The Southbank Centre announces new digital initiatives as it extends closure to 30 June 2020

The Southbank Centre announces new digital initiatives as it extends closure to 30 June 2020 

  • The Southbank Centre and its partners announce additional digital initiatives to serve its audiences and the wider artistic community, including Shankar 100, Beethoven 250, a digital tour of Among The Trees exhibition at Hayward Gallery, and daily curated content celebrating past artistic highlights crossing decades and genres.
  • Grace Jones’ Meltdown will now take place in June 2021, with Grace Jones and every act confirmed to play the new dates, 11-20 June.


Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre, says:

“It’s with great sadness that we’re having to close our venues for a longer period of time. To play our part in stopping the spread of the virus, we’ve cancelled or postponed all our events up to Tuesday 30 June. Beyond this date, we will continue to follow government advice and our plan is to re-open the Southbank Centre when it is safe to do so. 

We’re in regular contact with the DCMS, Arts Council England and Public Health England as they monitor the rapidly changing situation. As a charity, being closed presents a massive financial challenge for us and for those we work with. We intend to do everything we can to safeguard our future and will take advantage of the Government furloughing scheme as well as submitting a bid to access additional Arts Council England funds from the £90m made available to national portfolio organisations. 

Our hearts go out to those key workers on the frontline and also to the freelance artists and crew who contribute to our artistic programme and of course to our audiences who support us. We’re also ensuring that all our staff are properly supported during this period of closure.

For those customers who’ve booked tickets to events until the end of June we’re making credit vouchers available that are valid for two years, which can be used when we reopen. If you can afford to, please consider making a donation amount however large or small to the Southbank Centre.

While the Southbank Centre is closed we’re making our archive artistic collection available to everyone through our website, social media and weekly ‘Your Culture Fix’ email. 

Take care of yourselves, and we’ll see you again when this is over.”

Cross-artform digital content highlights

Shankar 100

On Tuesday 7 April, the Southbank Centre celebrates the legacy of the seminal Indian musician, composer, educator and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar across its digital channels on the centenary of his birthday as part of Shankar 100. Audiences are invited to tune into the Southbank Centre’s socials to get involved, with content including exclusive video and curated playlists and original articles.The Ravi Shankar Centenary concert which was set to take place on 7 April as part of the season will now take place a year later on Thursday 8 April 2021 with guest artists to be confirmed, alongside a celebratory programme of free public events, workshops and an archive exhibition, also rescheduled to take place in April 2021.

Sukanya Shankar says:

“My husband’s music continues to bring magic to people around the globe. As the whole world faces these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to celebrate our common humanity with art that transcends boundaries. I’m thrilled that the Southbank Centre will be celebrating his legacy online and throughout the year as part of Shankar 100. While I’m saddened the Ravi Shankar Centenary concert has been postponed, I look forward to next spring, when we can all come together for this very special event.”

YouTube Premieres Presents Ein Heldenleben with Vasily Petrenko

On Wednesday 8 April (4pm), the Southbank Centre and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) team up with Google Arts & Culture and YouTube to bring audiences the online premiere of Ein Heldenleben conducted by Music Director Designate, Vasily Petrenko. Depicting the story of a hero grappling with life’s adversities, this epic orchestral work – one of Strauss’ signature masterpieces – acts as a fitting metaphor for the challenges faced by today’s global community. The first in a two-part series from the RPO, the performance of Ein Heldenleben was recorded live at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in June 2019 and will be available to stream here.

Beyond Beethoven Nine

On Saturday 18 April, the Southbank Centre hosts a one-day digital event to mark Beethoven 250 celebrations. Fronted by conductor Marin Alsop, this activity comes in place of Beyond Beethoven Nine, a mass participation project which was due to take place at the Royal Festival Hall between 16-18 April. Alongside a ‘socially-distanced orchestra’ led by National Youth Orchestra, readings, blogs, lectures, videos, playlists from leading cultural figures will open up the world of Beethoven to audiences online. The day centres his totemic Ninth symphony and explores how its message of unification through art can be viewed afresh, bringing a sense of hope and optimism to today’s current crisis. 


TS Eliot prize-nominated British-born Cypriot poet, Anthony Anaxagorou offers a digital reading of his poem ‘O Human’, originally commissioned as the new libretto for Beyond Beethoven Nine in place of Schiller’s famous An die Freude ‘Ode to Joy’ poem (sung as the climax to Beethoven’s symphony). Reflecting on what joy means to young people, the poem is a mosaic of words from almost 100 poems written by pupils from London secondary schools and young refugees who spent time workshopping with Anaxaogorou. 


Elsewhere: Marin Alsop shares ‘insight videos’ delving beneath the score to offer a step-by-step tour through Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; Bengi Unsal, Head of Contemporary Music at the Southbank Centre, curates a bespoke playlist featuring tracks that are both inspired by and sample this great masterpiece; and broadcaster Tom Service and lecturer Laura Tunbridge offer their perspectives on the composer and his most cherished works. 


From the 16-18 April, the Southbank Centre will amplify content from the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, a key partner in Beyond Beethoven Nine. Announced today, the orchestra will be running its first-ever ‘Digital Residency’ to give their young musicians a virtual community and a chance to share uplifting music with those who need it most. On 16 April, BBC Radio 3 will be repeating their performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the 2013 BBC Proms. On 17th April at 5pm, NYO invites every musician in the UK to join in a national, live performance from their doorsteps. Playing as a‘socially distanced orchestra’, they will share their own versions of ‘Ode to Joy’ inspired by the theme of community, bringing the gift of music to those nearby, from frontline NHS staff and key workers to isolated family members or friends struggling with loneliness.


Marin Alsop, conductor, says:

Beethoven’s message of unity, tolerance and joy is as relevant today as it was in 1824.  Beethoven celebrated the essence of what it is to be human and what it is to be connected. It is truly fitting then that Beethoven, an artist who himself suffered and overcame extraordinary personal hardship, would become so inexplicably connected to this year of unprecedented human challenge. In light of our current world situation, I am so disappointed that I can’t join our friends at the Southbank Centre, a key stop on my year-long project, ‘The Global Ode to Joy’. To you, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and all the other 450 participants who were due to be joining us, I want you to embrace Beethoven’s philosophy at this time more than ever before and hold on tight to his central thesis – that together we are stronger and that art can truly unify us all.”

David Wallace-Wells event to go online 

In a newly re-formatted event which will be available online later in April, David Wallace-Wells will discuss links between the coronavirus pandemic and the climate chaos he outlines in his Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling book, The Uninhabitable Earth – in an online event on Penguin’s digital channels. The event will be chaired by journalist Samira Ahmed and will include opportunities for the audience to ask questions. David was due to appear at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 8 April. Full details including the date of the new event will be published online in due course. The event is a partnership between Penguin, the Southbank Centre and Cambridge Literary Festival. 

Newly commissioned poems on trees 

Several newly commissioned poems inspired by the Hayward Gallery’s Among the Trees exhibition will be read and shared digitally on World Earth Day, 22 April. 

Rescheduled programme

Meltdown and Contemporary Music
Grace Jones’ Meltdown festival is to move to June 2021, with the iconic curator in place and every one of the announced acts confirmed for next year. Acts include Grace Jones, Solange, Peaches, Jimmy Cliff, The Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra, Skunk Anansie, Baaba Maal, Lee Scratch Perry with Adrian Sherwood, Oumou Sangaré, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lee Fields and the Expressions, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and more to be announced, including many on the free Riverside Stage. More information can be found here.

Many contemporary music concerts in the Southbank Centre programme have been rescheduled, with dates for more concerts to be announced soon including Warm Digits (17 Sep 2020), Concrete Lates: Weval (2 Oct 2020), Mew (2 Oct 2020), Daedelus (17 Oct 2020), Belle Chen (19 Oct 2020), Purcell Sessions: Keaton Henson (5-6 Nov 2020), Gigi Masin (28 Nov 2020), Ben Watt (28 Nov 2020), Ulrich Schnauss (29 Nov 2020), Collocuter (8 Dec 2020), David Rodigan & The Outlook Orchestra (9 Dec 2020), Tindersticks (19 Feb 2021), Goldfrapp (2 and 3 Apr 2021) and the Ravi Shankar Centenary concert (8 Apr 2021).

The Southbank Centre continues to be a hub for fresh new comedy talent and legendary household names. David Baddiel is rescheduled to perform his brand new one-man show Trolls: Not the Dolls on 3 September in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Ahir Shah’s Dots will now play 4 September in the Purcell Room, Simon Munnery reprises his notorious alter ego Alan Parker Urban Warrior on 9 October in the Purcell Room. Finally, in a London exclusive, Stewart Lee brings his new show Snowflake/Tornado to the Royal Festival Hall from 18 – 23 May 2021. 

Literature and Spoken Word
A world leading venue for literature and spoken word, several events from the Southbank Centre’s Spring and Summer Literature Seasons have been rescheduled for the Autumn. These include the author of Three Women, Lisa Taddeo whose event will now take place on 17 September in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Fortunately with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover which will now take place on 20 September in the Royal Festival Hall. Further announcements regarding the Autumn Literature Season to follow.

Performance and Dance 
English National Ballet returns to the Southbank Centre with its prestigious Emerging Dancer competition. Now in its 11th year, this annual event recognises the excellence of its artists and celebrates the talent of tomorrow as they perform in front of an eminent panel of expert judges with one set to receive the 2020 Emerging Dancer Award. The event, which was due to take place on the 29 May, will now take place on 22 September in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Curated content

The Southbank Centre’s ‘Culture Fix’

The Southbank Centre’s new weekly ‘Culture Fix’ email pulls together signature weekly digital content, including book podcasts from Louis Theroux, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Hilary Mantel and Hillary & Chelsea Clinton, plus contemporary and classical playlists and a chance to revisit iconic Hayward Gallery shows from the inaugural exhibition of Henri Matisse in 1968 to more recent shows by Tracey Emin and Jeremy Deller via Google Arts & Culture. 

Among the Trees, Hayward Gallery

Take a virtual video tour of Hayward Gallery’s latest exhibition Among the Trees with Director Ralph Rugoff. Further curator-led videos exploring key themes and artist-led videos providing insight into their works will be going live soon. The first is with artist Hugh Hayden, with future videos to come from Eva Jospin and Eija-Liisa Ahtila. 


Blogs accompanying the exhibition include Five things to know and City and tree: the story of London planes (by Paul Wood, author of London is a Forest and London’s Street Trees) plus a Spotify playlist provides a musical accompaniment with tracks referencing, or inspired by, interactions with trees, forests or woodland. 

Hayward Gallery video content showcasing world class artists and shows

– Curator and artist-led exhibition tours including George Condo, Andreas Gursky and DRAG

– Director Ralph Rugoff in conversation with artists including Jeremy Deller and Bridget Riley 

– Behind-the-scenes access to the likes of Martin Creed and Tracey Emin

– View works from Olafur Eliasson and David Shrigley

– Insight from artists including Nicholas Hlobo, Richard Wilson, Ernesto Neto, Ryan Gander, Yinka Shonibare and Rebecca Warren

Resident & Associate Orchestras

The Southbank Centre continues to work with its Resident & Associate Orchestras to monitor the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the orchestral sector. Working in close partnership, essential future-proofing is ensuring the continued creative health of our eight world-leading orchestras. 

As the Southbank Centre’s Resident & Associate Orchestras prepare for the premature ending of their 19/20 seasons, they open up their digital archive and online resources to bring art and culture to audiences in these testing times. This includes: the Philharmonia Orchestra’s ‘Digital Experiences’, London Philharmonic Orchestra’s ‘LPOnline’, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s ‘The Show Must Go On(line)’ and London Sinfonietta’s ‘London Sinfonietta Channel’.

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain remains a cornerstone of Beyond Beethoven Nine via their new ‘Digital Residency’, the Aurora Orchestra share compelling content via their YouTube channel, the BBC Concert Orchestra will record ensemble and solo works for BBC Radio 3’s ‘Afternoon Concert’ as part of BBC Arts’ ‘Culture In Quarantine‘ scheme, and Chineke! get set to release a never-before seen film of their last public concert on 23 February at QEH, conducted by Fawzi Haimor and featuring Tai Murray.

The National Poetry Library

The Southbank Centre’s the National Poetry Library, has a large collection of brilliant, moving, funny and groundbreaking poems that can be read online, as well as video poems. Enjoy the Poem of the Day, every day, here or become an eloan member and download poetry books and audio to a device of your choice here.


Each month, London’s premier evening of poetry and live music Out-Spoken platforms the best in UK poetry alongside a line-up of world-class musicians. Following the cancellation of Outspoken in March, readings from the event will be performed digitally through Southbank Centre’s Instagram, featuring Scotland’s national poet Jackie Kay, Jerwood-Compton winner Yomi Ṣode and Complete Works fellow Rishi Dastidar.

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