display throughout 2017

Sami artist Outi Pieski transforms the Royal Festival Hall foyers with her year-long installation, Falling Shawls which goes on show from the opening weekend of Nordic Matters. Made by traditional Sami shawl-making techniques, the installation combines hundreds of fringe elements to create a coloured three-dimensional drawing. Sami people are the indigenous people of Scandinavia, and in their nomadic culture the cultural significance of symbols has endured; the traditional handicraft duodji still has significant and powerful meaning today. Falling Shawls is inspired by the gathering of Sami people, in what can be seen as a nomadic monument to their common struggle with colonial history.

TS Eliot Prize Readings

Sunday 15th January 2017

Southbank Centre once again hosts the TS Eliot Prize Readings. In a special event, the ten shortlisted authors for the prestigious TS Eliot Prize 2016 read from their work the evening before the £15,000 prize winner is announced.


Belief and Beyond Belief

Monday 16th January – December 2017

Southbank Centre’s new year-long festival Belief and Beyond Belief investigates the great questions surrounding our experiences of life, death, religion and spirituality and explores what it means to be human in the 21st century. The cross art form festival is built around eight themed weekends throughout 2017, offering a diverse programme of music, literature, performance, talks and debates featuring some of the most prominent writers, thinkers, artists and scientists of today. The festival is in partnership with London Philharmonic Orchestra which devotes nearly all of its concerts in 2017 to Belief and Beyond Belief, providing the musical backbone of the festival. Highlights include performances of Haydn’s The Creation conducted by Sir Roger Norrington and Penderecki’s St Luke Passion conducted by LPO Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Further highlights include Professor Stephen Hawking in conversation (16 January); keynote addresses from prominent writers and thinkers including Mona Siddiqui CBE (21 January), Marcus du Sautoy (4 February), Elif Şafak (8 April), Karen Armstrong (4 November) and A.C. Grayling (5 November); a broad range of panel discussions featuring leading authors, religious leaders, philosophers, scientists and artists including Remona Aly, Julian Baggini, Nick Baines, Sarah Bakewell, Sara Khan, Indarjit Singh; and a wealth of participation and free events including workshops, performances, talks and more.

Film Scores Live

Throughout 2017, until Wednesday 25th June 2017

Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live series continues throughout 2017, shining a light on some of cinema’s most unforgettable soundtracks. From Oscar winners to modern cult classics, all the films are accompanied by live orchestral performances from the UK’s leading orchestras in the spectacular setting of the Royal Festival Hall. Concerts include Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver featuring Bernard Herrmann’s last ever film score performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra (6 January 2017), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with the spine-chilling soundtrack performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (23 June 2017) and the London premiere screening of Hitchcock’s Vertigo with live orchestral accompaniment, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and conducted by Jessica Cottis (25 June 2017).

International Orchestra Series

Sunday 29th January – Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Southbank Centre’s International Orchestra Series welcomes some of the world’s greatest orchestras, conductors and soloists to the Royal Festival Hall stage. Martha Argerich, ‘one of the greatest pianists in history’ (Telegraph) joins St Petersburg Philharmonic and conductor Yuri Temirkanov to perform Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3  (29 January); Paavo Järvi conducts the NHK Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings and Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (6 March 2017); conductor Marin Alsop leads British percussionist Colin Currie and the Britten-Pears Orchestra in a performance of a new concerto for percussion and orchestra by Mark-Anthony Turnage, which honours composer Steve Martland (7 April); Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia and superstar pianist Yuja Wang in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 (11 May); and Budapest Festival Orchestra and conductor Iván Fischer perform Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (23 May).

International Chamber Music Series

Tuesday 24th January – 2nd June 2017

Southbank Centre’s International Chamber Music Series includes a number of concerts as part of Belief and Beyond Belief festival. Pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform Brahms’ Sonata in F Minor for 2 pianos and Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen at St John’s Smith Square (24 January); cellist Alisa Weilerstein performs the complete cycle of Bach’s Cello Suites at St John’s Smith Square (8 February); the Colin Currie Group return to Royal Festival Hall to perform works by Steve Reich (5 May); and the Pavel Haas Quartet are joined by pianist Denis Kozhukhin to perform Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No.2 in A (2 June). Further International Chamber Music Series concerts for 2017 will be announced in January.

International Piano Series

Tuesday 31st January – 31st May 2017

Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series features some of the world’s most celebrated pianists as well as rising stars. Highlights at Royal Festival Hall include leading Mozartian Mitsuko Uchida performing Mozart and Schumann (31 January); the great Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini (21 February and 14 March); Russian pianist Boris Berezovsky (28 February); Chinese superstar Yuja Wang (11 April); and much-loved American pianist Richard Goode performing Beethoven sonatas (31 May). Highlights at St John’s Smith Square include former International Chopin Competition winner Yulianna Avdeeva (29 March); and winner of the 2005 Arthur Rubenstein Competition Alexander Gavrylyuk making his International Piano Series debut (3 May). Further International Piano Series concerts for 2017 will be announced in January.

International Organ Series

Friday 3rd February – 24th June 2017

Southbank Centre’s International Organ Series showcases the Royal Festival Hall’s recently restored, magnificent organ. Robert Quinney who played for the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey performs an all Bach programme (3 February); champion of contemporary music Stephen Farr performs the world premiere of a new work by Judith Bingham (24 April); and virtuosic improviser David Briggs performs a live, improvised soundtrack to Hitchcock’s film The Lodger, as part of Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live series (24 June). Further International Organ Series concerts for 2017 will be announced in January.


Imagine Children’s Festival

Thursday 9th February – Sunday 19th February 2017

Imagine Children’s Festival is back with a strong Nordic focus, celebrating the theme of play. The festival, now in its 16th year, takes over the Royal Festival Hall for two weeks with theatre, dance, music and installations alongside readings and workshops with top children’s authors from the UK and the Nordic region. Highlights include the London premiere of Finnish band Hevisaurus, who bring their unique brand of power metal for children to the Royal Festival Hall, a Swedish baby rave and a performance by Oddjob, one of Sweden’s foremost jazz groups for children. 


WOW – Women of the World Festival

Tuesday 7th – Sunday 12th March

Returning for its seventh year in 2017, WOW – Women of the World festival coincides with the first WOW Finland, with live link-ups throughout the weekend. With Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th respectively in the Global Gender Gap Index, WOW takes this opportunity to celebrate the Nordic countries, and congratulate and applaud the fearlessness and determination to prioritise gender equality. The festival also lifts the covers and examines what is underneath, where backlash has arisen, and who is left out of the conversation. Highlights during the festival include the annual Mirth Control going Nordic with Sandi Toksvig.

Coinciding with WOW London, the first WOW Hull will take place as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. From Finland to Folkestone and Derry to Dhaka, crossing further continents to Harlem and Hargeysa, Brisbane and Baltimore, WOW continues to grow and cross borders around the world. 


Saturday 1st – Monday 17th April 2017

Southbank Centre’s Urban festival returns celebrating street culture with an exciting programme of work and events inspired by the city. Taking place across the site for 10 days over the Easter period, the programme spans dance, performance, music, parties, workshops and much more, with most of the events free.


Friday 19th – Monday 29th May 2017

Alchemy, Southbank Centre’s festival celebrating the cultural connections between South Asia and the UK, returns for an eighth year. The largest festival of South Asian culture outside the subcontinent, Alchemy explores the region’s art, artists, politics and society through a programme of dance, music, theatre, visual art, comedy and literature. Sukanya, Ravi Shankar’s first ever opera that he worked on just before he died, opens this year’s festival in a special performance directed by Curve Associate Director Suba Das, uniting dance choreographed by the Aakash Odedra Company, production by The Royal Opera House and musicians of Southbank Centre’s Resident Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra.


Festival of Love

Saturday 3rd June – Monday 28 August 2017

Festival of Love takes over the 21-acre Southbank Centre site with a summer-long programme featuring performances, music, installations and design from Nordic artists. Highlights include Outi Pieski’s Falling Shawls in Royal Festival Hall foyers, Jeppe Hein’s ‘Modified Social Benches’, North Sami Pavilion – an architectural collaboration with Umea University Sweden, the return of the Festival of Love Design Challenge, and lift lobby installations.

China Changing

Friday 2nd – Saturday 3rd June 2017

Southbank Centre’s China Changing is a new international festival with a programme inspired by the creativity and innovation from contemporary China. The festival launches with a day of music, dance, theatre, film, comedy, and talks, on 16th December 2016, before expanding to long weekends in June the following two years. China Changing aims to showcase the best and most interesting artistic work and contemporary thought from across China; alongside British-based Chinese and British South East Asian artists.


Friday 9th – Sunday 18th June  2017

Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. Previous directors include: Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Lee Scratch-Perry, Morrissey, Massive Attack, John Peel, Ornette Coleman, Yoko Ono, Ray Davies and Anohni. Performers have been musicians, artists, filmmakers and comedians including Jeff Buckley, for his final UK show; Nick Cave, Grace Jones and Pete Doherty singing Disney songs with Jarvis Cocker; Patti Smith performing Horses in full; a Nina Simone concert now immortalised in Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days On Earth;  Radiohead; Grace Jones; and Nancy Sinatra. 

New Music Biennial

Friday 7th – Sunday 9th July 2017

Southbank Centre presents an entire weekend of new music, free concerts and workshops featuring all 20 winning commissions from the PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music Biennial 2017. The initiative, presented in partnership with Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and BBC Radio 3, presents a snapshot of contemporary music in the UK from across all genres — classical and chamber opera to jazz, folk, electronic and music for brass band and organ. The festival includes new works from Gavin Bryars, Simon Holt, Emily Hall, GoGo Penguin, Eliza Carthy, Mercury Prize-nominated folk singer Sam Lee and Mica Levi alongside recently-composed works, including Anna Meredith’s Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra, commissioned by Southbank Centre in 2010.

Africa Utopia

Sunday 16th – Monday 17th July 2017

Africa Utopia returns for a fifth year exploring what can be learnt and celebrated from modern Africa and the African diaspora. The festival investigates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and looks at how Africa can lead the way in thinking about society, community, technology, fashion, gender, faith and activism.

WHY? What’s Happening for the Young?

Wednesday 7th – Sunday 13th August 2017

WHY? What’s Happening for the Young returns for a fourth time to consider how under-18s can understand and use their rights to influence the world around them. Inspired by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the festival is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate young people’s rights alongside artists, campaigners and activists. Through performances, workshops, talks and debates, the festival explores the right to freedom of expression, play, care, safety and access to the arts and culture, with many events programmed or led by young people. .

Darbar Festival

September 2017

Acclaimed as the biggest and finest Indian classical music festival outside of south Asia, Darbar Festival returns to Southbank Centre for its twelfth edition. Featuring the world’s top Indian classical musicians, it is the only festival in the world to unite artists from both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions.

London Literature Festival and Poetry International

Friday 13th October – Sunday 29th October

Southbank Centre’s longest-running festival Poetry International marks its 50th anniversary by joining with London Literature Festival for the first time in October 2017. The biennial festival, founded in 1967 by Ted Hughes, forms the opening weekend of 2017 London Literature Festival, which is an established highlight in the literary calendar having celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016. These combined festivals feature a Nordic focus in line with Southbank Centre’s year-long exploration of Nordic culture, Nordic Matters. Nordic elements include a specially-commissioned Nordic Anthology and Wall of Dreams, a large-scale projection of testimonies and dreams onto the Royal Festival Hall, in collaboration with award-winning Danish artist Morten Søndergaard. 

Being a Man

Friday 24th – Sunday 26th November 2017

BAM- Being A Man returns for its fourth year exploring the challenges and pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century. Taking a frank, thoughtful and often humorous look at the challenges, myths and pleasures around being born a male in today’s society.

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website here

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