Six poems for Mental Health Awareness Week

A means of expression, or a channel for open communication; an emotional crutch, or words of inspiration. There are many ways in which poetry can help us to achieve, or move towards, good mental health. 

From the considered to the concise, visual to verse; here are six poems for Mental Health Awareness Week, selected by Librarian Chris McCabe, from the National Poetry Library’s heavily stacked shelves.

‘Blue Moon’

by Linda France

read the poem

British poet, writer and editor, Linda France has published seven full-length poetry collections, a number of pamphlets, and was editor of the influential anthology, Sixty Women Poets. In 1997 France’s collection The Gentleness of the Very Tall, was long listed for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and in 2013 her poem ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’, won the National Poetry Competition.



National Poetry Library Lates: June


by Keith Jarrett

listen to the poem

Keith Jarrett’s poetry addresses issues including identity, race and sexuality and takes its power from a sense of inquiry rather than polemic. He is a former UK Poetry Slam Champion and in 2014 won the International Slam Championship in Rio. Beyond poetry, his play, Safest Spot in Town, was performed at the Old Vic and on BBC Four in 2017 as part of the Queers series.



‘That you cannot see where you tread’

by Paul Peter Piech

read the poem

Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Piech made his home in Wales after the Second World War and went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art. After working in advertising he became a freelance artist in 1968. His preferred medium was printmaking; his work often combining words or slogans with imagery. ‘That you cannot see where you tread’ features the words of Helen McNabb.



Image of Mimi Khalvati, National Poetry Library


by Mimi Khalvati

read the poem

Iranian born Mimi Khalvati has lived most of her life in England. She has published eight collections of poetry with Carcanet Press, including The Weather Wheel, and The Meanest Flower, which – as well as being a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a Financial Times Book of the Year – was shortlisted for the 2007 TS Eliot Prize.



‘A Bit of Zen’

by A.D. Winans

read the poem

Born in 1936, A.D. Winans is an American poet, essayists, short story writer, and publisher. As founder of San Francisco’s Second Coming Press, and long-term editor of Second Coming magazine, he published writers including Charles Bukowski, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg and Josephine Miles. To date, Winans has written 63 books of poetry.



Caleb Femi


by Caleb Femi

watch the poem

Using film, photography and music, Caleb Femi pushes the boundaries of poetry both on the page, in performance and on digital mediums. Between 2016 and 2018, Femi was the Young People’s Laureate for London, working with young people on a city, national and global level. ‘WISHBONE’, is a dancing words film which he both wrote and directed.



If you are concerned about your own mental health, the Mental Health Foundation encourages you to seek advice and support from your GP immediately. If this is not possible, they also signpost to a number of other organisations who can offer you support.

Getting help with your mental health


As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

Playlist: Music for Mental Health Awareness Week

Follow our Director of Music, Gillian Moore, through a playlist of music by composers who understand what it means to feel trapped, grieving, lonely, or anxious – and what it’s like to emerge out on the other side.

I’m not persuaded by the idea that the arts – music, poetry, painting, drama – provide an escape from real life. If art is good, it’s much more complex than that: it makes sense of our human experience. 

It makes us feel that we’re not alone, that someone else has been there before us, is walking with us, understands something about what we’re going through and lays it out in front of us in the form of a song or a symphony, a play or a poem.  

This explains why tragedies are popular, and why we reach for sad songs and poems to help us make sense of our own grief and pain. But it is, of course, also true that reading an ecstatic nature poem or listening to joyful music can lift the spirits. 

In this time of lockdown, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has put on happy music and taken to dancing around the kitchen to block out the news, get some energy going, banish negative thoughts and make the heart beat that bit faster.   

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, and while thinking of the challenges to our mental health that all of us are facing, I’ve put together a playlist. Unlike many other playlists, it’s not all happy, uplifting music – although there’s plenty of that too.  

But I’ve also included music which shows us that the feelings that might be exacerbated by these extreme times – loneliness, anxiety, grief for what’s lost – are shared human experiences and that musicians have explored these for centuries. 

The feelings exacerbated by these extreme times are shared human experiences. Musicians have explored these for centuries.
Gillian Moore

At the moment, feeling captive or held within the four walls of our homes is a condition experienced by many of us, all around the world. The composer Olivier Messiaen was imprisoned in a freezing cold POW camp in Silesia in the early years of the Second World War.  

During his imprisonment, he managed to get hold of paper, pencils and a desk, and wrote his visionary Quartet for the End of Time for four professional musicians who happened to be in the same camp. 

The performance of the work was an electrifying moment, with prisoners from all walks of life crammed into a dining hut to listen intently to the music. The movement I’ve chosen, ‘Louange’, seems to stretch the idea of time and space, with its long phrases which seem to defy time, imagining a universe far beyond the confinement of a prison camp in Europe. 

From his prison, Messiaen was imagining the infinite space of eternity, but sometimes, we just have to let the grief overwhelm us. In Handel’s opera Rinaldo, the imprisoned Almirena sings ‘Lascia ch’io piangia’: ‘just let me weep for this cruel loss of my freedom’. 

Beethoven was under a different kind of confinement when he wrote his Seventh Symphony; recovering from one of his bouts of serious ill health in a spa town. The central two movements of this great symphony span a huge range of emotions.

The Allegretto is a set of variations on a simple, repetitive, almost obsessive rhythm which emerges out of darkness into light, nobility and triumph – and steps back into dark, questioning territory again. Sweeping all this away, the third movement is a riotous, abandoned dance of joy: Wagner described it as ‘the Apotheosis of the Dance’.   

Loneliness and separation from the people, work and places that make up our lives can be an overwhelming feeling at this time. Frank Sinatra sums it up, as he so often does, in his searing ballad, written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen. The sinuous vocal lines describe ‘the heartbreak that only the lonely know’.  

In Schubert’s Winter Journey, the lonely traveller sings a song called ‘Einsamkeit’ (Loneliness). His pain is made greater because the beautiful weather seems to mock his emotions – something which those of us sitting out lockdown through this lovely spring weather may identify with. 

Alas, that the air is so calm! / Alas, that the world is so bright! / When storms were still raging / I was not so wretched.
Franz Schubert, from Winterreise (Winter Journey)

But Carole King, one of the world’s greatest songwriters, reminds us that we’re not alone. And, if you believe in angels,  or even if you don’t, it could be comforting to listen to Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel singing about a group of angels watching over the children as they lie down to sleep, fearful in the dark forest where terrors lie.

Anxiety is a familiar friend or foe to many of us at this time. Bernard Herrmann’s opening credits for Hitchock’s Vertigo puts us on the edge of our seat, raising our pulse rate and preparing us for the anxious, edgy mood and neurosis of the film.

Dmitri Shostakovich lived under constant threat from the Soviet authorities, and his 15 string quartets have been seen as a kind of coded diary of his life during a period in which Joseph Stalin took a worryingly close interest in his music. This short movement from the eighth quartet portrays the anxiety vividly and, at its climax, the quartet repeats a four-note motif – DSCH – which spells out the composer’s name in music, as if to say ‘I’m still here, I exist, despite all this!’

Nobody does twitchy anxiety better than David Byrne, and his ‘Life During Wartime’ manages to convey extreme anxiety and threat at the same time as being uplifting – it’s impossible not to get up and join in his nervy dance.

Taking a mindful, meditative approach, through becoming hyper aware and taking time to notice everything, is a time-honoured way of dealing with anxiety. A composer who lived this idea through her music was Pauline Oliveros, who died in 2016. She invented the idea of ‘deep listening’ (actively, intently listening to sounds) and she linked this concept closely to mental health, to providing a still counterpoint to the world outside. ‘Take a walk at night’ she suggested. ‘Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.’

Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.
Composer Pauline Oliveros

When we’re anxious, someone simply saying ‘Don’t worry about anything’ can seem impossibly glib, but perhaps not if it’s done so ecstatically and with such brilliant Latin rhythms as in Stevie Wonder’s ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing’, or with the pared-back, joyous perfection Bob Marley brings to ‘Three Little Birds’.

Verdi, at the end of his opera Falstaff, dismisses all the cares and woes and intrigues which have gone before with a joyful chorus, the words of which are ‘all of the world’s a joke’. But, again, this is far from an easy waving away of the complexity of life. The chorus is set as a fugue, one of the most evolved and complex musical forms. If life is a joke, it’s an elevated, sophisticated and, ultimately, a noble one.

More pure joy, made all the more intense because of the sophisticated musical workings going on under the surface, can be heard in Vikingur Olafsson’s recent recording of Bach’s ‘Now be joyful together…’ in which a Lutheran chorale rings out underneath brilliant keyboard pyrotechnics. 

But many of us find that we have to live for the day, for the moment, and if there’s a bad day, or a difficult night, the sun will rise and there is the opportunity of a new start. Nothing says this to me more powerfully than Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s legendary performance from Handel’s Theodora. ‘As with rosy steps the morn advancing drives the shades of night, / so from virtuous toils well borne, raise thou our hopes of endless light’. 



The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

Mental health: conversations, talks and discussions

Week nine of lockdown in the UK, and chances are you’re probably feeling a little fed up of the many twee commercials of face-timing families referring to the ‘new normal’. But whilst we may wonder what seeing people Zoom each other in fancy-dress has to do with selling us soap, there is no denying that the current situation is both unprecedented and concerning. 

Whatever your situation, lockdown will have meant more time spent at home, and less time partaking in social activities or situations. This change in life’s rhythm can be challenging, particularly when it comes to your mental wellbeing. Covid-19 has led to a new way for us to be, and as such there is no right way to feel. 

This week – 18-24 May – is Mental Health Awareness Week. Run by the Mental Health Foundation since 2001 it is a period used to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems nationally and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. 

It’s believed that as many as one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. And at the Southbank Centre, particularly in the last decade, we’ve hosted a number of talks and events from a wide range of personalities who have faced difficulties with their mental health; from anxiety to depression, to struggling to find their place in a complex world.

As part of this Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve surfaced some of these talks from our archives, to show you that not only is it good to talk and share, but that mental health can affect any one of us, in many different ways. You are never alone. 


Simon Amstell discusses anxiety

Simon Amstell Highlights - Being a Man Festival 2017

As part of our 2017 Being A Man festival, comedian, presenter and author Simon Amstell joined us to talk about his life. In this entertaining video Amstell talks to our Head of Literature & Spoken Word, Ted Hodgkinson, about how embracing his own truths helped him to overcome his own personal anxieties.



Rob Delaney discusses depression and mental health

Changing Minds | Rob Delaney in Conversation

US comic Rob Delaney is perhaps best best known in the UK as the star and writer of Channel 4's hit comedy Catastrophe. But in 2016 he joined us here at the Southbank Centre for our Changing Minds festival, which explored mental health and the arts. In this frank podcast recording from the festival Delaney discusses depression and mental health with Andrew Hankinson, author of You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat).


Ruby Wax on How to Be Human

Ruby Wax Highlights | Women of the World Festival 2018

It’s often said, indeed I’ve written it in this blog’s introduction, that there is no right way to feel. There is no manual for the human body. Well, that’s not strictly true, as in 2018 the actress and comedian Ruby Wax, with the help of a neuroscientist and a monk, wrote one. In How to Be Human, Wax seeks to answer every question you've ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, the future and compassion. And in 2018 she joined her friend Helena Kennedy QC, here at the Southbank Centre to talk about it.



Matt Haig and Jordan Stephenson on mental health and creativity

Mental health and creativity featuring Matt Haig and Jordan Stephens by Southbank Centre's Book Podcast

Recorded in 2019, this episode of our Book Podcast features Matt Haig talking to Bryony Gordon about his book Notes on a Nervous Planet, a personal look at living with anxiety in the age of social media. And we also hear from musician and campaigner Jordan Stephens – perhaps better known as one half of the hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks – in discussion with Ted Hogkinson about the relationship between mental health and creativity.


Professor Green discusses male suicide

Professor Green - Being A Man Festival 2016

In 2016, the rapper and ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), Professor Green, appeared at our Being A Man festival in conversation with our then Artistic Director, Jude Kelly. Whilst here, he spoke frankly about his father's suicide, the work he's done to raise awareness of male suicide and the emotional challenges that often face men, particularly in relation to expressing their emotions.



A discussion about women and shame

Shame by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

Shame, or indeed a feeling of being somehow unworthy, bad or wrong, can have a profound effect on our mental health, when it comes to the way in which we see ourselves. It is also an emotion which has been used as a means of control over women for decades. At 2017’s Women of the World festival we addressed this topic in a discussion event chaired by the journalist Rosie Boycott. This podcast of that event also features Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, founder of Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of honour crimes and forced marriages; journalist Róisín Ingle of The Irish Times, and survivor of prostitution and activist Fiona Broadfoot from Build a Girl.



I Had A Black Dog, His Name Was Depression

Being a Man 2015 | I Had A Black Dog, His Name Was Depression

This last talk comes from our 2015, Being A Man festival and features Professor of Men, Gender & Health, Steve Robinson, comedians David Baddiel and Jake Mills, author Matt Haig and founder of CALM, Jane Powell. Over the course of an hour the panel discuss their own experiences of depression and mental health, and the many stigmas around the concept of men in particular, opening up about their mental health.



If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem, the Mental Health Foundation encourages you to seek advice and support from your GP immediately. If this is not possible, they also signpost to a number of other organisations who can offer you support.

getting help with your mental health


As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

Six ways to overcome feelings of Eco Anxiety

Are you feeling burnt out? Do you feel immobilised by fear? Are you plagued by feelings of powerlessness?

If so, you are part of an increasing number of people that are said to be suffering from eco-anxiety. Though not yet officially recognised as a mental health condition, the Centre for Ecopsychology and Wellbeing defines eco-anxiety as a ‘chronic fear of ecological and environmental disaster’. 

Karen Larbi is a trainer, facilitator, consultant and event producer; the founder of POC In Nature and the Co-Founder of support group Black Woman Heal United Kingdom. Interested in exploring the intersections of social justice, spirituality, resilience and ecology, Karen was set to join us earlier this spring for the, sadly cancelled event, Eco-Anxiety: How to Cope with a Changing World. Instead, Karen has kindly written this piece for us, drawing on oracle cards, to offer six ways to overcome the feelings of eco-anxiety. 

Eco-Anxiety: How to Cope with a Changing World

Fears about the fate of the planet and the existential threat to humanity caused by climate change are having an increasing impact on our wellbeing, especially that of children and young people. Symptoms which include anger, overwhelm and despair are being compounded and felt more widely due to the current pandemic, which has had a massive impact on all our lives – giving us a glimpse of the disruption that may be felt on a global scale if warnings about human created environmental destruction are not heeded.

In moments of distress and despair, I take refuge in my spiritual practice which helps me to declutter my mind, focus on the present moment, and connect with my inner power. I enjoy using oracle cards for guidance, increased clarity and a deeper connection with my intuition. 

To help me come up with six things to help me to move through the overwhelm of eco-anxiety and exacerbated by the current global pandemic, I drew six cards from The Divine Feminine Oracle deck by bestselling author, feminist theologian and meditation teacher Meggan Watterson. This card deck reveals wisdom from goddesses and inspiring women from the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. May the insights contained in these cards give you the nourishment, inspiration and guidance they gave me.


The Cosmic Egg: The Divine Feminine

I hold the universe within me. I am the force of an ever-expanding love.

The systems that have resulted in the current ecological crisis are based on extraction, white dominance, a desire to subdue the Earth and those seen as less than. They are often rooted in fear of the Other, fear of difference, fear of what is perceived as weakness and not (re)productive, fear of not having enough. These systems and the fears that drive them are part of the universe, and since we hold the universe within us, they also exist within each of us and influence the way we relate to ourselves, each other and the Earth. This card encourages us to pay attention to our complicity in these systems. However, for those of us that see ourselves as progressive and accepting of difference, this can create a tension within us which contributes to eco-anxiety.

The antidote to these feelings is love, love that expands and deepens infinitely. To truly love another is to accept them fully for who they are, to hold space for their full humanity to emerge and flourish. We feel loved when we are fully seen and heard, when we can tell the truth about our experience and are witnessed by another without defensiveness, deflection, or being diminished. When our attention is called to how we are caused suffering, especially due to the social position we hold, this requires deep love for ourselves and the courage to look within and see all aspects of the universe that is within us, both good and bad. This allows us to fully listen to and witness our own suffering, the suffering of others and the suffering of the earth with deep compassion. 


Catherine Labouré: The Patroness of Miraculous Healing

I am ready to heal. I am worthy of the miracles meant for me.

Those of us alive today have never experienced a fully healthy planet. Our entire lives have been marked by an awareness of the damage that has been caused by human activity. For people in the Global South who are on the frontlines of (neo-)colonial extractivism, the fight against environmental destruction has been going on for generations. Therefore, for many of us, eco-anxiety stems from the fact that not only will we never get back what we had, we never had it in the first place. And so it can be difficult to envision a planet that is whole and healthy. This can fuel feelings of hopelessness and despair and we can even feel resigned to the impending doom that faces us. For many of us, we may not feel that the earth is even worth saving, or that humans are worthy of being part of the planetary ecosystem. 

However, this card reminds us that we are worthy of healing and so is our planet. Those of us that have experienced trauma know that healing is not linear; it’s full of fits and starts, drawbacks and times when we feel that we will never be ok and that we will keep being pulled back to the start, stuck in a timeloop of constantly reliving that which broke us. 

The destination we reach as a result of our healing journey is not as important as the journey itself. When we realise that, that’s when we can see the blessings in our lives, the miracles that keep us going and moving forward. The more we feel worthy of asking for what we need, the more we receive what we need to keep us going. The blessings we receive may not look like what we thought we wanted, and they don’t necessarily ease the conditions that cause us to suffer, but they are always what we need. 

Like flowers growing through concrete, life finds a way. It finds ways to overcome oppression, find the will to live and stay in touch with its inner core, its life force, strength, beauty and purpose. Life continues to feed and nourish us, sustaining our lives with life-saving beauty. When I pay attention to these blessings and take the time to soak them in, offering gratitude for what I have received, I receive more blessings to help me heal my heart and overcome fear. 


Khadijah: The Mother of Believers

I am spiritually and financially abundant. I provide heaven and earth for myself.

In the midst of an episode of chronic depression that lasted several years, being told to count my blessings felt like a slap in the face. It felt like my pain was being invalidated, like I didn’t have the right to experience mental health problems when so many people had it worse off than me. Cultivating the gratitude for the numerous gifts we have in our life can seem counterintuitive when there’s so much distress, pain and suffering being felt by ourselves, other people and Mother Earth. 

However, a daily gratitude practice has radically shifted my perspective. When I list 10 things I’m grateful for in my life, I can see that I have everything I need. Not only that, it helps me see that I have the ability to meet my own needs should I ever lack anything in future. Deepak Chopra describes true abundance as ‘the experience in which all our needs are easily met and our desires are spontaneously fulfilled’. By developing an embodied awareness that I am enough, I know I can fill my own cup up with whatever I need to help me survive and thrive. 

This is especially important when dealing with global crises and the feelings they engender. When my cup overflows as a result of an awareness of Mother Earth's abundance and an inner knowing that I have what I need and more, I have more mental, emotional and spiritual energy to pour into others who need support and assistance. It helps me to sit with suffering – my own, other people’s and Mother Earth’s – without being consumed to the point of defensiveness, fear and anxiety. 

Gratitude helps me see how all forms of life are interconnected, how we contribute to each other’s wellbeing. It also helps me to see how resourceful I am and how I have the ability to draw to me what I need to do the inner work of uprooting the internal oppressor within me. In turn, this allows me to learn new things, shift my perspective and develop the skills I need to take inspired action for social and environmental justice, and support others to do the same.


The Black Madonna: Our Lady of the Hermits

I transform pain and suffering into a greater capacity for love.

The only way to liberation from the fear and anxiety that grips us as we face a world on the brink of extinction, is to really face the truth of our suffering. We need to grieve what we have lost. We need to grieve for the ways in which we experience systems of domination and oppression. We need to grieve when others suffer, and grieve for the ways we are complicit in causing the suffering of others when we perpetuate systems of oppression. We need to grieve for those we have lost as a result of systems that have been created by people who do not have all our best interests at heart. And we need to grieve for the suffering experienced by animals, rivers, streams, forests and oceans. We need to grieve until our hearts break open. We need to grieve loudly, openly and in community, as well as in the privacy of our own hearts and homes. 

While we’re grieving, we need to look within, see where we have internalised systems of domination and do the work to uproot them. As Audre Lorde said, ‘the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us’. We need to sit with the emotions, not so we can see ourselves as victims or bad people, but to metabolise them so we can cultivate positive qualities and work towards being in authentic, vulnerable and emotionally visible relationships with ourselves, each other and the planet.  

It means really learning to sit with our own suffering and not looking away from the suffering of others, and especially not when we are complicit in that suffering. Only then will our hearts open and be flooded with more love and compassion than we thought it possible to feel. We then develop the desire and impetus to act to support, encourage and assist each other and the planet in whatever way we can in the face of existential threat, using our skills, talents, resources and access. That is how we heal. And that is how we develop the ability to sit with and move through eco-anxiety.


Enheduanna: The High Priestess

I am one with my soul. And my soul is a legacy of love.

For many of us who are being called to work from home, self-isolate and socially distance, the old ways of being are falling away. What we have thought of as normal, everyday, common sense activities and ways of being are no more. Collective crises like climate breakdown and COVID-19 can be a process of collective conversion where our identities, values, relationships, political awareness change. It is an invitation to deepen and widen our awareness of the interconnectedness of all of life, and in the midst of social distancing, we are being forced to recognise that we are not separate from others. It is a call to understand that we are living in ways that are often damaging to the human body, mind and spirit and unsustainable for the planet.

This card calls us to dig deep and shine a light on the unconscious parts of ourselves in order to find out what our soul’s purpose is and how we can use it for the benefit ourselves, our communities and the Earth. An important part of digging deep is doing the inner transformation necessary to critically examine our complicity in systems of oppression. Also important is using the experiential knowledge of the people impacted by systems of oppression to unlearn oppressive ideas and educate ourselves to be and do better, and uplift their ancestral wisdom on how we can co-exist with the Earth sustainably. 

The more we do the work of understanding the light and dark within us, the more we release from within the depths of our soul the limitless energies of love, compassion and power we need to develop greater clarity, refine our values and take action for the benefit of the collective. 


Kali: The Mother of the Universe

I release all that doesn’t serve me. It’s time to be the truth of who I am.

We inherit our beliefs about our place in the world in relation to others and the planet from our environment. These beliefs then become part of our subconscious mind, influencing our actions, often without us realising it. This is where concepts such as unconscious bias come from, that is that we internalise and perpetuate negative and harmful ideas about people in marginalised groups, even when claiming to be progressive, tolerant and accepting. 

This tension causes cognitive dissonance, which can be a huge source of anxiety because we spend a considerable amount of energy trying to maintain the façade of tolerance and progressiveness, while suppressing the oppressive ideas that pervade the collective unconscious. This has parallels with the way in which we feel compassion for the planet, while continuing to act in ways that are harmful to it. This is heightened when we consider that people of colour continue to bear the brunt of climate breakdown, but are excluded from the climate movement due to racism and neo-colonial attitudes.

This card encourages us to clear our subconscious mind of all that does not serve us, which involves destroying any conditioning that doesn’t serve our highest good and prevents us being in the right relationship with each other and the planet. In order to transform ourselves and embody the truth of who we are, we need to pay attention to the ways we have internalised and perpetuate oppressive ideas that cause harm and distress to others and the planet. 

We also have to be intentional about creating a clear vision of new ways of being that emphasise deep, authentic connection with ourselves, each other and the planet. By doing so, we create the possibility for deepened love, compassion and joy that frees us from the constricting feelings of fear, dread, apathy and anxiety, energises us to act in alignment with our values and awakens the truth of who we really are – vital parts of the interconnected web of life. 



The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

Aesop and Southbank Centre present the 2020 Conference for Health & Arts decision-makers

Building on the successes of Aesop’s (Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose) and the Southbank Centre’s previous Arts and Health Conferences in 2016, 2018 and 2019, Aesop and the Southbank Centre are joining forces and working in partnership to present the 2020 Conference for Health & Arts decision-makers.

These events are a key highlight in the Arts and Health calendars and are designed to bring together policy makers, practitioners and funders from the arts and health sectors. The 2020 Conference will take place from 9am to 6pm on Friday 3rd July 2020 at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

read full press release

Icelandic food comes to SCFood Market with Öskubox

If you think you’ve eaten your way around the world – or just eaten your way around the famous SCFood Market – we’ve got exciting news. This summer you can find something truly unusual, an Icelandic food stall run by a real life Viking (but don’t worry, she’s friendly).

Whether you’re an adventurous gourmand, a health-conscious connoisseur or just really love hot dogs, we urge you to make your way to Öskubox, the latest in our special Nordic Larder guest traders.

Öskubox is the creation of Oddny Cara Edwards Hildardottir, a Reykjavik native resident in Lymington, where she founded her Nordic cafe. It has been a huge hit on the south coast and now she brings some of her favourite dishes to Southbank Centre.

Öskubox at SCFood Market's Nordic Larder
Öskubox started from a love of food and missing Iceland. It remains very true to my Nordic roots
Oddny Edwards, Öskubox founder

What’s on the menu? It includes fiskibollur, pylsa and smjörbrauð. In case your Icelandic’s a bit rusty, let us explain.

Fiskibollur means fishballs, a dish so common in Iceland and Finland that Oddny says they’re a staple part of the diet. She serves them either on a skewer or in a Finnish rye bread roll, along with slaw and her secret Ö-box sauce (if you don’t fancy fish, try the authentic Swedish meatballs or vegetarian option instead).

Forget about puffin meat and roasted sheep’s skulls – hot dogs, or pylsa as they’re known in Iceland, are what modern-day Vikings really love to chow down on (you can find a hot dog stand in almost any town or village in Iceland). Oddny prides herself on bringing the best quality Nordic pylsa to the UK so you can find out why Icelanders are obsessed for yourself.

And smjörbrauð? OK, that’s a bit of a cheat as they’re more commonly known as open sandwiches in English, and are associated with Denmark as much as Iceland. But they’re a delicious and healthy meal, and Oddny has four options to choose from, including one with homemade pickled herring and a vegetarian version.

Öskubox at SCFood Market's Nordic Larder 2

‘Öskubox started from a love of food and missing Iceland,’ Oddny says. ‘It remains very true to my Nordic roots. We don’t quite dress up like Vikings every day but we do definitely have a modernised Viking battle with swords and helmets regularly. At least in our imaginations we do!’

recipe: Öskubox's Fiskibollur

Everything Oskubox do is about having fun with your food and not being too bound to a recipe, and this is no different. For the fishballs you can easily use whatever fish you want, sometimes Oddny will mix white fish with salmon, salt fish or trout. Or you could switch out the breadcrumbs for flour, and add different herbs to taste.

  • 400-500g coley and cod (depending how generous you feel) 
  • 3 tbsps breadcrumbs (approx)
  • 1-2 eggs 
  • cream 
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • pinch white pepper 
  • dill to taste 
  • chives to taste 
  1. Defrost the fish and mix all the ingredients in a blender until coarse in texture. 
  2. Form into balls and fry in a pan with butter.
  3. And you're done!

Serve with mash and jam or slightly steamed vegetables with remuladi.


At Öskubox, the fiskibollur are often served with a brown meatball sauce. This simple sauce can be made using leftover gravy from a Sunday roast, just add a touch of sour cream, 1-2 tsp of conflour and 1-2 tsp of redcurrant jelly for a great brown sauce to accompany your fiskibollur.


Find Öskubox in the Nordic Larder spot at SCFood Market on the following dates in August: Friday 4 – Sunday 6, Friday 11 – Sunday 13 and Friday 18 – Monday 28.

Part of Nordic Matters

Women of the World 2017

Leading female voices join thousands of women at WOW Festival 2017

Leading female voices join thousands of women at Wow – Women Of The World Festival 2017 to call for swifter change.

Download press release

Following a year of change and political upheaval across the globe, with a questioning of women’s roles and rights, famous female artists, writers and activists including Gillian Anderson, Angela Davis, Sandi Toksvig, Jennifer Nadel, Catherine Mayer, Elif Şafak, Fatima Manji, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Gemma Cairney, Margaret Hodge MP, Harriet Harman MP, Baroness Jenkin, and Bettany Hughes are uniting to call for solutions to modern societal challenges for women.

In the return of Southbank Centre’s annual flagship festival WOW – W omen of the World, supported by Bloomberg, female stars will join t housands of women and girls, politicians, business leaders, artists, activists and refugees from across the UK, and the globe, to celebrate women and girls and explore together the paths to a gender equal world.

WOW – Women of the World takes place from Tuesday 7 – Sunday 12 March 2017 and asks what Trump, Brexit and beyond mean for women. It celebrates everything that women and girls have done, and will do in the future, whilst taking a candid look at wide-ranging issues that prevent them from achieving their potential: from violence against women and girls, ageism, to “locker-room talk” and everyday sexism in the UK and across the world. It tackles subjects such as alcoholism, rape, toilets, intersectionality, the role of men in gender equality, refugees, and criminal justice, alongside live music, comedy, dance classes, workshops, and performance. The festival also sees a celebration of the Nordic nations, as part of Southbank Centre’s year of Nordi c programming Nordic Matters, and explores the social learnings of these countries that consistently top the gender equality indexes.

Founder of WOW festival, Southbank Centre Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE said: “Events of the past year have shown that, despite great strides by the feminist movement, the world still speaks a largely male language. More than ever, we must keep up the fight for gender equality and look at the far-reaching implications of the current political climate on our women and girls – from the localised to the global. We take the opportunity to hone in on women in politics, and the achievements of older women, a subject too often overlooked. We also look to the Nordic nations, who have long been seen as leaders in advocating gender equality, investigating the impact of their approach, a nd what we can learn from each other.”

Launched by Southbank Centre in 2010, WOW is now a global movement, with international WOW festivals reaching over one million people across five continents, and growing year on year. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016. This year’s festival once again marks International Women’s D ay on 8 March and coincides with the first WOW Hull, part o f Hull UK City of Culture 2017, and the first WOW Finland.

Highlights of WOW 2017 include powerful new calls for change. Co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer laun ches her new book, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Women, in conversation with Sandi Toksvig. This looks at why no single country or culture has yet achieved parity and whether we will ever live in a gender equal world (Tuesday 7 March). Actress, writ er and activist Gillian Anderson ( The Fall, The X-Files) and broadcaster, writer and activist Jennifer Nadel also launch their new book WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, an inspiring and provocative manifesto for change, proposing a vision for a different, fairer and more fulfilling way of living (Friday 10 March). Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, TV and radio personality, journalist and teen ambassador Gemma Cairney talks about her publishing debut O PEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be; and Harriet Harman, one of Britain’s most prominent campaigning politicians, will discuss her groundbreaking memoir A Woman’s Work, a rare political autobiography by a woman about the last 30 years in British politics, and of a life dedicated to fighting for equality and respect for women (Saturday 11 March).

WOW also welcomes prominent American activist, scholar and author Angela Davis, who has been at the forefront of movements for economic, racial, and gender justice over many decades (Saturday 11 March).

WOW – Women of the World highlights

  • Over 200 events across six days, including talks, debates, live music, comedy, workshops, the smash-hit WOW Speed Mentoring and WOW Market – a range of stalls providing information, raising awareness, and showcasing work, craft and fashion
  • What Does Brexit Mean for Women? – a debate on the pros and cons of the referendum result with leading UK political voices (Friday 10 March)
  • Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics – women including Margaret Hodge MP and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington talk about their careers and experiences in politics, the double standards displayed in the portrayal of male and female politicians, and the force of older women in campaigning and party politics (Friday 10 March)
  • Women on the Move Awards support the contribution of migrant and refugee women to UK society, and the stories of refugee women are featured throughout WOW
  • A Nordic focus throughout the festival covers topics such as: what we can learn from Nordic parenting; the Nordic approach to prostitution and its legal framework, Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and its objectives: and comparing how rape and sexual assault are dealt with by criminal justice systems in the UK and in the Nordic countries
  • Turkish author Elif Şafak and historian Bettany Hughes discuss Istanbul, how women have shaped the city, and the lives of women living there today (Sunday 12 March)
  • Comedian and #periodpositive campaign founder Chella Quint breaks taboos around ,menstruation in her one-woman show Adventures in Menstruating (Saturday 11 March)
  • Under 10s Feminist Corner brings young boys and girls together for an interactive workshop on what it means to be a girl and how to start a campaign in your bedroom (Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 March)
  • Journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge presents an exclusive extract from her forthcoming book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, on the frustrations, discomfort and social implications of talking about race (Saturday 11 March)
  • Channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji talks about Muslim women and the media, and her own experiences of prejudice (Saturday 11 March)
  • Writers Paula Varjack, Jules Grant and Michelle Tea are highlights of this year’s Polari – a platform for LGBT writers returning with a women’s special hosted by author and journalist Paul Burston (Wednesday 8 March)
  • Mirth Control – WOW’s annual night of comedy and music inspired by great women returns with a nod to our Nordic neighbours, hosted by Sandi Toksvig (Sunday 12 March)
  • Des James – father of Private Cheryl James whose tragic death at Deepcut barracks revealed a deeply misogynistic environment – talks about his long battle for justice and use of the Human Rights Act for his daughter with lawyer Emma Norton and Director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier (Saturday 11 March)
  • Sessions to empower women in the world of technology, from discussions featuring the women making up 14.4% of the STEM industry, to free crash courses on app building, digital literacy and practical tools for online safety, with expert guidance from UK Government advisor and founder of #techmums Dr Sue Black OBE, Dr Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, former particle physicist, discoverer of the Higgs Boson and co-founder of start up NaturalCycles, and Silkie Carlo, Policy Officer at Liberty
  • An abundance of free activities including a Friday Lunch concert featuring singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya (Friday 10 March)

WOW 2017 would not be possible without the support of its generous sponsor Bloomberg.


For further press information please contact the Southbank Centre press office

WOW Day Passes (£22) and WOW 3-Day Pass (£50)- please note some events at WOW are separately ticketed and cannot be accessed as part of the Day Pass.

Please refer to the website for ticketing information on standalone events.

Events go on sale to Southbank Centre members on Thursday 15 December and to the general public on Friday 16 December.

Tickets for Angela Davis will go on sale 17 January 2017.

WOW panel highlights

Friday 10 March

  • What Does Brexit Mean for Women? – a debate on the pros and cons of the referendum result with leading UK political voices
  • Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics – women with long political careers talk about their experiences, the double standards displayed in the portrayal of male and female politicians, and the force of older women in campaigning and party politics
  • Women & Pensions – in the wake of the increased state pension age for women and the impact on women born in the 1950s, a discussion about gender-based pension inequalities what how women can protect themselves
  • The Nordic Model – a discussion on the challenges, controversies and benefits of the ‘Nordic Model’ (Sex Buyer Law) which makes it illegal to buy ‘sexual services’ but not to sell them
  • Guilty Until Proven Innocent – a session on rape, sexual assault and the UK justice system, looking at models in countries such as Sweden and Iceland, to consider what systems would serve UK women better
  • One Planet, Double Standards: Women, Climate Change and Equality – a panel debate from women at the forefront of climate change to find out what role gender has to play in actioning change
  • Please Sir, Can I Have Some More – an interactive and practical session on how to know your worth and get a payrise
  • The Great Imposter – a session exploring how ‘imposter syndrome’ is connected to gender inequality, providing tools to overcome it
  • International Activism – a discussion led by international activists about how to turn local activism into global solidarity
  • Crash and Burn – a discussion around women’s experience of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness, looking at how women deal with crisis and survival

Saturday 11 March

  • Disability, Women and Taking Action – speakers including activist Lydia X Z Brown discuss why disability is so often left out of conversations about intersectionality and marginalised by much of the women’s rights movement
  • Childcare Utopia: What Can We Learn from Nordic Parenting? – a discussion about the policies which put Nordic countries at the forefront of childcare and if these could work in other contexts e.g. Finland’s famous baby box and Sweden’s generous shared parental leave
  • Women Crossing Borders – a chance to meet the real women behind the headlines about refugees and migrants, asking why women flee their home countries and make life-threatening journeys to unknown futures
  • Teens Talk Back – a panel of teenage girls discuss feminism, their opinion of it, and that of their peers
  • Badass Lesbians from History – a celebration of overlooked lesbian women from history
  • WOW Bites featuring Maria Munir (who came out as non-binary to President Obama), Edie Jones, a 15-year-old student challenging gender equality in the curriculum, Emma Beeson and Elise Bevan, clinical negligence lawyers, Peter Tai Christensen on how the Swedish Mansplaining hotline caused a domestic stir and went on to take the international media by storm, and Gynelle Leon, who quit her city job to start PRICK, London’s first ever cactus shop

Sunday 12 March

  • The World Remains Silent: Yazidi Women and Girls - campaigners and activists tell of the current situation for Yazidi women and girls, and how government and individuals can help
  • Potty Parity – a session explaining why you should give a sh*t about toilets, and the devastating effect toilet facilities can have on women and girls across the world
  • Old Age is For The Brave – a panel of experts discuss the realities of ageing and look at loneliness, health and austerity.
  • BBW (*Big Beautiful Women) – speakers including columnist Callie Thorpe, plus-size blogger Stephanie Yeboah and journalist Anita Bhagwandas discuss the media’s negative attitude to fat women and how fat activists and plus-size bloggers are changing the landscape.
  • We Need to Talk About Alcohol – an investigation into the drinking habits of British women, 50% of whom drink too much according to World Health Organisation
  • Ending Violence Against Women and Girls – a debate about how to change attitudes towards one of the most common abuses of human rights, what prevention methods work, and
  • what don’t
  • Badass Feminists from History – a celebration of overlooked heroines
  • No Country for Young Women – a talk outlining the financial and safety concerns for young women in the UK

Notes to editors

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, comprising three iconic buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) and occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Building on this rich heritage, Southbank Centre offers an extensive artistic and cultural programme including annual and one-off themed festivals and classical and contemporary music, performance, dance, visual art and literature and spoken word events throughout the year.

Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival is a global festival movement launched by Jude Kelly CBE in London in 2010 (with the first festival in March 2011) that celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. To date, WOW has reached over one million people worldwide and this number is growing year on year. With the HRH Duchess of Cornwall as President, Southbank Centre is now planning a WOW Commonwealth festival at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 with all 53 nations. Each festival across the world - made up of talks, debates, music, activism, mentoring, pop ups and performance - celebrates women and girls, takes a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, and raises awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. It reaches girls and women, boys and men from a broad range of social backgrounds and supplies a completely different sense of action and energy than a conventional conference approach. Speakers have included Malala Yousafzai, Christine Lagarde, Salma Hayek, Annie Lennox, Gordon Brown, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and many more including hundreds of women and men who don’t have public profiles but are working everyday to achieve gender equality. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016, thousands more have come to WOWs across the world and festival organisers have collaborated on cross-continental projects. 

WOW 2017 festivals around the world

  • 18 February – WOW Kathmandu
  • 7 – 12 March – WOW London, UK #WOWLDN @WOWtweetUK Facebook
  • 8 – 12 March – WOW Finland #WOWFIN @wow_finland Facebook
  • 10 – 12 March – WOW Hull, UK
  • 23 – 25 March – WOW Melbourne, Australia
  • 4 – 7 May – WOW Apollo, New York, USA - #WOWApollo
  • 20 – 21 May – WOW Chester, UK


Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately – is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength: leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation, corporate and personal giving, supports arts and culture, education, environment, sustainability and public health charities and non-profit organisations around the world. Bloomberg's support of Women of the World builds on a long history of collaboration across Southbank Centre that encompasses a wide range of arts exhibition, public commissions and literature programmes.

For more information on Bloomberg, visit

For more information on Bloomberg Philanthropies, visit

About Nordic Matters

Nordic Matters is a year-long festival of Nordic art and culture in 2017 at London's Southbank Centre, featuring music, dance, theatre, visual arts, participation, talks and debates, and gastronomy. Chosen from a number of international applicants, Southbank Centre is the sole recipient of a grant from The Nordic Council of Ministers for a new festival celebrating the very best of Nordic art and culture throughout 2017 – one of the biggest cultural-political partnerships of its kind. A particular emphasis will be placed on the idea of play fostering curiosity and creativity, for people of all ages but especially children and young people. Moving beyond popular perceptions of ‘Nordic Noir’ the programme is designed to embed Nordic culture and artists in Southbank Centre’s year-long artistic offer and offer a platform to some of the more ‘hidden voices’ from Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands.

About The Nordic Council of Ministers

The Nordic Council of Ministers is the official inter governmental body for co operation in the Nordic Region. The Council brings together representatives of the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Norway Finland and Iceland, as well as the three autonomous areas, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands. The Presidency of the Nordic Council rotates between the five Nordic countries and is currently held by Finland. In 2017 Norway will hold the Presidency.

Changing Minds

Find Your Meaning