Introducing great stand-up comedy on London’s South Bank

Finally. Finally it looks like this long dark winter is coming to an end. But the novelty of commuting in daylight and not wearing a scarf only lasts so long – you deserve more fulfilment and joy in your spring, and luckily we have the answer. We’ve a number of top stand-up comedians performing here at Southbank Centre in the coming months; plenty for you to get your laughing gear round.

Stewart Lee: Content Provider

Stewart Lee - These days, if you say you're English ...

One of the most recognisable names on the british stand-up circuit Stewart Lee started out as a stand-up in 1988, winning the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year in 1990. Though he became known to many for his television double-act with Richard Herring, Lee has continued to perform solo stand-up throughout his career.

His most successful full-length show ever, Content Provider has been touring to sold out theatres throughout divided Brexit Britain for nearly two years. The comedian turns 50 this year, and has intimated that he intends to take a break from stand up at the end of this five night run, starting on Thursday 19 April, so catch him whilst you can.

buy tickets  find out more

Sandi Toksvig’s Mirth Control: Art Over Tit

Sandi Toksvig’s British Accent Is Fake | Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled | Dave

An annual highlight of our WOW - Women of the World festival; comedian, writer and presenter Sandi Toksvig takes inspiration from pioneering women who have made iconic and empowering music for a raucous night of comedy and music performed by great women.

This year’s event, on Sunday 11 March, features Josette Bushell-Mingo with extracts from her show Nina: A Story About Me and Nina Simone, along with Alice Russell and Zara McFarlane and more to be announced. So make sure you don’t miss out on this fun-filled night.

buy tickets find out more

Marc Maron: A Few Parts of the World Tour

Donald Trump Ruined Irony for Marc Maron

Averaging seven million downloads each month, the podcast WTF with Marc Maron is a global phenomenon and has seen Maron interview iconic personalities ranging from Robin Williams and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to former US President Barack Obama.

But Maron is much more than simply a prominent podcaster – he’s a stand-up comedian with three decades of performances under his belt. Maron brings his raw, honest and thought-provoking live stand-up to Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday 18 April; his first time in the city since his critically acclaimed sell-out shows in 2015.

buy tickets find out more

Tez Ilyas – Teztify

Tez Ilyas

Tez Ilyas has enjoyed something of a stratospheric rise into and through the world of stand-up comedy since he decided to move full-time into comedy just three years ago. In that time he has appeared on BBC’s Mock The Week and Channel 4’s The Last Leg, and presented his own BBC Radio 4 programme Tez Talks.

A slick, smart and subversive stand-up, Ilyas performs in our freshly reopened and refurbished Purcell Room as part of Alchemy festival, on Monday 7 May.

buy tickets find out more

Iliza Schlesinger Live

Iliza Shlesinger Stand Up - 2012

Iliza Schlesinger burst onto the comedy scene a decade ago, first as winner of MySpace’s So You Think You’re Funny contest and then, in 2008, as the only female – and the youngest comedian – to hold the title of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

Schlesinger’s one hour comedy specials have topped the iTunes chart, and seen her named one of the top working comedians today by Esquire Magazine. This one night only performance on Tuesday 17 April is her first London performance since her sold-out and critically acclaimed run at Soho Theatre in 2015.

find out more
This event is now sold out

Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I’m 50!

What Is Love, Anyway? - Clip 2

Referred to as the ‘Podfather’ by the Guardian, for his pioneering comedy podcasts, Richard Herring has been a staple of the British comedy scene since his early 1990s double act with Stewart Lee. Herring has written and performed thirteen one-person shows, whilst his award-winning and critically acclaimed Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, in which he interviews other comedians, has just begun its thirteenth series.

On Friday 4 May, Herring follows on from Oh F***, I’m 40! to bring the second instalment of his once-a-decade series to our newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Hall.

buy tickets find out more

Esa-Pekka Salonen on Mahler's First Symphony

Esa-Pekka Salonen reveals his thoughts on Mahler’s First Symphony and the passage of time, as provocation eventually turns to nostalgia and the music’s shocking moments turn to sweetness.

In this video the Finnish composer and conductor, who will lead Philharmonia Orchestra in their upcoming rendition of Mahler, considers how perception of the piece among audiences has changed since it was originally composed.

It's a wild piece by a wild young man and should not be treated with any kind of reverence
Esa-Pekka Salonen on Mahler’s First Symphony

Join Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra on Thursday 12 April for this cosmic journey, as Mahler takes the listener through a world of klezmer, Austrian countryside and even Frère Jacques – with a few kicks here and there. 

book tickets find out more

Ralph Rugoff on Andreas Gursky at Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery reopened last month after a two-year closure with an exhibition of work by the German photographer Andreas Gursky.

The reception has been overwhelmingly positive from gallery goers and the arts press alike.

In this interview with Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery Director, we find out why Gursky was chosen as the first artist to appear in the renovated space and what kind of work features in the show. Ralph also gives us some ideas about how you might approach the photographs.

Ralph Rugoff and Andreas Gursky during the Hayward Gallery installation of Gursky in January 2018

Why is Andreas Gursky the first artist featured at the reopened Hayward Gallery?

There are several reasons Gursky was the right person to open the Hayward again.

First of all, he’s one of the most interesting artists of our time. He has created images of the world we live in that are unprecedented in their complexity and insight. He is a formal innovator who has helped to reinvent the language of photography.  And he makes pictures on a scale that works perfectly in the Hayward’s voluminous exhibition spaces. 

Gursky’s willingness to take risks as an artist and his interest in collective life also align his work with the innovative and democratic spirit of the Hayward’s architecture. As it’s the beginning of our 50th anniversary year, we want to indirectly celebrate the building itself in all of our exhibitions in 2018. Roughly half of Gursky’s photographs – he’s only made around 240 images in total throughout his 40 year career to date – have examined architecture.

Andreas Gursky, Rhein II, 1999. Copyright: Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers

What can we see in the exhibition?

It covers every aspect of his career from the beginning right up to an image that was finished in December 2017.

The very first pictures he was making saw him using film cameras to shoot pictures of people in natural landscapes. Rather than portraying particular places, though, he was interested in exploring the relationship between people and nature, how ordinary city dwellers bring their urban postures and behaviours into the wilderness, and how we still have this collective fantasy or desire for a kind of unsullied pastoral version of nature, when in fact there’s usually a huge motorway or industrial plant just down the road.

In the early 1990s Gursky began making pictures of architecture and of what he called “aggregate systems” – for example, making a photograph of a factory that reveals the complex systems linking humans and machines into a kind of collective organism. As he put, he was interested in making pictures that revealed how things fit together in the world.

At the same time he began making very large pictures that had an almost immersive physical presence. You’re often looking at something that’s bigger than the wall in the living room in the average flat.

Seen from a distance, many of these images seem to be structured by abstract formal patterns. It’s only when you get up close that you suddenly see every single detail in the picture – usually in remarkable focus. A recent photograph of an Amazon warehouse in Arizona (below) shows a teeming sea of things – there are probably 100,000 objects on shelves in view – and you can read the labels on most of them. It’s an amazing portrait of something we are all superficially familiar with – Amazon – but Gursky reveals the physical place in ways that raise very interesting questions about changes in our economy and also in how our sense of visual order is changing.

Andreas Gursky, Amazon, 2016 (detail). Copyright: Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017 Courtesy of Sprüth Magers

People may wonder if it’s worth coming to see a photography exhibition when the images can be reproduced. Why should we visit?

It’s a real revelation to come and see a Gursky show in person as opposed to looking at images in books or online. That’s partly because you can’t get any sense of the scale of these works by looking at them online and partly because you can’t actually see the detail.

There’s also the experience of discovery, of having to walk up close to observe tiny details and then walk back to take in the entire scene, so you have two distinctly different encounters with the same picture. You don’t have that experience when you’re looking at a reproduction.

What do you see as the themes in Gursky’s work?

Gursky has brilliantly chronicled sites around the planet that are emblematic of how the global economy and technology are altering our world and how we live in it. At the same time his work also explores how various structures package the way we see and experience the world, and how photography can make that visible.

© Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017. Courtesy: Sprüth Magers
Andreas Gursky, Les Mées, 2016 (detail). Copyright: Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017 Courtesy of Sprüth Magers

Any tips on how to look at a Gursky picture?

We now live in a culture where we’re used to looking at pictures for six or seven seconds on our phones. They are temporary and utterly disposable. Collectively we upload something like one billion photos every day to the internet. In contrast here’s an artist who puts so much time and thought into into his work that he only makes four or five pictures a year. So I think it’s worth giving them some time and paying attention to the different ways you can experience them.

Then there’s the challenge of looking beyond the image and considering why Gursky has chosen to photograph a particular scene. Many of his pictures have a metaphorical aspect, or they present the particular as an example of a larger phenomenon. He is also very interested in the relationship between painting and photography as distinct ways of making pictures, so you might want to think about his use of repetition and abstract compositions.

The key thing to remember is that Gursky’s pictures are never just one thing, so when you’re looking at them you definitely need to keep an open mind about what they’re actually about. Then I think you’ll find that they inspire you to think differently about photographs and how they shape our picture of the world.


Gursky at Hayward Gallery

The exhibition runs until Sunday 22 April. It is open from 11am – 7pm every day except Tuesdays, when the gallery is closed. Late night opening are on Thursdays until 9pm.

information and bookings

What does a conductor really do?

We caught up with the conductors taking part in our latest Women's Conducting Masterclass, led by superstar conductor Marin Alsop, to ask one of the most burning of all classical music questions: what does a conductor actually do?

What does a conductor really do? by Southbank Centre: Burning Questions

Seven children’s books that are inclusive – and great!

Representation matters. The moment of seeing a character whose experience reflects our own – be it in books, on film, in politics, in sport and so on – can be a powerful driver of self acceptance. It can also help give people with different realities an important insight into how others experience the world.

The organisation Inclusive Minds campaigns for publishers to support books that deal with issues of equality, and which feature diversity, inclusion and accessibility and they have recommended some of the best inclusive children’s books to us.

My Mummy is Magic by Dawn Richards and Jane Massey

This is a simple, charming story about a mother and a child going about their days, and the special moments between them where they find magic in the everyday. It makes the Inclusive Minds list because it features a mixed-race family, the child’s gender is not specified, and the adult who stays home when Mum goes to work could be a female partner, a childminder or a relative, making this book particularly relevant for lesbian or single parents.

Through The Eyes of Me by Jon Roberts

Author Jon Roberts discusses children's book Through the Eyes of Me

Video: Jon Roberts talks about why he wrote Through the Eyes of Me

Through The Eyes of Me is a story about Kya, a four-year-old girl who loves to run, read, look at and rip up stickers. It was written by Jon Robers when his own daughter, also called Kya, was diagnosed with autism, and aims to encourage understanding of the condition among siblings and classmates of children on the autism spectrum. Illustrations are by Hannah Rounding.

S.C.R.E.A.M. The Mummy’s Revenge by Andrew Beasley

Charlie Steel and Billy Flint are top secret investigators specialising in Supernatural Crimes, Rescues, Emergencies and Mysteries (S.C.R.E.A.M.), and in the first book of this Victorian-era series they must tackle terrifying mummies who have come back to life. Charlie is in a wheelchair because of polio, but she doesn’t let it stop her from getting involved in the action and cracking the case.

George by Alex Gino

Alex Gino Talks About Their Book GEORGE & Other Transgender Fiction for Young Readers

Video: Alex Jino talks about their book George and other transgender fiction for young readers

This story has an authentic, transgender character at its heart – and speaking in her own words. That character is Melissa, who knows she’s a girl even though some people think they see a boy when they look at her. Melissa’s teacher tells her she can’t audition for the role of Charlotte in the school play because she’s a boy. Can Melissa and her friends come up with a plan so that she can be herself – and play Charlotte on stage?

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

The main character of this book is blind and fittingly it was published simultaneously in accessible formats, with the audiobook being read from the Braille version. It tells the story of what happens when Laureth and her brother must try and solve the mystery of what happened to their beloved father, who has gone missing. Laureth, who is blind, must use all the skills her father has taught her to make the connections and find him.

Sam Wu is NOT Afraid Of Ghosts! by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Sam Wu hates being called a scaredy-cat. When a trip to the Space Museum takes an unexpected turn, Sam has the chance to prove to his classmates – and the school bully – that he is truly fearless. All he has to do is hunt a ghost...

This brand new book is written by husband and wife team Katie and Kevin Tsang, drawing on some of Kevin’s own experiences growing up as a Chinese American. And good news: if you love this there’s a follow up due in summer called Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Sharks!

Ossiri and the Bala Mengro by Richard O’Neill & Katharine Quarmby

Travellers don’t feature all that widely in children’s literature, so this book, by Romani storyteller Richard O’Neill and picture book author Katharine Quarmby, makes a refreshing change. It tells the story of Ossiri, a Traveller girl, who builds her own musical instrument and then ignores advice not to practise it in the hills for fear of awakening an ogre.

With thanks to Inclusive Minds
Inclusive Minds

families at Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre runs loads of fun events for children and families throughout the year.

Elaine Bedell launches our Southbank Centre Staff Picks playlist

Launching today and continuing every Friday, we present to you Southbank Centre Staff Picks - a new Spotify playlist which lets you inside the musical psyches of our huge number of staff members.

Every Friday, a different member of staff picks out five tracks that are important to them, or are just what they’re listening to right now.

We begin with selections by our Chief Executive Elaine Bedell, who talks us through her picks.

Yuja Wang playing Waltz No.7 in C sharp Minor, Op.64 No:2 Tempo giusto

I saw Yuja playing in the Royal Festival Hall last autumn and she was mesmerising. My dad was also a pianist and it was he who introduced me to the Royal Festival Hall and the piano series here when I was a child. I have just named an Royal Festival Hall seat for him and he would have loved that! 

Washington On Your Side from Hamilton: An American Musical

Hip hop meets musical! Hamilton opened in London just before Christmas and I was lucky enough to be there.  I was also invited to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote Hamilton) by Andrew Lloyd Webber (they have formed a close friendship) and hearing the two in conversation was fascinating. 

Love Galore by SZA

A great album from 2017.

Adventures on Earth (from ET) by John Williams

I was there for the recent Royal Festival Hall screening and the soundtrack was brilliantly brought to life by the Covent Garden Sinfonia.  It’s one of my favourite films and is a great and important reminder about what makes us human.

Self-Help Tape by Moses Sumney

The album I’m listening to this week on my bus journey into work.

Follow the playlist for weekly additions from a new staff member every Friday.

follow the playlist

Andreas Gursky: Redefining Photography

Redefining Photography | Andreas Gursky

‘For the last four decades, Andreas Gursky has been one of the most important artists and photographers in the world. He is constantly questioning what the boundaries of photography are’.

Director of Hayward Gallery, Ralph Rugoff, introduces the first major UK retrospective of Gursky’s work, which is also the first exhibition to take place in the gallery following our two-year refurbishment.


In this video Ralph Rugoff walks you through the exhibition, discussing Gursky’s unique approach to image-making and his large-scale spectacular works which often seem transcend the boundaries between painting and photography.

Gursky is perhaps best known as someone who has been an audacious chronicler of the global economy, and documented the epic sights that global capitalism has produced
Ralph Rugoff, Director of Hayward Gallery

Andreas Gursky runs until 22 April. The Gallery is open 11am – 7pm every day except Tuesdays. Late night openings Thursday until 9pm.

book now find out more

Robert Smith to curate the 25th year of Southbank Centre’s Meltdown


Southbank Centre today announces the curator of its 25th Meltdown festival: The Cure’s Robert Smith, promising a line-up of unique performances in the intimate and iconic Southbank Centre settings from 15-24 June 2018.

He will follow in the footsteps of 24 legendary artists selected to share their vision as curators of Meltdown - from the very first curator, British composer George Benjamin in 1993, though other luminaries such as John Peel, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Ray Davies, Yoko Ono and David Byrne to the most recent curator, M.I.A in 2017.

Robert Smith is the lead singer, guitarist, lyricist and principal songwriter of The Cure, and its only constant member since the group’s formation in 1978.

read full press release

Robert Smith to curate 25th Meltdown festival

The speculation is over, now the anticipation can begin, as we’re delighted to announce Robert Smith as the curator of Meltdown 2018. And he has already promised a packed line-up of unique performances here at Southbank Centre from 15-24 June 2018 as we celebrate the 25th edition of the iconic festival. 

The Cure frontman follows in some pretty remarkable and diverse footsteps as Meltdown curator. From British composer George Benjamin in 1993 to rapper record producer and activist M.I.A. in 2017, 24 legendary artists have gone before Smith, each putting their own special stamp on the festival as they delivered their own Meltdown vision.

Announcing the curator of Meltdown 2018

Lead singer, guitarist, lyricist and principal songwriter of The Cure, Smith is the group’s only constant member since their formation in 1978. One of popular music’s defining bands and an international phenomenon, The Cure took the sound of alternative rock sound mainstream and have continued to influence popular culture over a staggeringly successful 40-year career. 

I am honoured and excited to be curating the 25th Meltdown Festival
Robert Smith

Beyond The Cure, Smith is of course a highly influential and talented musician in his own right. A recipient of an Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement he has performed and recorded with a huge breadth of musical talent including David Bowie, Blink 182, The Stranglers, Crystal Castles, Junkie XL, Faithless, Korn, and Placebo.

More than 30 of my all-time favourite artists - some of the most exciting, inspirational, intense and influential performers of the last 40 years - will make sure this ten-night extravaganza is the ‘must see’ event of the summer!
Robert Smith

This is a significant year for Meltdown at Southbank Centre. Not only does the longest running artist-curated music festival in the UK celebrate its 25th year, but it will also be the first major festival to take place across our freshly refurbished site, making use of the newly re-opened Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. 

Robert Smith is the perfect artist to help us celebrate our silver jubilee Meltdown. Over a career spanning four decades, he has achieved globally-recognised excellence, paving the way for the alternative and the uncategorisable.
Bengi Unsal, Southbank Centre Senior Contemporary Music Programmer

Robert Smith’s Meltdown takes place at Southbank Centre on 15-24 June 2018. Further acts and ticket details will be announced in the coming weeks. To be first in line for tickets, become a Southbank Centre member.

more on Southbank Centre membership

Who is Hungarian composer György Ligeti?

Eclectic, unpredictable and refusing easy classification – György Ligeti is an intriguing figure among 20th-century composers. His work is being celebrated at Southbank Centre this spring in a series called Ligeti in Wonderland, featuring solo piano music, orchestral works, talks, a study day and more.

Ahead of it, read on to discover some fascinating facts about his life and work.

He survived the Holocaust


György Ligeti was born to a Hungarian-Jewish family living in Transylvania in 1923. In 1944 he was forced by the government to join a labour corps on the Eastern Front, transporting heavy munitions. Ligeti escaped twice – once when Nazi death transports began and he realised he would be murdered, and again after he’d been captured by Soviet troops following his first escape. He spent two weeks walking back to his home village, only to discover strangers living in his family home. Ligeti’s mother, father, brother, aunt and uncle were all sent to concentration camps; only his mother survived.

He escaped to the west as Soviet communism arrived in Hungary

After the war, Ligeti enrolled in the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. In 1956, as Soviet tanks rolled into the city to crush an uprising, Ligeti escaped first by hiding under post sacks in a mail train and then dashing across the border into Austria. Ligeti had been a fan of fellow avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who offered him a place in his electronic music studio at West German Radio in Cologne. Commentators have suggested his experiences of war, Shoah and communism pushed him in the direction of absurdism in his art.

He married his second wife twice

Ligeti was married for the first time to Brigitte Löw, from 1949-52. His second marriage was in 1952 to a Hungarian psychologist, Dr Vera Spitz, to help keep her from being sent away to a labour camp. They divorced after two years but remained friends, escaping from Hungary together in 1956 and remarrying in 1957, a union that lasted until the composer’s death in 2006. Their son Lukas, who is also a composer, was born in 1965. Vera Ligeti still practises as a psychologist in Vienna, specialising in child and adolescent psychoanalysis.

He had no idea his music was in 2001: A Space Odyssey until a friend told him

Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece is famous for its use of Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Spake Zarathustra’. But equally important is the use of recently composed music by Ligeti – Atmosphères, Requiem, Lux aeterna and Aventures.

Kubrick initially commissioned an original score for 2001, but was unhappy with the result and ended up using pre-recorded music. The first Ligeti knew about his involvement, according to Richard Steinitz’s book György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination, was when he received a letter from an American friend telling him to see the film when it came out in Europe to hear his music. Shocked at the news, Ligeti saw the film in Vienna and discovered it was true. Initially he was very angry that his work had been used completely without permission. Things worked out well though, as Ligeti’s music later ended up being used – with permission, and a decent fee this time – in Kubrick’s films The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut, helping Ligeti to become better known in America.

His love of mathematics and Escher inspired The Devil’s Staircase

György Ligeti: Étude No. 13: L'escalier du diable / The Devil’s Staircase

Ligeti was, of course, influenced by other composers and styles of music, but his keen interest in maths, science (his original career ambition was to be a scientist) and visual arts also informed his work. A particularly good example of this is Etude No.13, The Devil’s Staircase – its relentlessness, ultimately futile, echoes the mathematical concept of the same name, as well as MC Escher’s drawings of impossible staircases.

He only wrote one opera

Hannigan & GSO - LIGETI Mysteries of the Macabre

Like Beethoven, Ligeti only finished one full-length opera – but with it he certainly left his mark. Le Grand Macabre was inspired by the chaotic, hellish paintings of Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch, and begins with a prelude that is surprisingly tuneful, given that it is scored for 12 car horns (they’re played by percussionists, in case you were wondering).

Since its premiere in Stockholm in 1978, it has been revived some 30 times and is regarded as a classic of 20th-century opera. Filled with sex, booze and bawdy humour, it’s not for the faint-hearted. In the extraordinary concert performance, above, see one of the arias from Le Grand Macabre sung and conducted by the incomparable Barbara Hannigan with the Gothenburg Symphony.

Ligeti in Wonderland

The series runs from Friday 11 – Sunday 13 May and booking is now open.