Southbank Centre

Theatre in Waterloo rated 8 / 10 from 1 review
Southbank Centre image
Belvedere Road, Waterloo, SE1 8XX
020 7960 4200
Nearest Station
0.17 miles

The Southbank Centre was first opened in 1951 as the venue for the Festival of Britain, and is the only building from that festival that still survives. The Festival was a symbolic celebration following the Second World War and marked the centenary of the Great Exhibition.

The Southbank Centre is made up of The Royal Festival Hall, along with the Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Rooms and the Poetry Library, and is recognizable by its bold, though not always popular architecture. The Royal Festival Hall is the largest Arts centre in the world and regularly holds free exhibitions and concerts in its impressive foyer. The Hayward Gallery is a leading venue for contemporary Art and detailed analysis of many artistic movements.

The Southbank Centre has often been criticized for its cold, harsh and dominating exterior but there is no denying that it has become a cultural marvel. It is well serviced by regular buses and by Waterloo Station, and lies in close proximity to many other attractions such as The London Eye, The Millennium Bridge and Jubilee Gardens. Along with it acting as a cultural centre, The Southbank Centre has many shops and cafes and caters for every conceivable taste.

Many of the world’s best orchestras and modern musicians have played within its limestone walls and many of the most influential artists of all time have their work displayed within the Hayward. With over 5000 different events and exhibitions annually, a visit to London would not be complete without a visit to the South Bank.

Open daily (except Christmas Day) 10.00- 23.00

Southbank Centre Picture Gallery

Southbank Centre Picture

All In London Review

Ether Festival showcases music at its most disparate

Do you believe electronic music is for dancing, and should therefore remain within the confines of a nightclub? Or do the endless bleeps beloved of bedroom experimentalists deserve to be studied at length by audiences at the Royal Festival Hall?

For 10 years the Southbank’s Ether Festival has presented a programme that mixes groundbreaking music both old and new with visual arts, film, and anything one could class as avant-garde, such as sound-manipulating ‘jamshops’ and pairing Radiohead’s Thom Yorke with the London Synfonietta.

The term ‘sound architect’ gets bandied around a lot for the duration of this annual event as some of the acts are not musicians in the conventional sense; this year saw attendees mesmerised as Tim Exile looped an array of sounds submitted to him by the general public via a Soundcloud dropbox. Sceptics delighted at its flippancy when two children appeared on stage to bang a few keys resulting in music that sounded even better than Exile’s.

Thankfully the thought-provoking side of the genre was also shown with an ambient showcase from techno and house label Kompakt and Micachu’s ‘Chopped and Screwed’ blend of classical and digital sounds. If that didn’t appeal to the more traditionalist fans there were other activities to choose from, such as the acclaimed film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ with an updated score by Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ performed by one dancer and accompanied by 3D visuals, influential post punk band Killing Joke at the Royal Festival Hall and of course, Steve Reich, this time with the glockenspiel, percussion and marimba piece ‘Drumming’.

Technology has revolutionised how musicians operate and listeners enjoy music, making it harder for artists to innovate, but Ether’s mission is to exhibit its most disparate melodic possibilities - expect more wonderfully incongruous collaborations next year (grime rapper Tinie Tempah performing alongside the Royal Ballet perhaps?)

Reviewed by Leila
Published on May 4, 2011


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Best For

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The best walks around London

Strap on your boots and take a stroll around London.

South Bank: With the BFI, the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, there’s no doubt there’s a lot of fun to be had inside the South Bank’s cultural institutions. But for the walker it’s the modernist fifties architecture and the views of the adjacent bank that make it so special. Take your time as you take it all in.

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As London’s cutting-edge bastion of culture the South Bank Centre is inclined to deliver the eclectic musical output London needs from it. With its Meltdown festival and solo year-round shows it is one of the best places to see music. The range of music is diverse, the venue itself is as tidy as the music is well curated and the architecture is brutal, making it a must for your live music pleasure.

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Best places to spend a rainy day in London

Prepare for a British summer's day!

Although a lot of the Southbank Centre’s activities take place at night with concerts, plays, films and poetry readings, there’s plenty you can do during the day too. Visit the Hayward Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art, buy books at the covered riverside market or at Foyle’s, and eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants dotted around, with views of the river.

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