30 years of the International Piano Series remembered

The 2018/19 season marks the 30th anniversary of the International Piano Series. From its earliest beginnings with two recitals by Maurizio Pollini, the Series has become synonymous with showcasing the talents of the grand masters alongside the best of a current generation of rising stars. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we spoke to leading figures of the International Piano Series about their most memorable stories from behind-the-scenes.

Nervous performers

Susan Rivers (Coordinator and Concert Manager, 1994 – 2001): ‘My most worrying moment was when a greatly revered but known to be nervous pianist was threatening not to turn up for his concert in Queen Elizabeth Hall. He was fine in the morning rehearsal but when he returned home the fear of performing to a London audience obviously hit him badly. His manager spoke to him on the phone and eventually had to go round to his home to coax him out. Meanwhile, the audience were arriving and I had to inform the house manager of the real possibility that the concert may have to be cancelled. Just at the point, we were agreeing what I announcement I should make to the audience, the artist’s manager tapped me on the shoulder to say he was backstage. I thought “phew, what a relief!”’

Managing artists

Tracy Lees (Associate Director, 2001 – present): ‘Back in the early 2000s at Southbank Centre you had to go all the way to the shops near Waterloo station to buy emergency provisions. I remember one recital which had a lot of extra technical work. We were really pushed for time, rehearsing up until the last minute with no time for breaks. About 10 minutes before the recital was due to start, the pianist said she really needed some fruit – maybe a banana... There was no time or nowhere on site to buy fruit. Then I remembered that I actually had a banana in my handbag left over from my lunch which I produced with a flourish!  She was pretty surprised and it was definitely a “being in the right place, at the right time” moment.’

Kaarina Meyer (Associate Director of Tours and Projects, 1989 – 2000): ‘Although I took on the planning of the series, my predecessor Jane Gray was still there at every recital, making sure all was well backstage; the piano ready and the artist happy. Some of her “duties” included holding a lighted cigarette off stage which one or two heavy smokers would take a puff of in between pieces! Can you imagine such a thing today?’

Maurizio Pollini 

SR: ‘One of my highlights had to be the chronological performance of the complete Beethoven Sonatas by Pollini over seven concerts during the 1996/97 season.  We followed their journey through this illustrious repertoire with bated breath, assisting the Maestro with a seemingly endless supply of espresso coffee! The Royal Festival Hall concerts were completely sold out  – standing room only  – and the last performance resulted in an instant standing ovation, a simply unforgettable occasion.’

Nick Breckenfield (UK Promotions Manager, working with SR, 1994 – 98): [continuing on from SR] ‘Very late in the day, we learned that Pollini was not including the two small Op. 49 sonatas. Nick Marston, who had written an introductory article for the programme that had been entitled “Composing the 32”, had to do a very quick rewrite as it would have looked odd with only 30 sonatas on offer. I’m glad to say that Pollini has since recorded the two Op. 49 sonatas.’

Inventive technicians 

TL: ‘We had a famous Russian pianist performing and I was expecting him in the morning. I was waiting for hours and finally received a message that he was coming “in the afternoon”.  He finally turned up at 5.30pm, played a few notes, muttered something disgruntled to Peter Salisbury, the piano technician, and wandered off. He came back a bit later, played a few more notes and declared he was satisfied. I asked Peter what he had done – he’d put cardboard under the hammers! Anyway, it seemed to work. Another mystery in the art of piano tuning…’

Old-style marketing

KM: ‘Before the Internet, we relied on printed leaflets and brochures, and listings in the press to promote our concerts. Old concert marketing materials and programmes were printed in one colour only and looking at them now they seem deadly dull. It’s a wonder anyone was inspired to attend! But music lovers will always find their fix.’

The IPS audience

NB: ‘Over the years I have always been amazed by the kindness and friendliness of regular audiences who always liked to chat after recitals. I know some of them are no longer with us either, but every IPS recital I go to I remember them. Without them, there wouldn’t be an International Piano Series.’



International Piano Series continues in 2018/19, culminating in a weekend dedicated to the music of Stockhausen, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich. Take a look at the full list of upcoming recitals, now.

see concert listings

Think Aloud podcast series

Think Aloud is where you will hear some of the biggest and most influential names in modern literature, art, music and performance share their stories, thoughts and ideas. Each month presenter Harriet Fitch Little is joined in conversation by the people shaping arts and culture today.

Every 27 September

Every day at Southbank Centre, since 3 May 1951, we have made plans, booked artists, put on performances and created unforgettable experiences for audiences. And, for each and every one of those days, we have kept a record.

This means that choosing any date at random to explore the last 67 years, you can uncover the workings behind the UK’s largest arts centre. There is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about 27 September, but this look back through our records for that date over the years, give a snapshot of the planning that goes into each and every event that takes place here at Southbank Centre. Events, some of you may have been with us to enjoy.

Simply click on an image below to find out more about it.

Ravi Shankar, programme, 1968
A programme for Ravi Shankar at Royal Festival Hall, 27 September 1968
Ravi Shankar, programme, 1968
This is the cover of the programme for ‘Ravi Shankar’s Festival From India’ in our Royal Festival Hall, 27 September 1968. The event was a showcase of Indian music featuring several brilliant musicians whom Shankar had brought over from India for this tour, including Shivkumar Sharma (santoor), Sabri Khan (sarangi), Sharad Kumar (shehnai), Palghat Raghu (mridangam), Jitendra Abhisheki and Lakshmi Shankar (vocals). This was Ravi Shankar's 11th Royal Festival Hall performance, having made his debut here with us on 4 October 1958. By the mid 1960s, following relentless touring and a series of classic records and film scores, Ravi Shankar had come to embody Indian culture in the West. [Image credit: Shankar Presentations Ltd.]
Nina Simone, flyer, 1988
A flyer for Nina Simone at Royal Festival Hall, 27 September 1988
Nina Simone, flyer, 1988
On 27 September 1988, ‘the High Priestess of Soul’, the legendary singer songwriter and piano player Nina Simone took to our Royal Festival Hall stage. Simone was a frequent visitor to London in the 1980s, performing regularly at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, where she recorded the 1984 album Live at Ronnie Scott’s. Her special guest for this performance was a fellow Ronnie Scott’s regular, the Liverpudlian jazz singer and songwriter Thomas Lang.
Days of Finnish Music Making, programme, 1975
A programme for the Finnish Music Making festival, 21-28 September 1975
Days of Finnish Music Making, programme, 1975
Taking place across our three main concert venues, Days of Finnish Music Making lasted for a full week in late September 1975. For our date of 27 September the programme includes details of a Finnish Jazz Workshop in Queen Elizabeth Hall, led by the pianist and composer Heikki Sarmanto, and a performance from the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir in Purcell Room.
Southbank Centre lettings diary, 1988
A page from our 1988-89 lettings diary, detailing 26 September - 2 October 1988
Southbank Centre lettings diary, 1988
You're probably wondering, 'what’s a lettings diary?' Well, kept in the planning office, lettings diaries recorded details of activities and events booked in each of our venues. Each event would be literally ‘pencilled in’, then overwritten in pen, and ticked after they had been confirmed. Although the 1980s diary information looks complex, there were fewer events at that time (around 1,200 each year, compared with more than 3,500 during 2017/18) and bookings were limited to indoor venues. Now, any location across the site is a potential performance space. Entries for 27 September 1988 include rehearsals for Parker-Smith (8.30-13.00) and London Philharmonic Orchestra (14.00-17.00) in the Royal Festival Hall. There is a Mozart Bicentenary meeting in the Waterloo Bar at 11.00, whilst over in the Queen Elizabeth Hall there is a piano being tuned (9.15-12.15), the pianist Melvyn Tan is bringing in a fortepiano (13.10) and a concert from the Budapest Wind Ensemble (19.45).
Visitor inspecting documents in the archive
T.E. Bean, Royal Festival Hall General Manager, 1951
The Royal Festival Hall General Manager, at work in 1951
Visitor inspecting documents in the archive
T.E. Bean, Royal Festival Hall General Manager, 1951
T.E. Bean, was the first General Manager of the Royal Festival Hall, having previously managed the Halle Orchestra. He is pictured here in 1951 in front of the venue’s wall-mounted event booking system which was in use until the late 1980s. The system involved colour-coded cards for orchestras and promoters being slotted into the boards to allocate concert dates and avoid programme clashes.
London Philharmonic Orchestra, contract, 1953
A contract for 23 concert performances from London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Philharmonic Orchestra, contract, 1953
On 27 September 1953, the London Philharmonic Orchestra were in the final rehearsals ahead of a run of 23 Royal Festival Hall concerts, beginning on 30 September and running on to 3 June 1954. The concert dates are listed on this contract to let the hall, which was signed on 4 May 1953.
Southbank Centre attendance book, 1968
The attendance book for our main venues, detailing September 1968
Southbank Centre attendance book, 1968
This attendance book for our three main venue spaces  - Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room - actually spans January 1957 to June 1970, but we’ve picked out this page from September 1968. Each page details the number of tickets sold for each concert, and the number of complimentary tickets. On 27 September Ravi Shankar’s performance packed out Royal Festival Hall with 2,925 tickets sold, including 118 complimentary tickets. On the same night we also hosted the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra in Queen Elizabeth Hall in front of a slightly more modest crowd of 361, 85 of whom received complimentary tickets.
Burl Ives, programme, 1953
Programme for Burl Ives concert at Royal Festival Hall on 27 September, 1953
Burl Ives, programme, 1953
Pictured here are the inside pages of the programme produced for a concert by the American folk singer and actor Burl Ives at Royal Festival Hall on 27 September, 1953. The pages detail Ives setlist, and as you can hopefully make out, have been annotated with handwritten timings for each of the songs in the performance.
Writer and musician George Melly welcomes the millionth visitors to Royal Festival Hall
George Melly, 1982
George Melly welcomes the millionth Royal Festival Hall visitor in 1982
Writer and musician George Melly welcomes the millionth visitors to Royal Festival Hall
George Melly, 1982
The unmistakable figure of writer and musician George Melly stands in front of a Greater London Council display board as he welcomes the 1,000,000th visitor to the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Unfortunately we are none the wiser as to who the two people pictured with Melly are, nor which of them is the 1,000,000th visitor. Perhaps you know them. Perhaps it’s you. If so we would love to hear from you.

Think Aloud podcast - Ask a Curator Day

Ask the curators: the stresses and secrets of programming by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

In the fourth edition of Think Aloud, we join the #AskACuratorDay celebrations to find out about some of the most surprising, challenging and moving things that go on behind the scenes for the people pulling together our artistic programme.

Our regular host, arts and culture journalist Harriet Fitch-Little, is joined by: Bengi Unsal,  Senior Contemporary Music Programmer; Debo Amon, Literature Programmer; Rupert Thomson, Senior Programmer Performance & Dance and Jessica Cerasi, art curator and author of Who's Afraid of Contempoprary Art?

Tune in now to find out what career moments have moved them to tears and why a contemporary art curator would need to be an expert in the life cylcle of the silk worm, amongst other things.

You do get some hilarious tech riders - we've got a show coming up with a full sized stuffed horse and also one with a live dog that will be brought in from New York via Paris
Rupert Thomson, Senior Programmer Performance & Dance

Don’t forget to subscribe to Think Aloud on your preferred podcast listening platform.

In conversation with Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson

In conversation: Víkingur Ólafsson

Visionary and pioneering Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been described as everything from 'daring and unique' to 'Iceland's Glenn Gould'. We were lucky enough to have the hugely talented muscian join us as part of our International Piano Series in Autumn 2017.

Ahead of his performance at Southbank Centre, Olafsson sat down with us for a pre-concert talk in which he discussed how he prepares for performances, of playing Bach and Chopin, and his own rare condition known as synesthesia, which means he associates colours with pitch.

I have this thing from when I was five or six years old… I have perfect pitch or absolute hearing, so when I would think about F minor that would be blue for me, A major would be yellow, B major is purple
Víkingur Ólafsson

Hear more from great pianists in 2018 with our International Piano Series, which runs until June.

International Piano Series

Backstage with M.I.A. at Meltdown

M.I.A. backstage at Meltdown

Go behind the scenes at Meltdown, with an exclusive video of M.I.A. as the curator of this year’s festival gets ready to perform her own headline set. 

M.I.A. closes her own-curated Meltdown Festival with a tightly executed, gapless run of career hits that is quite simply incredible.
Stuart Stubbs, Loud and Quiet

Meltdown was the perfect festival for M.I.A.’ wrote Sam Wolfson in The Guardian, and it’s easy to see why. An artist who has always sought to push limits and test boundaries, she has, over the course of Meltdown’s ten days, pushed queer-rap and French afro-trap from music’s margins into Southbank Centre’s sizable spotlights, and brought Grime to a stage more familiar with Grieg.


Performing in front, behind and occasionally on top of a giant set of prison bars, the show encompassed MIA’s decade of agit-pop, with images of unrest and incarceration flashing behind her.
Sam Wolfson, The Guardian

On Sunday 18 June, M.I.A. brought Meltdown to a spectacular end with a show that, like the festival, was distinctly hers. This video takes you backstage at Southbank Centre ahead of that performance, into the corridors and dressing rooms of Royal Festival Hall, as M.I.A. and her dancers get ready to perform their set.

Her lyrics are a direct confrontation to the matters she cares about most, whether it be the Syrian refugee crisis, or the recent tragedy of the fire in Grenfell Tower in London, and is felt clearly. MIA is relevant as much today as she was with her ground-breaking debut, Arular.
Selina Begum, The Upcoming

An artist who has often been caricatured as feisty, testy even, by interviewers and media commentators, this exclusive footage gives a welcome chance to break that down and see M.I.A. straight-up. The artist at ease in her own space as she jokes with her support crew before taking to the Southbank Centre stage.

If ‘AIM’ really is the end, M.I.A. leaves more than Meltdown in better shape than she found it… We’re going to miss her more than we probably think.
Stuart Stubbs, Loud and Quiet

Video courtesy of Adriano Vilanova Smith and George Cullen

What the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden means to its volunteer gardeners

Meet Pluto, one of the many volunteer gardeners who, with Providence Row and Grounded Ecotherapy, maintain our Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden.

Created in 2011 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, the Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall has, since its inception, been looked after by volunteers who have previously experienced homelessness, addiction or mental health problems.

The volunteering programme aims to provide support and opportunities for both personal and professional development, and is coordinated by Providence Row, a London homeless charity, and Grounded Ecotherapy, who provide therapy through horticulture for people who have lived through addiction or homelessness.

Pluto has been volunteering in our garden since the summer of 2016, after being introduced to the programme by a friend who works for Providence Row. He kindly took a break during a busy week of planting to talk to us about the impact the Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth has had on his life.

Volunteer gardeners - container steps

What prompted you to start working in Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden?

I started last summer. I suffer from depression, and during last year I had about five people that I was really close to pass away, so I needed to get out the house and stop staring at the walls.

And does gardening help?

Oh yeah it’s great, and you get your hands dirty. I’ve been feeling better because I get the chance to come down here and do some gardening. If I haven’t got appointments, then I’m up at eight o’clock in the morning and I’m raring to go.

How would you describe Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall to someone who didn’t know anything about it?

The garden is very therapeutic. There are a lot of plants, a lot of birds, like that one there. [Pluto points to a bird on a nearby branch] She’s back again, she’s singing to us. She has a nest just up there.

Finished flower bed on the Southbank Centre container steps

Do you have a favourite part of the garden that you’ve worked on?

Well I’m doing the planting on the container stairs, that lead down to Southbank Centre Square, at the moment. I did all the planting yesterday. As soon as I planted the purple, yellow and red flowers, the bees came and pollinated the flowers and it was like, ‘wow, brilliant.’

Does volunteering here give you a sense of achievement?

Yes it does. It’s really fulfilling, in knowing that you’ve done something for the environment and it makes the place look good. I’ve made some good friends too, and I’m learning a few things as well.

Do you feel that volunteering here in the garden can help you in the future?

The skills I’ve gained in the garden will help me to get up and get out early in the morning. And the experience I get here is helping to keep my mind occupied too.

The Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall is open throughout the summer from 10am to 10pm daily.

support the Roof Garden

Your donations help Pluto and his fellow volunteers to keep getting up early in the morning, getting their fingers dirty, and keep our garden looking beautiful.

Southbank Centre Chief Executive Alan Bishop to retire after eight years

Alan Bishop has announced that he is to retire next year after eight years as Chief Executive of Southbank Centre.

Download the press release

The process to recruit a new CEO has begun and Mr Bishop will remain in post until his successor has been appointed.

During his tenure Alan Bishop has worked together with Artistic Director Jude Kelly to bring thousands of world class performers across art, music, literature, dance and performance to Southbank Centre every year and to increase the annual number of visitors to 5.1m. He has overseen the growth of Southbank Centre’s global and UK touring programmes, with productions, exhibitions and festivals reaching six continents and 37 cities across the UK.

Alan’s careful balancing of Arts Council funding and ticketing revenue with commercial and sponsorship income has enabled Southbank Centre to offer 50% of its artistic programme for free and supplemented its growing participation programme to give people across all ages and backgrounds access to the arts.

Alan has recently overseen the start of Southbank Centre’s major £30m scheme to refurbish the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hayward Gallery and Purcell Room which is due to be completed in early 2018. He was also instrumental in driving the 2011 campaign to restore the 7,866 pipe main organ in the Royal Festival Hall – acclaimed as one of the most important in the UK.

Susan Gilchrist, Chairman of the Board of Governors, said:
“Under Alan Bishop’s leadership, Southbank Centre has truly flourished. Alan has overseen significant improvements in how the organisation operates and demonstrated an entrepreneurial approach in order to diversify the Centre’s income model thereby reducing our reliance on public subsidy. Alan’s dedication to the improvement of the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall will ensure that part of his legacy will be to have secured these much loved buildings as centres of artistic excellence for generations to come. I would like to thank Alan for his tremendous work over the past eight years and wish him every success for the future. The Governors are delighted that Alan has agreed to remain in post until a successor is found.”

Alan Bishop, CEO, Southbank Centre, said:
"After eight extraordinary years as Chief Executive of this special place, I am retiring to find out if my family want to spend more time with me. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with Jude Kelly and the wonderful team who have brought every part of this site alive with all its festivals for all the arts for all the people. I will miss everyone here enorm ously and wish them every success for the future."

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said:
“Alan and I have enjoyed a special and close working relationship strengthened by our shared belief that great art should be available to the many and not the few. One of his many strengths is his understanding and latitude when faced with the unpredictability of the artistic world; in that arena alone he has been the perfect CEO for any artistic director. And his commitment and dedication to Southbank Centre has helped to ensure that he leaves the organisation in a resilient position to face the future.”

The recruitment process is expected to be concluded by late 2017. 

# ENDS #

For further press information and images please contact:

Chris Denton, Director of Communications, 0207 921 0901
Isabella Sharp, Senior Manager, External Affairs, 0207 921 0967 / 07912 040547

Notes to editors 

About Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, 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. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection.

Southbank Centre is carrying out vital restoration work on the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room to make the buildings fit for future generations to enjoy, more information can be found here:

Southbank Centre Tours

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Royal Festival Hall becomes the permanent home to The Poetry Library

The Poetry Library at London's Royal Festival Hall will become the permanent home to the world’s largest public collection of modern poetry, as Arts Council England formally transfers ownership to Southbank Centre in recognition of its long term development and care of the collection.

Download the press release

  • The new ownership coincides with a major new digitisation project, funded by Arts Council England
  • In celebration, The Poetry Library has commissioned poet Hannah Silva to write a new piece, to be performed at Southbank Centre's London Literature Festival on National Poetry Day (6 October), and broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s the Verb

On National Poetry Day (Thursday 6 October) The Poetry Library at Southbank Centre announces a new lease of life. The library was established by Arts Council England in 1953 and after numerous homes around London came to its present home at Southbank Centre in 1988. During this time the library has grown to become the largest public collection of modern and contemporary poetry in the world and is open for all to enjoy for free its extensive collection of over 150,000 items.

After a successful 28 years at Southbank Centre, Arts Council England is formally transferring the collection to Southbank Centre ownership. The arts centre's ethos in providing art for all will ensure that the collection continues to be enjoyed by its regular visitors and its many newcomers over the years ahead.

To mark this transition, with the support of Arts Council England, The Poetry Library will make many of its special collections available digitally as its holdings across audio, posters, postcards, press cuttings and images of poets are transformed from print and analogue into digital versions. These unique collections will become the core of the library's future website which will give further access to poetry wherever you are in the world. The Poetry Library  website will begin to house some of its newly-digitised items by National Poetry Day 2017, and a new website with poetry at its core is planned for March 2018.

To celebrate this exciting news The Poetry Library has commissioned poet Hannah Silva to write a new piece which she will perform on The Clore Ballroom at 4pm on National Poetry Day (Thursday 6 October) - part of the celebrations for National Poetry Day Live 2016. Hannah’s performance will be recorded for a special edition of BBC Radio 3's The Verb to be broadcast the following day, Friday 7 October, 10pm.

Chris McCabe, Poetry Librarian, Southbank Centre, said: “The creation of The Poetry Library by the Arts Council in 1953 was an such an incredibly forward-looking idea which has long been embraced by Southbank Centre’s vision in reaching people across the arts. After nearly three decades of its life in the Royal Festival Hall it feels like the right moment for Southbank Centre to take ownership of this rich and ever-growing collection of poetry. There is lots to look forward to in the years ahead, not least of which will be seeing its collections given a new lease of life in the digital age. It’s very exciting to think of some of the library’s most hidden collections being opened up to new generations of poetry-lovers who can access them on their laptops, tablets and phones. And of course the library will continue to offer its borrowing services from its growing collections and to engage audiences through its regular events and exhibitions.”

Scott Furlong, Director, Collections and Cultural Property, Arts Council England, said: “The Poetry Collection is a unique and wonderful source of inspiration, pleasure and knowledge and has flourished in its home at the Southbank Centre since 1988. We are delighted to confirm the transfer of the collection which we believe will ensure that it is developed and cared for to the highest standards for the long-term public benefit. We are excited by the Southbank Centre’s plans to open up digital access to the collection and are confident that The Poetry Library will continue to go from strength to strength as a treasured public resource.”

National Poetry Day Live (6 October)

Presented by Southbank Centre and The Poetry Society, National Poetry Day Live features readings from Mercury Prize-winning artist PJ Harvey and live drawing from Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. The annual free celebration of the UK’s thriving poetry scene is part of Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival (5 - 16 October) and features a packed programme of live performances by top poets and free activities for the public. Hosted by Inua Ellams and Indigo Williams, this year’s event features readings, activities and performances on the theme of ‘messages’. The line-up includes poets Rob Auton, Salena Godden, Keaton Henson, Luke Kennard, Fran Lock, Hannah Lowe, John Lyons, Sabrina Mahfouz, Ian McMillan, Simon Mole, Cheryl Moskowitz and Hannah Silva.

For more information about The Poetry Library, please visit: 

# ENDS #
For further press information please contact:

Naomi Burgoyne, Senior Press Manager, Southbank Centre: / 0207 921 0824

For London Literature Festival press enquires, please contact:

Louise Gilbert, Press Manager: / 0207 921 0780 
Naomi French, Press Officer: / 0207 921 0678

Notes to editors

About Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, 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. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection.

Let the Light In

In September 2015, our iconic Brutalist arts venues Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery closed their doors for two years so we could give them the essential refurbishment they deserve. Renowned for their architectural significance, the buildings are most importantly recognised for the exceptional performances and exhibitions that have happened in them since they first opened nearly 50 years ago. The £25 million refurbishment project has been funded by Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and through the generous support of Southbank Centre friends. We launched the Let The Light In campaign to raise £3.9 million and have just £1.9 million left to raise so we can transform these buildings for the reopening in 2018 and for future generations to enjoy. For more information, visit:

About The Poetry Library

The Poetry Library is the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world. It was opened by T.S. Eliot in 1953 and is now open to everyone and free to join. Members can borrow from the extensive loan collections, including audio items, and take advantage of the library’s e-loan service through which ebooks can be loaned at distance. The extensive collection of current poetry magazines gives a window into the breadth of poetry in the UK and beyond. The library runs a monthly event series called Special Edition, a programme of exhibitions which run throughout the year, a book club, shared readings and an occasional tutored workshop for budding poets called The Poetry Butcher. The library’s website features publishers’ information, poetry news and a list of UK-wide events; the digital archive at is a free database of contemporary poems from UK magazines.