Southbank Centre's Book Podcast: American Dreams in the time of Trump

American Dreams in the time of Trump by Southbank Centre's Book Podcast

In a special edition of Southbank Centre’s Book Podcast, introduced by Head of Literature and Spoken Word Ted Hodgkinson, we bring together the thoughts and insights of an array of acclaimed American authors, all of whom recently joined us for the 2018 London Literature Festival and a strand of events anticipating the United States’ midterm elections.

Over the course of this episode you’ll hear from leading novelists Marilynne Robinson and Salman Rushdie, author and professor, Sarah Churchwell, and poet Terrance Hayes on the construct and constraint of modern America under Donald Trump, and the historical currents that brought us here. You’ll even hear a few anecdotes about personal encounters with the 45th president of the United States. 

  

There’s anger everywhere we look. If anger is a form of heartbreak, it just makes the person a bit more human as opposed to something you can kill… we shouldn’t eliminate or destroy an enemy because that might not be the best way to fix it.
Terrance Hayes, poet, on humanising the political divide

 

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK, and the venue for London Literature Festival and Poetry International. Throughout the year we host talks, discussions, readings and more featuring bestselling authors, award-winning poets and inspirational writers.

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Subscribe to Southbank Centre's Book Podcast via your preferred podcast provider to enjoy more interviews and insights from well-known names, including Anna Burns, Khaled Hosseini and Matt Haig.

Eight great events to catch at October 2018’s China Changing Festival

Eight (八) is a most auspicious number in Chinese, so it seems appropriate for us to pull out eight must-see events as the final instalment of our China Changing Festival approaches.

The idea of the festival is to showcase some of the brilliantly innovative contemporary art and performance from China, as well as its creative connection with the UK. It features visual arts, music, dance and plenty of debate and conversation – including plenty of free events.

Emmy the Great with Dfu

Emmy The Great - Paper Forest (In The Afterglow of Rapture)

The acclaimed singer-songwriter presents a show combining performance and music, telling the story of her first visit to China. Although Emmy is half-Chinese, she was surprised every day by the country she discovered.

In this show she is joined by Dfu, a musician, sound artist and practising Buddhist from the city of Xiamen, where he runs Thank You Cafe. This event is a great chance to hear about contemporary China from a figure at the centre of music culture and someone trying to understand a culture she both is and is not a part of.

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Ken Cheng: Best Dad Ever

Ken Cheng at Chortle's Fast Fringe

Cheng puts his unusual childhood growing up in Britain with Chinese parents at the heart of Best Dad Ever, which was a sell-out at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. He was studying maths at Cambridge University when he decided to pack it in for a career playing online poker, so Cheng is not short of real life material.

I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.
Ken’s award-winning Funniest Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe

In this very, very funny show, he explores his complicated relationship with his parents – and his obsession with toy lambs.

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Cloud Show

Cloud Show

The finale of China Changing Festival is a spectacular performance, curated by Academy Award-winning costume designer Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Through costumes created by up-and-coming fashion designers, music, film and narration, we explore themes of identity, migration and environment, from the point of view of London’s young citizens. And it’s all free! Don’t miss our Cloud Video Installation as well as free fashion workshops curated by Mei-Hui Liu.

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The Injustice to Tou O

Injustice of Tou O

Discover the story of Tou O, an abandoned child, a widow and finally a wreaker of vengeance. In this famous play, dating back to the 13th century, corrupt officials wrongly convict Tou O of murder and as she faces execution she puts three curses on the town where she will die.

This influential work is brought to life with film, live music and a cast of 10 performers including award-winning Ding Yiteng, who also wrote and directs the show. Born in 1991, he has twice been nominated for the Most Promising Young Chinese Theatre Artist of the Year (2015 and 2016).

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Red INK

'Ink' - Dance Short

Contemporary dance infused with hip-hop moves become an embodiment of Chinese calligraphy in this politically inspired piece. It is set in a place where writers can find themselves banned, their reputations hanging on the testimony of friends – or enemies. And yet the word retains its explosive power.

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Wen Hui’s RED

WEN HUI Red

Red Detachment of Women, a ballet from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, is choreographer Wen Hui’s starting point as she builds up a critical panorama of the tumultuous period in this mixed-media performance. RED acts as a live documentary, with the physical bodies on stage telling the story through dance and movement, accompanying videos and archival footage. Featuring people who were directly involved or affected by the original piece, this autopsy of a 20th century ballet becomes a living and lived archive.

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Citizens of Nowhere?

Eavesdrop on a British-Chinese family as they talk to each other in this innovative theatre piece written by Ming Ho, where the audience enjoy refreshments at a pop-up cafe, sitting adjacent to the actors and listening in on the action through headphones.

At its heart is a mother Linda Lo, and her conversation with her son, Jun Chi, and her daughter, Jane. Through their words, we get an insight into generational differences and cultural identities, as the characters grapple with what it means to be British Chinese, and if they are citizens of the world – or citizens of nowhere.

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China Changing Festival Talks Day Pass

On Sunday 7 October join us for a day of interesting panel talks and discussions on a wide range of topics affecting contemporary China.

There’s discussion about feminism; insights into the writer Jin Yong – sometimes described as ‘the Chinese JRR Tolkien’; a look at China’s role in tackling global warming; and an examination of contemporary sci-fi novels. Access to all these events is only by buying a day pass, so don’t miss out!

book now find out more

 


 

China Changing Festival takes place from Thursday 4 – Sunday 7 October. There are many other events in the programme, for full listings visit the webpage.

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Carleen Anderson & Kevin Le Gendre on how protest music remains a mighty tool

On 21 May the all-star quartet of Carleen Anderson, Nikki Yeoh, Speech Debelle and Nubya Garcia take to our stage backed by a band featuring the talents of bassist Renell Shaw and drummer Rod Young. Together they will perform interpretations of iconic songs from the time of the 1960s struggle for civil rights through to today.

Titled A Change is Gonna Come this unique concert explores the power of protest songs. Ahead of what is sure to be a memorable performance Carleen Anderson and Kevin Le Gendre explain why, far from being merely a tool of the past, protest music and arts can still have a resonance in today’s fractured world.

Carleen Anderson on The Importance of Artists Expressing Activism in their Work

Although the torch of artists expressing activism has stayed lit throughout the generations, the superficial economic shift in society’s landscape has dimmed its light.

The shouts of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ are countered these days with ‘But there was a Black U.S. American President’, and, ‘What about all the Women that are now included on various platforms’, and, ‘Homosexuals can even get legally married now’. As remarkable as these community progressions are, worldwide disenfranchisement remains in abundance.

Protest songs and poetry are but a commentary and taste of what is still happening in even the supposedly more enlightened countries on earth
Carleen Anderson

Old and new protest songs and poetry are but a commentary and taste of what is still happening in even the supposedly more enlightened countries on earth. Sanctioned murders of certain types of people, politicians advocating hate in their speeches, organised chaos to benefit only the few whilst the majority, mislabelled as the minority, are unjustly assigned lives of despair.

Modern civil rights campaigns carry an ongoing disparity between the anxiousness in the young and left-out that’s imbalanced against the measured strategy of the older and privileged, which continues the rope pull amongst even those championing the same cause. Add to that, in our futuristic environment, the element of anger that can escalate into pandemonium much quicker than ever before.

Art, especially music, can be a band-aid, that plaster to keep things from erupting into immediate bedlam
Carleen Anderson

False rumours routinely spread faster than the reality that has time to take hold. Art, especially music, can be a band-aid, that plaster to keep things from erupting into immediate bedlam. What might have taken hours or days to develop into mayhem in times of yore, is now only a finger-tap away from causing cataclysm within a heartbeat.

Artists, even at the risk of commercial career damage, are paramount in every culture to organise themselves to draw attention to widespread injustices. In doing so, this can galvanize people to change our outdated and unfair pandemic practices. Music, as ever, can be, and is, a mighty tool to show how we are far more the same, than we are different.

This piece first appeared on the website of Sound UK.

read Carleen's piece in full

Black Lives Matter 2018

Kevin Le Gendre on the art and weight of protest music

A Change Is Gonna Come is a timeless melody with one of the great opening lines in pop. It evokes the river, symbol of Mother Earth’s riches, that does not stop running, just like the disenfranchised, those born ‘in a little tent’ on its banks, who look forward to the dawning of a new day, or, more specifically, a brighter tomorrow.

The bold statements of Sam Cooke and Dr. Martin Luther King have retained an inspiring permanence that outweighs the transience of their precious lives
Kevin Le Gendre

When Sam Cooke wrote the song in 1964 the right to vote for people of colour in America, still commonly referred to as Negroes, was yet to be granted. Dr. Martin Luther King jnr, had delivered his landmark I Have A Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the previous year. Both men were slain at a young age, at crucial junctures in the Civil Rights movement, but their bold statements have still retained an inspiring permanence that outweighs the transience of their precious lives.

Protest music is a term that can be applied to all manner of genres, from soul and jazz to folk and rock, but the defining feature of any work that might be deemed the sound of resistance is its awareness of the all-consuming nature of struggle and desire to stay the course, all the way to King’s ‘mountain top’, the promised land of equality.

Creating continuums between one generation and the next, cementing the links of community while smashing the chains of slavery and the shackles of segregation has always been a priority for these exponents of protest music. The recognition of elders who made sacrifices for youngers and fought valiantly for equality on either side of the Atlantic - potently epitomized by Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Claudia Jones and Marcus Garvey - galvanizes countless melodies written against the abuse of power. Acts of remembrance thankfully counter those who would seek to deny real history.

There is a recurrent theme in protest music’s seminal pieces: the look to the future, the peremptory affirmation of what will, rather than might come to pass
Kevin Le Gendre

The tone of protest music can vary enormously from one artist to the next. However there is a recurrent theme in the seminal entries of the canon: the look to the future, the peremptory affirmation of what will, rather than might come to pass. It is as much in Gil Scott Scott-Heron’s stark warning that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as it is Sam Cooke’s soothing promise that A Change Is Gonna Come. Oh yes, it will.

This piece first appeared on the website of Sound UK.

read Kevin’s piece in full

A Change Is Gonna Come: Music for Human Rights

Gifted soul, jazz and rap artists Carleen Anderson, Nikki Yeoh, Speech Debelle and Nubya Garcia joined forces to explore the power of protest songs for A Change Is Gonna Come: Music for Human Rights in our Queen Elizabeth Hall on Monday 21 May.

 

Though this event has now passed, Southbank Centre boasts a year-round programme of contemporary music spanning from electro to jazz, blues to dance, and everything in between.

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Why are women in politics subjected to abuse online? WOW 2018 podcast highlights

In the Line of Fire: Women politicians and online abuse by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

Online abuse cuts through party lines, affecting women from across the political spectrum. Why have threats of death, rape and other violence become a daily occurrence for many women in politics? What should we do about it? How do you cope if you’re in the line of fire?

Speakers including MPs Jo Swinson, Anna Soubry, Tulip Siddiq, and leader of the Women's Equality Party, Sophie Walker share their experiences.

Please be aware that this podcast contains language which some listeners may find offensive.

The intention is to shut us up. Forever people have been trying to shut up women; and we will not be shut up
Anna Soubry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire

Stay tuned for more talks podcasts and video from other events at this year's WOW and join the conversation on Twitter

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WOW 2018 would not be possible without its generous sponsors and supporters: Bloomberg, UBS, American International Group Inc (AIG) and The Chartered Insurance Institute.

Revisiting 1974, ABBA’s breakthrough year

In 1974 ABBA catapulted into British consciousness as they won the Eurovision Song Contest at The Dome, Brighton. The Swedish pop group would go on to become a household name across the world, and later this month we celebrate their impact and their legacy with our immersive exhibition ABBA Super Troupers.

ABBA were a breath of fresh air to a 1970s Britain mired in a financial crisis epitomised by strike action, the three-day working week, and the effects of The Troubles. To help get a picture of the year in which the Swedish group arrived in Britain, or indeed to relive it all over again, take a look at our timeline.

 

ABBA Super Troupers, our immersive exhibition of the Swedish pop sensations’ takeover of 1970s Britain, runs from 14 December 2017 to 29 April 2018

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Listen to the best of London Literature Festival 2017

London Literature Festival 2017 Highlights by Southbank Centre

Autumn 2017 saw a wealth of literary and oratory talent descend on Southbank Centre for the London Literature Festival. This podcast delivers a snapshot of the packed three-week programme, with memorable moments from some of the headline talks featuring Hillary Rodham Clinton, Philip Pullman, Tom Hanks and Rt Hon. Gordon Brown, as well as a unique insight to Poetry International in the festival’s 50th year.

London Literature Festival is a celebration of literature in all its forms; poetry, novels, non-fiction and spoken word. Last year the festival centred around the theme of a ‘world on the brink’ in which we gave special focus to writers and authors who address the great challenges the world is facing at the moment, and utilise literature as a space in which we explore the potential for reimagining it, and the future.

In this podcast you’ll hear Rodham Clinton’s thoughts on ‘fake news’, why Pullman never forgot about ‘Pale Gas’, how Hanks’ parents finally found what they were looking for, and you’ll hear a former Prime Minister describe the moment Amy Winehouse told Nelson Mandela he had much in common with her husband.

...this statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square; his hands outstretched with a vision of the future, his finger pointing upwards in defiance, saying no injustice shall last forever, and courage and sacrifice in the name of freedom will not be in vain, and that is the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
Rt Hon. Gordon Brown, speaking during Nelson Mandela: The Presidential Years

London Literature Festival may have now finished, but our literary and talks programme continues to deliver fascinating events throughout the year.

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Can theatre help us understand the culture of surveillance and fear?

Ever feel like you’re being watched? Quite often there’s a reason for that. Particularly when you’re online (hello). Dr. Andrew Westerside, Co-Artistic Director of Proto-type Theater describes how our increasingly nonchalant compliance with outside access to our online life led to the creation of their performance piece A Machine they’re Secretly Building, which comes to Southbank Centre this month.

A Machine They're Secretly Building
Image courtesy of Fenia Kotsopoulou, Proto-Type Theater

Making an hour-long performance that tackles global mass-surveillance head-on might be the single most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do in theatre.

In 2015, as part of Proto-type Theater (along with my collaborators Rachel Baynton, Gillian Lees, and visual artist, animator and designer Adam York Gregory), I started to make A Machine they’re Secretly Building: a performance that grew from our shared feelings of outrage and disbelief at the mass-surveillance of private citizens.

Even for people actively interested in the avalanche of documents and memos unearthed in the wake of Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks, at the core of them lay a very trivial obstacle: they were all incredibly boring. A dizzying amount of impenetrable jargon, code-words, numbers, neologisms, cross-references and countless redactions that made unpacking and unpicking their magnitude a colossal task.

Our job, as theatre makers, seemed not to be one in which we ought to give the documents a context, or a fiction to breathe in, but one in which we had to translate and expose the facts, to present them in raw, human terms. With people. Together. In a room.

The information, we realised, was supposed to be boring, boring and impenetrable by design. To kill the interest, as well as the conversation.

Even with the complexity of the facts aside, how could we begin to understand  global mass-surveillance, culturally as well as theatrically, in a contemporary context? We can (and should) easily forgive ourselves for rapidly scrolling through (or even outright ignoring) the pages and pages of terms & conditions that come as part and parcel of the tools that keep us moving and together. Across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Skype, DropBox, Twitter, and countless other services, we’ve created a network of information and sociability that’s shrunk the world down into a small rectangle we keep in our pocket. And, as we catalogue our digital self in near real-time through images, statuses, running routes and dating preferences, so too have we made normal the idea of surveillance to such an extent that self-surveillance is a habitual part of twenty-first century life.

For a while, people have been tossing around George Orwell’s 1984 as a model for understanding the current surveillance environment, but really it’s a toxic combination of 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the drug of choice is ingeniously embedded within the mechanisms of surveillance itself
Sarah Bay-Cheng, writing in Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts, in 2014

In short, if we want to get involved in this new world, we’re going to have to get used to being watched. It’s a trade, then. An exchange. That’s why we ignore those T&C’s. But what we didn’t know, before the Snowden revelations, was the horrifying extent of the trade – what we were really giving away.

We didn’t know that people had openly lied, some under oath, about the illegal bulk collection of our (your, my) data. Our emails, photos, bank balances, location histories, messages, call data. All harvested, all stored. Just in case. We didn’t know that the UK and US security services were taking, and storing, images from every single live Yahoo! Webchat around the world, every five minutes, for at least six years. We didn’t know that in the UK our internet history is available without a warrant to a staggering fifty-eight different agencies, including the Royal Navy and the Food Standards Agency. We didn’t know. We didn’t sign up for that.

But now we do know, and still the tide doesn’t seem to be turning. Why? How is it that in late-2017, a full four years after the Snowden revelations, there has been next-to-no legal action, prosecution, or parliamentary reform with regards to mass-surveillance?

A Machine they're Secretly Building
Photograph courtesy of Adam York Gregory, Proto-Type Theater

Quite possibly the single most influential factor, and something A Machine… doesn’t shy away from, is the leverage afforded to the security services by the atrocities of 9/11. Of course, one can genuinely sympathise with a government that wants more tools at their disposal to avert such a tragic loss of life. But what began with the US Stellar Wind programme and Patriot Act in the immediate aftermath of September 2001, as emergency measures, was also the opening of a door just wide enough to allow in the most potent and malleable of human emotions; fear.

In a turbulent age of 24-hour news, global political friction and unrest, the re-emergence of the far right across Europe, Brexit, and the ever-present threat of an act of international terror (the UK’s threat level hasn’t dropped below ‘substantial’ in the last eleven years, and is mostly ‘severe’ or ‘critical’), it’s easy to see how ready we are to welcome the insidious machine of surveillance in with open arms. But look closely, and the world we’re sold doesn’t quite match up with the facts.

You may have already heard impassioned defences of mass-surveillance that begin or end with the argument that ‘if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide’. The logic is easy to follow: good, kind, thoughtful folk like you and me – aside from perhaps some minor misdemeanours – pose no threat to national safety. They’re not looking for us; we’re the haystack the needles are hiding in. If it keeps us safe, if it keeps us alive and well, why should it matter?

The answer is quite simple. If you think you’re being watched, your behaviour changes. Over time, the possibility for revolution and revolt, for protest and dissidence, vanishes. Over time, the ability to even think of a different state of affairs, a different world, vanishes, too (a kind of ‘non-thinking’ that Henry Giroux terms disimagination).

As a small collection of citizens who happen to also make theatre, we’re not happy that our government is and has been indiscriminately spying on us. We want you to know what’s happening. What we need to realise, collectively, is that once we’ve let state-sanctioned mass-surveillance in, it’s very very difficult to ask it to leave.

A Machine they’re Secretly Building isn’t a performance that has all the answers, but it is, I hope, one that starts to ask the right questions.


 

Proto-type Theater’s A Machine they’re Secretly Building is a performance piece that charts a course from the Top Secret secrets of WWI intelligence through to 9/11, the erosion of privacy, Edward Snowden and the terror of a future that might already be upon us. It was performed at Southbank Centre, in Royal Festival Hall’s Blue Room, in November 2017.

Take a look at Southbank Centre's performance and dance programme.

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Listen to Nelson Mandela: The Presidential Years

Nelson Mandela: The Presidential Years by Southbank Centre

To celebrate the launch of Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years, Mandla Langa’s biography of Nelson Mandela, a host of famous names from the world of activism, politics and journalism gathered on the Royal Festival Hall stage for readings from the book, and a discussion on the life and impact of Mandela.

Introduced by UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and former British Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown, a high profile panel discuss the legacy of Nelson Mandela in a troubled world.

The high-profile panel in discussion are South African novelist, poet and biographer of Mandela, Mandla Langa, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, the former Labour MP and anti-apartheid campaigner, Lord Peter Hain, and the American-British playwright and broadcaster Bonnie Greer, chaired by the journalist Jon Snow.

The panel discussion is framed by readings from Langa’s book, delivered by the actor Adrian Lester.

Mandela represents what we lack, and what we’re fast losing. Humility defines itself at a time when we lack human solidarity; instead of building bridges we are looking for more options for walls
Sello Hatang, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation

This event took place at Southbank Centre as part of the 2017 London Literature Festival.

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See more of biggest and most influential names in modern literature at Southbank Centre.  

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Hillary Rodham Clinton’s London Literature Festival appearance to be live streamed

Missed out on tickets to see Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sold-out debut appearance at London Literature Festival? Well, we’ve good news for you, and the many thousands of others who aren't fortunate enough to be there in person, as the event will now be live streamed via the Guardian.

Clinton comes to the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 15 October to discuss her new book, What Happened, an autobiographical account of her experience as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2016 United States Presidential election. And with this set to be Clinton's only London appearance, we saw an unprecedented demand for tickets. But whilst our historic hall can only hold 2,900 lucky people, by partnering with the Guardian, we’re ensuring that as many people as possible can view the event in real time.

Follow the live stream here

Thanks to this live stream, a wordlwide audience will be able to tune into Southbank Centre and hear Clinton reflect on her personal experience of becoming the first woman Presidential nominee, and of one of the most remarkable election campaigns the United States has ever seen. How did Clinton cope with the defeat, and what got her through? We’ll find out on 15 October.

This event explores the theme ‘World on the Brink’, and promises to offer rare insight into Clinton’s personal experience of the twists and turns that led to last year’s historic election result.
Ted Hodgkinson, Senior Programmer, Literature and Spoken Word, Southbank Centre

Tasked with chairing Clinton’s exclusive appearance on our stage is one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters, James Naughtie. Special correspondent for BBC News and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today for 21 years, Naughtie has written and broadcasted about British and American politics for more than three decades, and covered the 2016 American campaign for the BBC.

Published by Simon & Schuster, What Happened reveals for the first time what Clinton was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton: What Happened takes place at Southbank Centre as part of our London Literature Festival.

see the full LLF programme

The 2017 World Press Photo Exhibition returns to Southbank Centre

The 2017 World Press Photo Exhibition returns to Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall for the 21st year from 3–20 November 2017 . The free exhibition brings together 152 winning photographs from the annual World Press Photo Awards, showcasing some of the most powerful, emotional and often disturbing press images of the year.

In its 60th year, the World Press Photo Awards continues to be the premier annual international competition for press photography and multimedia storytelling. This year’s winners were drawn from a bank of 80,408 images taken by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries. The exhibition at Southbank Centre will be the only display in England, however the winning photographs travel together to 45 countries and are seen by more than four million people each year. The subjects of the images on display are widely varied including documentation from rallies protesting police brutality, reports from war-torn terrains and striking images selected from nature and sports editorial.

Read the full press release

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