Showing posts with label Southbank Centre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Southbank Centre. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Southbank Centre to launch WOW Awards for Women in the Creative Industries

Two or three years ago I wrote my first Cross Article about the sexism inherent in the classical music world and suggested we should have a new award - as there is in literature - for women in this industry. Now the Soutbank Centre is going a step further than that. To coincide with the WOW Women of the World Festival, and International Women's Day yesterday (which annoyingly I had to miss, any likely Budapest version having been in Hungarian), the Southbank is announcing the launch of the first-ever awards for Women in the Creative Industries.

Music forms one little part of this. I hope that the achievements of women in classical music will be recognised in full in future awards, and that as one of the smaller corners of the creative industries this vital and ever more active sphere will not be entirely marginalised. I think there's been a lot of progress since that initial Cross Article. It seems to me that scales - so to speak - have fallen from some eyes (though there's always room and time for more to glitter down). There's been an awakening, and with increased awareness some increased action has come about, from such institutions as BBC Radio 3, the Cheltenham Festival, two important early music festivals last year - Brighton and London - and now the BBC Young Musician of the Year, which has made the inspired choice of the composer Dobrinka Tabakova to be chair of its jury for 2016. Even Pembroke College, Cambridge, is putting up a picture of its alumna Emma Johnson, the clarinettist - the first time it has ever commissioned a portrait of a woman in 650 years. 

Here's to much more celebration. I was looking for a "three cheers" video to post, but the only one that falls roughly within the remit of a classical music blog is an extract of HMS Pinafore that begins with three cheers and proceeds with a pompous man singing about being a captain, with a chorus interjecting "And we are his sisters and his cousins and his aunts..."

So instead, over to the Southbank to explain the awards.



Today Southbank Centre launches WOW Creative Industries Awards, the first ever awards to honour women who are leading the way across the creative industries.
Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Galleries and Paulette Randall, Theatre and Television Director and Playwright are honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Bryony Kimmings, Live Artist, Playwright and Director will receive a Bold Moves Award.
The awards, which will be presented annually at Southbank Centre’s WOW- Women of the World festival, will recognise significant achievements made by women in the arts, tech, music, film, games, media, fashion and advertising.

The three inaugural awards are presented by Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly CBE at today’s Women in Creative Industries Day and will be followed by a call for submissions ahead of the first full awards ceremony at WOW-Women of the World festival 2017.

Founder of the WOW Creative Industries Awards and the WOW Women of the World festival, Southbank Centre Artistic Director,  Jude Kelly CBE said:

“I am launching the WOW Creative Industries Awards to recognise how pivotal women have been in making the sector as strong as it is today. Through our Women in Creative Industries Day we strive to bring recognition to the role women play in the creative industries and address challenges women face in reaching their creative goals. I believe these awards will help us reflect on the risks individual women have taken to push the arts, digital, music, film, fashion, games, media and advertising sectors forwards and encourage women who are passionate about carving their own creative path to pursue their dreams.”

Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey MP said:

“Congratulations to Julia Peyton-Jones and Paulette Randall on their outstanding efforts being recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and also to Bryony Kimmings for her valuable contribution to the arts.
"I hope that the WOW Creative Industries Awards will help inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs, artists, designers, coders and writers to pursue their dreams. The UK is home to so much talent in our thriving creative industries, but we can’t forget how much we still need to do to eradicate the barriers many still face when trying to achieve their goals.”

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director of Serpentine Galleries, said:

“I am very proud to be the recipient of the inaugural Women of the World Lifetime Achievement Award. International Women’s Day and occasions such as WOW serve as both an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and also as a reminder that there is still much to do. Equality is not yet a given and we need to be on the barricades for as long as it takes.”

Bryony Kimmings, Live Artist, Playwright and Director and winner of the Bold Moves Award said:

“I feel very humbled by this award. I often feel I exist at the peripheries of art forms and that being an activist often annoys people, it's bloody great to be told that being bold is a good thing... It makes you want to go even bolder!”

Paulette Randall, Theatre and Television Director and Playwright, said:

“I'm very honoured to receive this award. Working in the arts is not the easy option, it takes courage and determination to succeed. These awards send a signal to women who have a creative passion that if they work hard it can be possible to realise their ambition and I want them to hold on to that.”

The WOW Women in Creative Industries Day is part of Southbank Centre’s week long 6th WOW- Women of the World festival. The day is an opportunity for men and women working across the creative industries to discuss how to achieve gender equality in the sector and a chance to celebrate some of the important improvements that have taken place over the last year.

WOW Women in Creative Industries Day will include appearances from Alice Bah-Kuhnke, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy and Louise Jury, Director of Communications & Strategy at the Creative Industries Federation, Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network and previously a member of the Select Committee for Culture, Media, Sport and the Olympics. There will be speeches from Kate Mosse OBE, international bestselling author and Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia, Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls, Caroline Norbury MBE, founding Chief Executive of Creative England, Melanie Eusebe, award winning business expert and founder and chair of the Black British Business Awards, Sue Hoyle OBE, Director of the Clore Leadership Programme, Mira Kaushik OBE, Director of South Asian dance company Akademi and Zoe Whitley, Curator, Contemporary British Art at Tate Britain and Curator International Art at Tate Modern.  
For the complete London WOW 2016 programme, visit

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Southbank's new season goes beyond reality and belief...

...with the first-ever virtual reality orchestra (an initiative with the Philharmonia) and a year-long festival with the LPO called Belief and Beyond Belief, echoing the concept of the groundbreaking The Rest is Noise cross-genre festival.

A few other points of seriously good news:

• Chineke! is to be an associate orchestra, HOORAY!

• There's a new ticket scheme for the under-30s, plus 1000 free tickets available to young concert-goers across the season

• The start of a three-year collaboration with Mitsuko Uchida

• International Orchestras visiting include the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Cape Town Opera

• A 2017 New Music Biennal, a new contemporary music festival celebrating young composers

• Pianists giving recitals include Benjamin Grosvenor, Yuja Wang, Richard Goode and Maurizio Pollini among others. And Lucas Debargue, who made waves last year at the Tchaikovsky Competition, will be performing with the LPO.

• The OAE's highlights include Bach with the legendary Masaaki Suzuki.

• A major series of live film scores - an increasingly popular phenomenon - including an improvised organ accompaniment to Hitchcock's The Lodger.

A lot more besides. See everything here.

It's heartening - with the roll-out of fabulous programmes for 16-17 at the Barbican the other day, and now all of this - that despite everything, our cultural institutions can still produce exciting, attractive, fresh and inspiring programming at the highest international level.

Did you know that the UK's creative industries are worth, to the economy, £10m PER HOUR? Apparently our creative sphere is growing at twice the rate of anything else. So keeping it on the rails, dear government, is really quite a good idea, please note.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hall of mirrors?

The results of the feasibility study into the mooted new concert hall in the City of London are due out, I hear, (two months late) on Wednesday.

In case you missed it when the whole thing began back in February, here's a piece I wrote over at The Amati Magazine, wondering whether the project is a) a political football, or b) a vanity project, or c) the results of remotely joined up thinking about the needs of London's cultural life, or music education, or d) an attempt to kill off the Southbank (presumably together with all its ensembles - has the LSO ever quite forgotten that murderous 'superorchestra' plan?), or... what exactly? We need a hall, but we don't need it at any price.
...How ironic that some of the people behind this ambitious, “mostly” privately-funded new project should be the very same that effectively killed plans to transform the Southbank Centre into an more attractive, state-of-the-art location.
Is this hall not a hall? Is it a political football, intended to prove the worth of private finance over public and therefore of right-wing attitudes over left?
Conspiracy theories aside, what’s certain is that, far beyond the Square Mile, budget cuts to local authorities – necessitated by Osborne’s austerity policies – are threatening music tuition for thousands of children around the country who cannot afford to pay for private lessons...
Read the whole thing here. 

But many things have changed since February - above all, this past week. In the light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the current outcry over the projected gigantic cuts to policing here, the idea that a new concert hall costing in the region of several hundred million pounds could be given a significant injection of government money to get it underway would perhaps not be guaranteed to go down exceedingly well with the general public.

And with costs doubtless spiralling, where is the money really going to come from? What chance that the lifeblood of government funding might be sucked out, vampirically, from other arts organisations in London in order to build a super vanity project?

Let's see what happens on Wednesday. I wouldn't rule anything out. The only thing that can usually be guaranteed where British governments and the arts are concerned is that sometime, somewhere, somehow, there'll probably be an almighty cockup.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why I applaud the Southbank's open-doors policy, despite having been knocked over by skateboarders nearby

My latest comment piece for our Amati Magazine explains all.
Did you know that London’s Southbank Centre was the third most popular visitor attraction in the UK last year? Neither did I, until quite recently. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions announced it back in the spring; it made the pages of The Stage; and that was about it. It’s behind only the National Gallery and the British Museum and hosted an incredible 6.3m visitors in its first year as an ALVA member. Six point three million, in one year.
But it does beg a question: hang on, isn’t this an arts centre?...
Read the whole thing here. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

International Women's Day continues apace

Great to see International Women's Day really flying this year. There's such a lot going on that I feel quite boggled. Of course, one looks forward to the day when women's equal representation, recognition, pay and respect are taken for granted as human rights and none of this special stuff will be necessary any more. Sad to reflect that instead we're thanking our lucky stars that we live in a part of the world where we have the freedom to have this festival.

If you're in London, get yourself to the Southbank for the WOW Festival - Women of the World - culminating in the annual Mirth Control concert on Sunday night. It features Alice Farnham and Sian Edwards conducting an all-female orchestra in rare works by female composers including Florence Price, plus appearances by amazing singer Angel Blue, the brilliant West End star Sharon D Clarke, the marvellous young musician Ayanna Witter-Johnson, ace comedian Sarah Millican and more. Sandi Toksvig is compère.

Explore the full WOW programme here.

Over on BBC Radio 3 the celebratory programming started earlier this week and extends into next as well. UPDATE: fabulous article here by the R3 presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch covering this ground and more.

Here is their line-up for the weekend and next week. On Sunday it's the entire day.

Saturday 7 March
CD Review (0900-1215)
Andrew McGregor will be Building a Library on the Clara Schumann Piano Trio with pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris
Music Matters (1215-1300)
Sara Mohr Pietsch presents a package examining how the world has changed for women writing music across the centuries
Sunday 8 March – International Women’s Day
Geoffrey Smith's Jazz (0000-0100)
Geoffrey Smith presents a portrait of American jazz singer, composer, pianist and actress Carmen McRae
Through the Night (0100-0700)
Through the Night broadcasts music exclusively written by female composers
Breakfast (0700-0900)
A special edition presented by Clemency Burton-Hill
Sunday Morning (0900-1100)
A special edition presented by Rob Cowan and Sarah Walker
Live Concert from the BBC Radio Theatre (1100-1300)
Suzy Klein presents a concert of music by Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and English composer and violist Rebecca Clarke live from the BBC Radio Theatre (1100-1300) with performances from Radio 3 New Generation Artists Lise Berthaud (viola) and Kitty Whatley (mezzo soprano)
Private Passions (1300-1400)
Michael Berkeley talks to composer Anna Meredith
The Early Music Show (1400-1500)
Lucie Skeaping explores the life and work of Italian Baroque singer and composer Barbara Strozzi
Choral Evensong (1500-1600)
A service from King’s College Cambridge with music composed by female composers
The Choir (1600-1700)
A live edition of with a performance of a new commission by young composer Rhiannon Randle by St Catherine’s Choir
Sunday Feature: From Convent to Concert Hall (1845-1930)
Dr Kate Kennedy tells the story of four string players who were pioneers in different eras, from the 18th to the 20th century with contributions from violinist Margaret Faultless and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber
Radio 3 Live in Concert (1930-2200)
Augusta Holmes: Andromede
Boulanger: D’un matin de Printemps
Tailleferre: Concerto for Two Pianos, Mixed Chorus, Saxophones and Orchestra
Chaminade: Konzertstucke
Mélanie Bonis: Trois Femmes de Legende
Katie Derham presenter
Noriko Ogawa piano
Pascal & Ami Roge piano duet
BBC National Chorus of Wales
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Jessica Cottis conductor
Drama on 3 (2200)
Broadcast premiere of Sophocles’ Electra starring Dame Kristin Scott Thomas
Monday 9 March – Friday 13 March
Composer of the Week (Monday-Friday, 1200-1300)
Donald Macleod interviews five female composers under the age of 35 - Charlotte Bray, Anna Clyne, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Hannah Kendall and Dobrinka Tabakova.

Friday, March 28, 2014

No organisation for Stravinsky?

It's the strange case of the missing Rite of Spring.

The launch of the Royal Festival Hall's newly refurbished organ has been dominating the Southbank Centre all this week, with a no-holds-barred festival called Pull Out All The Stops. My old friend and colleague Clare Stevens was at the recital by the distinguished French organist Olivier Latry last night and she reports on an incident that has implications far beyond the sound of the mighty "king of the instruments". 

Latry had planned to play a transcription of The Rite of Spring, apparently originating in the composer's own version for two pianos, four hands, but the programme was changed to Widor's Fifth Symphony. What happened?

Clare says: "In addition to referring to his disappointment in very strong terms in his pre-concert talk, Latry read a prepared and clearly very impassioned statement at the start of the second half apologising to the audience especially those who had booked tickets in order to hear the Rite, and explaining that Stravinsky's publishers had withheld permission, on the grounds that it would be an infringement of Stravinsky's intellectual property to play it. Apparently it is OK to play it in the US where the publishers' writ doesn't run. Latry added that he still hoped to be able to come back and play it at the RFH one day, if the rules change."

As a TV presenter once said to a tattoo artist, where do you draw the line? On the one hand, it is vitally important to uphold those laws; otherwise it is artists/creatives who lose out. On the other hand, it would also be nice to think there could be some two-way traffic and that an arrangement could be reached whereby an artist as stupendous as Latry could indeed be heard performing a work like Rite, especially for such a special occasion (apart from anything else, imagine all the work he must have put into learning the thing). Where dedication and tribute is surely a motivation, in the context of the very top level of the world's organs and organists, shouldn't the situation be rather different from the more widespread acts of piracy, cheating and unauthorised exploitation? But meanwhile this Rite - with a certain irony - had to be sacrificed.

The organ festival - which runs til June - continues this weekend with Cameron Carpenter (yes, that guy) improvising a live sound-track to the 1920s German Expressionist film classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari tomorrow night, plus fun and games all around the centre including free taster organ lessons. Check it out here.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Gubaidulina speaks

As The Rest is Noise at Southbank Centre reached the 1970s, the composer Sofia Gubaidulina arrived to talk to us about spirituality in music. With Dr Marina Frolova-Walker from Cambridge to translate for her, this living legend spoke not only of those times but current ones as well; and she articulated some deep-seated truths about composition and culture that I suspect many of us sense but could scarcely express so well. Today, Gubaidulina said, is the most dangerous time humanity has ever faced, because we are facing "the global impoverishment of the human soul". We are in danger of losing the most human part of ourselves.

Art, she suggested, is always spiritual, because it springs from the subconscious, intuitive part of the mind. It reconnects us with a higher power, the higher part of our own spirit. This also serves as a moral force: she suggested that those who have lost touch with this aspect of art/culture exist without the knowledge of humanity's sensible limits, and she added that she sees such people around her all the time. Art, however, can be our "salvation".

As the space for the quiet, intuitive, spiritual self is eaten up by the ever-increasing flow of technology, information and the superficial part of the intellect, so that aspect of ourselves reduces until we risk losing it altogether. And that is what's dangerous. Along with the fact that art cannot exist without support, which means there must be people/organisations who believe in it enough to provide that support, if it is to survive...

The talk should in due course be available to listen to on the TRIN website and I'll post a link when it is up. Read more about Gubaidulina in this wonderful interview, and don't miss her violin concerto, 'Offertorium', which is to be performed on Wednesday night at the RFH, along with three works by Arvo Pärt.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why THE REST IS NOISE festival will change concert-going forever

The second part of the Southbank Centre's year-long celebration of the music of the 20th century kicked off on Saturday. And as it did so, the venue released figures that prove beyond reasonable doubt that this extraordinary festival, The Rest is Noise, has not only been succeeding in attracting new audiences, but doing so as if there is a tomorrow after all. 

In short, three-quarters of people booking for these concerts  had not bought tickets for a contemporary classical event at the Southbank before. The place has sold more than three times as many tickets for contemporary classical music during the festival than they did in 2012. About 39 per cent [update] of those booking for concerts had not been to any classical concert at the centre before, and one in three people booking the whole-weekend tickets had never been to the Southbank Centre before at all.

The wake-up call is so loud that The Rest is Noise amounts to a virtual thump on the head for the musical world - or, indeed, a kick on the backside. We can't afford to ignore such numbers. And that's why programming may never be the same again. 

There's been a buzz around The Rest is Noise unlike anything I've encountered within these hallowed (?) portals in 40 years. The RFH was bursting at the seams for Britten's Peter Grimes on Saturday night, but the ferment of activity in the surrounding weekends of events - like this one devoted to the Britten centenary, including films, talks, more concerts (Noye's Fludde notably), 'bite' events (15-min talks on different yet related topics) - also feels more like the Edinburgh Fringe or Hay-on-Wye than a stuffy old arts centre. Hopefully those last four words are ones we'll never have to see together henceforth.

I had a chat with Jude Kelly (artistic director of Southbank Centre) and Gillian Moore (head of music) about what they've been trying to do with The Rest is Noise, and why. You may remember that a few years ago Daniel Barenboim did the complete Beethoven sonatas cycle at the RFH in two weeks. At the time, I wrote this article, declaring that the runaway success of the series proved that what really draws audiences in is anything but dumbing down: instead, we long for the big, immersive, profound experience, where you give a lot and reap more than you sow. It turns out that this wasn't a coincidence.

"When I first came in as artistic director, the first thing that happened in classical music was that an agent said Barenboim was going to do the Beethoven sonatas over a year," Kelly says. "I said: no, let’s do it over a fortnight. They thought that was too much to offer; I said no, that’s what we want to do. And it was a huge success. That gave me the courage to think that these big ideas are what we should be championing." 

Gillian Moore adds: "The idea of programming 20th-century music boldly and constantly is for me so strong – I’ve always tried to do that. But this is a very big idea that really can help us achieve it. Linking with Alex Ross’s book, we’re not slavishly following it, but using its atmosphere as a stimulus. It’s all about putting music in its cultural context of history, science, what was happening, what people were thinking, at the time."

She continues: "Music is not isolated from the world of ideas. Sometimes in classical music we can behave as if it’s its own thing, going along on tram tracks without relating to intellectual ideas. But talk to any composer about politics or life sciences and it absolutely does. So to appeal to people who are culturally curious, but who might think classical music is not for them, especially 20th-century classical music, we are talking about more of our music being linked to broader cultural questions." 

(This relates to another of my own old bug-bears - about the isolation of musical biographies in bookshops, tucked far away from the general biography section which might feature writers, artists, philosophers and actors, among others. That's where musical creators and performers belong, too. Nowadays, of course, you're lucky if you can even find a bookshop.)

Kelly, who has been artistic director of the centre since 2006, says she is often struck by how many extremely well-educated people, interested in theatre, politics, economics, history, science and more, tell her that they never attend concerts of classical music. "But all of that makes up music - so let’s contextualise the whole thing," she says. If you only want to listen to the music, that's fine, of course; but now there has to be a further option as well. 

"I can't speak for other places, but for Southbank it provokes the question that doing a single concert with no other information around it other than programme notes isn’t a proper offer," she says, when I ask what the implications are for future programming. "If any of the orchestras want to do that, it means their assumption is that the audience is already familiar with the repertoire or are certainly very comfortable with classical music. 

"My passion is about how you reach lots of other people who aren’t familiar and aren't comfortable. Obviously just playing the concert in itself hasn’t been doing that. I’m very committed to extending this idea of the wide open school, the offer to do music studies and history studies and science studies all in one go - and making the live performance of music and contemporary dance and contemporary art a central way of understanding  how our societies work."

Having had no thorough academic musical education at college level, she adds that when she wanted to fill in the gaps, the solution she was looking for simply didn't seem to exist: "a course on how you learn and understand the history of classical music". This education is what's been lacking; this is why so many people, when you tell them you're involved with classical music, look afraid and say at once, "I don't know much about classical music". That absence of knowledge intimidates them and, instead of proving an attraction to learn something, it keeps them away. 

"I’m interested in the fact that people are excited by the complexity of science and the complexity of ecosystems, but classical music, which is a version of all of that, stays away from them," Kelly says. "We’ve partly got ourselves to blame - the art industry has often spoken in language that suggests this is for people with fine feelings or that you have to go on some sort of escalator before you can get there and people don’t know what the starting point is." 

"I think we’ve got to be much more welcoming and much less judgemental," Kelly adds. "I think we can seem judgemental about people who don’t know much about classical music. We should say, 'Great, if you don’t know anything about it then you won’t have any prejudices...'" The Rest is Noise website is a huge bonus where this is concerned, preserving many of the talks, "bites", etc, on demand. Visit the Explore section here.

The bonanza of this festival, which includes study evenings, "breakfast with..." sessions exploring the technical workings of music, screenings of films, events for children, and countless other elements, may not be easy to replicate elsewhere - though I'm sure that this is just the beginning for the Southbank. Still, the thinking, and the resulting sales, carry a few big, strong simple messages for all. It's about having courage to think big and to lead from the front. "The big lesson for me is about the scale of an idea," says Moore. "Sometimes you have to do something really big and bold for it to cut through." 

The full programme for the rest of the Rest is here. And now we've reached the point where many of the composers are alive and some of them are kicking. We can certainly expect to see Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Sofia Gubaidulina in London in person for good chunks of the next part. 

What of the future? Don't dismiss this event as a one-off. What's become clear is that the rest is just not noisy enough.