Join the debate #ChangingBritain

Tomorrow, Friday 17 April, Southbank Centre opens Changing Britain Festival which will run across the site over the course of three concentrated weekends in the lead-up to the General Election on 7 May. Through a wide-ranging programme of talks and debates, exhibitions, performances, film screenings and workshops, the festival re-imagines and freshly scrutinises our recent past, taking stock of the shifts in policy, law, attitudes and culture from 1945 to present day and offering an invaluable perspective on the challenges of the present and future. A range of contributors will at hand to offer their insights including actors Patricia Hodge, Cush Jumbo and Lyndsey Marshal; musicians Ray Davies, Billy Bragg, Don Letts of Big Audio Dynamite and Aziz Ibrahim former guitarist with Simply Red and Stone Roses; artists Jane and Louise Wilson and Richard Wentworth; comedian Dave Cohen; writers Nick Hornby and Freddy Syborn; broadcaster Nikki Bedi; former London Mayor Ken Livingstone; and historian David Kynaston. Festival highlights include:

  • An evening celebrating the highlights of British theatre with live readings and discussions with a specially invited guest list of acclaimed actors, directors and writers, including Cush Jumbo and Peter Brook (1 May)
  • In conversations, debates and keynotes exploring a diverse range of subjects that have defined Britain since 1945 with speakers including musicians Ray Davies and Billy Bragg, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, band member of Big Audio Dynamite Don Letts, artists Jane and Louise Wilson, historian David Kynaston, writer Nick Hornby and Fleet Street's first female football reporter Julie Welch (17-19 April, 24-26 April & 1-2 May)
  • Adopting Britain: 70 Years of Migration, a new exhibition in partnership with Counterpoints Arts focusing on the stories of the many different communities that have made Britain their home (17 April - 6 September)
  • Notes to a New Government: 16 composers consider the society they hope to influence and help create in an evening of newly commissioned works co-curated by Matthew Herbert and the Royal Philharmonic Society, performed by the London Sinfonietta (9 May)
  • Immigrant Diaries: Guest comedians and entertainers including comedian Dave Cohen, broadcaster Nikki Bedi, musician Aziz Ibrahim (former guitarist of Simply Red and Stone Roses) and former MTV presenter Kristiane Backer share their stories of immigration in a performance created by Sajeela Kershi (24 April)
  • A look at the last 70 years through the prism of music including Radiophonic Workshop (17 April) and three concerts by the Southbank Sinfonia charting the changing spirit of Britain through music and words with guest speakers including actors Patricia Hodge and Lyndsey Marshal and comedy writer Freddy Syborn (19 April, 26 April & 2 May)
  • The Elders Project: A specially commissioned cast illuminate the key decades of UK dance history in this Olivier Award-nominated production (24 April)
  • Tours of historically important architectural sites across London on a 1962 Routemaster bus in partnership with National Trust (18 April, 25 April & 2 May)

    Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: “May 2015 is not only election time but the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, out of which the 1951 Festival of Britain was born - a festival of idealism, optimism and imagination created to pave the way for a better future for the country. At a time when the appetite for politics and politicians seems to have waned, it is a pivotal moment to take stock and ask if we still believe in the values that were put in place after the war. The history of Britain is a collection of all our determinations, and in the spirit of David Kynaston’s books, Changing Britain will examine our rapidly changing society from many different points of views. My wish is that people of all political persuasions and those that are new to politics will join in, feel empowered by our festival to exercise their right to vote and inspired to collectively make the future of this country as good as it can be.”

    Inspired by historian David Kynaston’s acclaimed book on the social history of England from the end of World War Two, Tales of a New Jerusalem, Changing Britain will interrogate the last 70 years of British history across a wide range of topics with set periods being examined over the course of each weekend: 1945–1979 (17-19 April); 1979–1997 (24-26 April) and 1997–2015 (1-2 May).

    David Kynaston said: “During the past dozen or so years, as I have been engaged in my postwar project Tales of a New Jerusalem, I have become hugely aware of how much people care about the history of their time. Partly because it is so intrinsically rich and interesting; partly because it helps to make sense of the course of their own lives; and partly because it offers an invaluable perspective on the challenges of the present and future. There has possibly never been an attempt on quite this scale to evoke and unlock the experiences of a rapidly changing society - and I’m pleased that it is happening not in the groves of academe, but in such a publicly accessible space as Southbank Centre.”

    WEEKEND ONE:
    FRIDAY 17 - SUNDAY 19 APRIL: 1945–1979
    Talks, debates, exhibitions, concerts, social dances and installations examine Britain's post-war recovery, the Festival of Britain, the creation of the welfare state and the dawning of a new technological age. This weekend looks at politics, music and lifestyle in the 1960s, when the great liberal reforms - the end of capital punishment and the decriminalisation of abortion and homosexuality - took society out of the dark ages, Carnaby Street flourished, and a youthful counter-culture dissolved boundaries. Highlights include:

  • Ray Davies in conversation with Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly (17 April)
  • Historian David Kynaston joins Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly to discuss the festival (18 April)
  • A keynote speech by cultural historian Alwyn Turner (18 April)
  • Bill Harry explores Liverpool’s flourishing music scene in the 1960s (18 April)
  • Matt Cook, Senior Lecturer in History and Gender Studies, joins a panel to discuss attitudes towards homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s (18 April)
  • A discussion on Punk and the spirit of UK Youth rebellion in the 1970s (19 April)
  • A panel discussion on the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (19 April)
  • Discussions on healthcare including the arrival of the contraceptive pill by translator, novelist and Senior Lecturer at Warwick University Maureen Freely (19 April), and the founding of the NHS by medical historian Helen Bynum (18 April)
  • Southbank Sinfonia showcases the changing spirit of Britain after WWII in a programme of music from composers including Howard Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell, with guest speaker Patricia Hodge (19 April)
  • Tomorrow’s Warriors present a fresh approach to jazz in Bridge To Our Memories alongside five award-winning jazz artists Yazz Ahmed, Ben Burrell, Peter Edwards, Nathaniel Facey and Binker Golding (18 April)
  • Film screenings of era-defining movies including We are Lambeth Boys, The Italian Job, A Clockwork Orange, How We Used To Live, Abigail’s Party and Vera Drake (18-19 April)

    WEEKEND TWO:
    SATURDAY 25 APRIL & SUNDAY 26 APRIL: 1979–1997
    For better or for worse, society changed in the 1980s. Large-scale privatisation, unthinkable at the start of the decade, was commonplace by the end. De-industrialisation was matched by the dominance of the City. Mass unemployment, new legislation, and the defeat of the miners effectively destroyed the power of organised labour and society became ever more marketised. This weekend looks at the legacy of Margaret Thatcher's 11 years in power and explores the culture, music and lifestyle of the 1980s through to the 1990s. Highlights include:

  • Billy Bragg in conversation with Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly (25 April)
  • Immigrant Diaries: Guest comedians and entertainers, including BBC Radio and TV presenter Nikki Bedi, Perrier Comedy Award-nominated comedian Dave Cohen, former Stone Roses and SImply Red guitarist Aziz Ibraham and former MTV presenter Kristiana Backer, share their stories of immigration in a performance created Sajeela Kershi (24 April)
  • A specially commissioned cast illuminate the key decades of UK dance history in the Olivier Award-nominated The Elders Project (24 April)
  • Hayward Gallery exhibition History Is Now curators join several panel discussions including Roger Hiorns exploring the BSE crisis and its effect on British agriculture (25 April) and Jane and Louise Wilson highlight the development of political protests since the women at Greenham (26 April)
  • A look at the diverse music scene of 1980s Manchester, from post-punk to ‘Madchester’ (25 April)
  • Former miner Norman Strike joins a panel to discuss the legacy of the strike and its influence on the North/South divide (26 April)
  • Tredegar Town Brass Band celebrate the brass band's place in Britain's industrial history (25 April)
  • AIDS activist Simon Watney joins a panel to discuss the increase in homophobic attitudes in 1980s Britain (26 April)
  • An afternoon exploring the emergence of London's pirate radio (26 April)
  • Southbank Sinfonia showcases a challenging era for the arts in a programme featuring the work of Mark-Anthony Turnage with guest speaker Lyndsey Marshal (26 April)
  • Film screenings of era-defining movies including 35 Up, My Beautiful Laundrette, This Is England, Trainspotting and Carry Greenham Home (25-26 April)

    WEEKEND THREE: FRIDAY 1 - SATURDAY 2 MAY: 1997–2015
    New Labour's three terms barely checked the steeply rising inequality that had marked the Thatcher period. The democratic process, certainly at the level of public trust in politicians, was becoming increasingly ragged and London, the city-state, was drawing increasingly apart from the rest of Britain. This weekend explores the rise of New Labour through to the present moment. Highlights include:

  • An evening celebrating the highlights of British theatre with live readings and discussions with a specially invited guest list of acclaimed actors, directors and writers, including Cush Jumbo, Peter Brook, Philip Hedley, Mustapha Matura, Jatinder Verma, Purni Morell and Mel Kenyon (1 May)
  • Nick Hornby and David Kynaston discuss football as a metaphor (2 May)
  • A look at the cost and universality of the welfare state and NHS (2 May)
  • A panel discussion exploring Tony Blair and Britain’s support of the United States call to war in Iraq War in 2003 (2 May)
  • The jilted generation in an era of rising tuition fees, house prices and job insecurity (2 May)
  • The rising popularity of the SNP post Scotland’s Independence Referendum (2 May)
  • Be the Change, a special programme of surgeries and workshops inviting young activists to join like-minded people and translate their ideas into actions (2 May)
  • Southbank Sinfonia showcases the age of ‘spin’ and news waves of satire features works by Joanna Lee, Philip Cashian and Peter Maxwell Davies, with guest speaker Freddy Syborn (2 May)
  • Film screenings of era-defining movies including 56 Up, Brick Lane, Fish Tank, Sleep Furiously and About a Boy (2 May)

    SATURDAY 9 MAY
    London Sinfonietta: Notes To The New Government
    An evening of two concerts inspired by social and political change in a programme of newly commissioned works co-curated by Matthew Herbert and the Royal Philharmonic Society. Music has always played a pivotal role at times of social change and this concert launches a new era of impassioned political expression. From songs of protest to songs of hope, a group of 16 composers consider the society before them and the society they hope to influence and help create. The first concert features a programme of short ensemble works by emerging composers commissioned in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society, followed by a second concert of songs of protest and hope by an eclectic range of composers that carry a message to the next government. Performers will include London Sinfonietta, conductor Andrew Gourlay, presenter Samira Ahmed and vocalists Juliet Fraser and Cleveland Watkiss.

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