London’s South Bank has everything – except classical music

London’s South Bank has everything – except classical music


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2018

Advertising copy for the seasonal social media campaign by the so-called ‘arts centre’:

Visit South Bank this winter for magical Christmas markets, picturesque walks along the river and cosy riverside dining in some of London’s most iconic restaurants and bars. Catch dynamic theatre, classic films and bold exhibitions, and treat the whole family to festive experiences at some of London’s top attractions.

No mention of what is meant to be the main art form. They’re ashamed of it.


  • Allen says:

    Yes but it’s, you know, welcoming and diverse!

  • Chris Denton says:

    By way of factual correction, the social media campaign you refer to is from South Bank London, the tourist and visitor destination group that represents the entire South Bank region of London.

    Meanwhile Southbank Centre has been busy enjoying some great classical music, in the last week alone: 2 recitals by Mitsuko Uchida, the Jerusalem Quartet, premieres by the London Sinfonietta and BBC Concert Orchestra, the climax of the LPO’s Stravinsky season with Jurowski, The Philharmonia with Ashkenazy, Morton Feldman and Meredith Monk in the Hayward Gallery and, coming up, Messiah, the John Wilson Orchestra, Christmas Classics and King’s College Choir.

    Into next year we kick off with Sound State which celebrates the artists who are defining what it means to make new music in the 21st century.

    Sound State includes performances by Ensemble Modern, Resident Orchestras London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and London Sinfonietta, and Associate Orchestra Aurora Orchestra.

    Do join us.

  • James says:

    Not THE South Bank? It’s not called ‘South Bank’ as if it were a first and last name! It is literally THE south bank of the river. Or should be.
    Grumble, grumble, into my scarf, as I walk along THE south bank.

  • Andy says:

    I was in London earlier this year and popped up into RFH to see if there were any concerts on in the evening. On that day Pinchas Zukerman was on in one hall, and Benjamin Grosvenor in the other, so it’s not all bad news!

  • Allen says:

    I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is saying that classical concerts don’t happen, just that there’s little evidence of it outside.

    A martian walking through the RFH would have no idea of the building’s primary purpose. The Southbank Centre website is no better. Top of home page:

    “See Southbank Centre transformed this winter with magical family shows, markets, twinkling lights, festive fun and other seasonal delights.



    Circus 1903

    “Experience the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a turn-of-the-century circus this Christmas.

    Fresh from the Paris Theatre in Las Vegas,…”



    “See the UK premiere of this retelling of a beloved family fairy tale, reimagined with lashings of magical mayhem, rocking music and supreme…”

    Then there’s:

    “Fred Eversley on Untitled (1971) | Space Shifters”


    “Winter with cabaret and entertainment at Southbank Centre”

    Eventually, at the bottom of the page, I find:

    “Yuri Temirkanov and the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra”

  • Peter Smith says:

    Pleased to see this point made. The web site of the South Bank Centre (sorry, Southbank Centre) has for a long time relegated classical music to hidden corners.

    • V.Lind says:

      If you accept Chris Denton’s post (above) there must be a hell of a lot of dark corners in the building. But given the Southbank material on upcoming events features Christmas themes, it is hard to see why they ignored that traditional (if misplaced) favourite, The Messiah, or Kings College’s Christmas concert.

      Sounds as if classical music is very available there, but it is a bit feeble, to put it charitably, to exclude that fact from advertising.

      • Chris says:

        Just to clarify, the advertising that Norman referred to in the initial piece was nothing to do with Southbank Centre hence the fact that the Christmas concerts were not featured. Our website homepage currently emphasises our two main Christmas family shows as these represent the main offer over the coming weeks before our classical programme resumes.

  • Mark Sealey says:

    The purpose of the original post, surely, is to draw attention to yet another manifestation of an almost universal trend.
    That is the squashing, exclusion and purposeful starvation of serious, art (aka ‘classical’) music in mistaken deference to the more lucrative yet of infinitely less worth (once the criteria have been defined carefully) ephemera of ‘pop’ and its siblings.

  • Joe says:

    Absolutely right. As a result superb QEH concerts are being undersold with no marketing and playing to half empty halls. Weekly emails mentioning “highlights “ of week to follow make no mention of classical music concerts. Sad.