Our story

Since being founded in 1951, Southbank Centre has grown to become the world’s largest festival site, acclaimed for diverse and groundbreaking programming.

The festival spirit is the very heart of Southbank Centre and inspires everything that we do. Born out of the Festival of Britain in 1951, we are proud to be the UK’s only permanent festival site. We believe that the positive and welcoming nature of festivals can help break down barriers in people for whom art and culture may seem irrelevant or daunting. Through our festivals we bring diverse people and communities together to celebrate, discuss, debate and unite. 

Our artists and performers

We work with some of the most important and influential artists and partners from around the world – including our outstanding resident orchestras – to deliver a programme that celebrates the diverse experiences of people and cultures. We have a network of world-class artists from every genre who regard Southbank Centre as their home and who share in our values and help us to deliver our goals. 

our mission

It is our belief that art has the power to help change society for the better and that art must be available to the many and not just the few. For these reasons we present as many free activities as possible so that young and old alike can 'bump into art' and then determine to make it part of their lives.

Southbank Centre learning

Our educational and participatory programmes use culture as a way to inspire learning, understanding and tolerance. Our Festival Arts School provides a unique educational offer to thousands of schools, young people and adults to immerse themselves in imaginative creative learning programmes all year round.

Regional and international partnerships

We have a number of regional and international partnerships, working with arts organisations across the country and over six continents to showcase our festivals, including WOW – Women of the World and Alchemy; exhibitions run by Hayward Touring and the Arts Council Collection; and touring shows including 2001: A Space Odyssey set to a live orchestral score.

Commercial activity

We offer a stimulating and professional environment in which to help our partners thrive and our audiences enjoy our work. Our entrepreneurial drive supports our artistic ambition through the sensitive integration of commercial activity across our site. Looking to the future, our ambition and vision expands nationally and internationally, and we want to touch those further away with our festivals, Hayward exhibitions and touring programme.