Statement from Southbank Centre’s Artistic Leaders

Southbank Centre exists to provide great artistic experiences for everyone.

Through art, we invite our visitors to enjoy shared cultural encounters together. To gaze. To listen. To be moved. To discover a new idea or a new perspective.

We are proud that for the last 69 years, the performances and exhibitions here have moved millions. We have provided a home for art and for artists. A community centred on art, where everyone, no matter their job, helps make the experience.

We all came to the Southbank Centre to continue that mission. We are also acutely aware that we inherited a legacy of art and community, and that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve it for artists, audiences and visitors in the decades to come.

But now, thanks to the global pandemic, that legacy is threatened. Seriously threatened. To our horror, we are facing a situation where the very existence of Southbank Centre is at risk.

In the course of this financial year, we will lose £25m of our income. That’s about half of our total annual expenditure. We will also have used almost all of our available reserves.

We now face impossible choices. But we know we must act to assure the Southbank Centre’s future. Failing to do so would mean that we fall short of our founding principles to bring the arts to the public and the democratic vision of culture for everyone that is embedded in our iconic buildings.

Our choices are limited. We must radically reduce our expenditure. Sadly, that means job losses for many of the people in the Southbank Centre community. Losing so many devoted, creative and brilliant colleagues deeply affects each of us. Their absence will be profoundly felt.

We are committed to making sure that these painful steps contribute to the centre’s lasting legacy. The pandemic has revealed systemic failures across the whole arts and cultural sector. So, in addition to cutting costs, we are also exploring a refreshed operating model  that delivers more than ever before on our commitment to artistic excellence and our inclusive values.

 

As we face an uncertain future, nothing is more important to us than our most fundamental commitment: to bring great and unforgettable experiences of art to a wide and diverse public and to resume our noisy, bustling place at London’s heart.
Southbank Centre’s Artistic Leaders

 

Whatever the outcome of that thinking, we have not lost sight of the essential principles that make the Southbank Centre unique.

We will continue to ensure that Southbank Centre is a welcoming place for people to encounter the arts, that we continue our inclusive work with the young, vulnerable and socially isolated, and we renew our commitment to the values of inclusivity and optimism on which our site was founded in 1951.

We recommit to expanding the diversity of voices that lead artistic decision-making at Southbank Centre to better reflect the city and culture we live in. And we eagerly await the moment when our buildings can be a thriving community of artists from every imaginable background and viewpoint. We will build on our artistic heritage of presenting and championing a diverse range of talents and voices by expanding our series of new emerging artist programmes.

While the Hayward Gallery has re-opened, our site is hosting outdoor exhibitions and we are reaching people with our learning programmes, we also eagerly anticipate the day we can open the doors of all of our venues again. And while restrictions make it difficult for us to produce as much work for the Centre ourselves in the short term, we will continue to curate a steady stream of powerful arts projects throughout the Autumn and beyond by working creatively with our partners. As ever, the Centre’s artistic integrity will not be compromised. We will continue to exert curatorial control over all of the work that’s presented.

As we face an uncertain future, nothing is more important to us than our most fundamental commitment: to bring great and unforgettable experiences of art to a wide and diverse public and to resume our noisy, bustling place at London’s heart.

Sincerely,

Gillian Moore, CBE - Director of Music
Ralph Rugoff - Director of Hayward Gallery
Alexandra Brierley - Director of Creative Learning
Ted Hodgkinson - Head of Literature and Spoken Word
Bengi Unsal - Head of Contemporary Music