London’s Southbank Festival of Love returns tomorrow (Saturday 6 June). Spanning the long (and hopefully) hot summer until August Bank Holiday Monday, visitors to the site can expect to see a range of site-specific art installations, participate in workshops, commit to random acts of love and, for a second year running, get married on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall. I got a chance to have a glimpse of what’s on offer before it opens to the public.
I wouldn’t normally do lists – I think they’re a bit shit – but, I’ve done what I wouldn’t normally do and drawn up a list of some of the things which caught my eye during my visit.
Real-life art stuff you can touch (and knit)
There are 20 art site specific art installations across the Southbank site, including Reverie – (a beguiling collection of coloured ribbons waving gently in the fan-driven breeze inside the Festival Hall foyer, Ludus Folly – an architecturalsculture designed on the diagrammatical structure of serotonin and dopamine, and my favourite, Love the Yarn (in the Level 4 Bar) – a tower of balls of wool which will grow to feature the knitted contributions of visitors and artists throughout the season.
Also on Level 4 is the Pulse and Bloom installation – giant lotus flowers stretching from floor to ceiling with pulsing LEDs that are activated when you place your palms on the stems. Trust me. Overlook my paltry description. At night, these will look rather delightful.
Fonts and lights and stuff
Be sure to take a look at Love and Liquid Fire in the Festival Hall foyer behind the bar. It’s a striking collection of neon signs sure to please anyone with a deep-seated admiration for the fonts and coloured lights. I defy anyone not to smile at, what might at first appear, rather bawdy signage. ‘Pride’ in particular really makes my heart beat a little faster when I see it. ‘Liquid Fire’ by the way, is an early reference to neon signage, in case you weren’t already aware.
Something that might surprise you
The real surprise during the Friday press preview I was invited to, was a collection of 21 wood carvings of human figures – The People – created by Academy award-winning actor Jim Broadbent. Inspired by his many hours spent in make-up for films, plays and TV, Broadbent’s work is arresting, playful and thought-provoking.
A Bit Ov Feater
There’s a deceptively accomodating pop-up theatre – Roundabout – situated on the other side of the Queen Elizabeth Hall which will host a summer-long series of new plays by exciting young writers. There’s a lot of new material there which for me, eager to take a risk and try out new cultural experiences, I’m particularly looking forward to.
Stop. Think. Be Lovely
As with other site-wide Southbank Festivals, Festival of Love goes way beyond music, participation or art. Themed-weekends go somewhere to widen the understanding of the word love, celebrating the change-making work of 67 influential individuals in society (67 because of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years spent campaigning for civil rights) and encouraging all of us of complete 67 acts of compassion, humility, kindness and love throughout the summer.
I have a thank-you card from who got married at last year’s Big Wedding Weekend. The prospect of sharing my vows in front of an audience of strangers scared the living daylights out of me at the time. But it was Ian and Richard’s committment to the process which inadvertently convinced me and my civil partner Simon that we wanted a bit of the action too (albeit a far elower-key affair in our local Registrary Office). Such was the impact of last year’s Big Weekend, I’m really please to see it returning to the Southbank this year.
Up to 100 couples will be able to get married, renew their vows or convert their civil partnerships. There’s a communal wedding breakfast and entertainment in the Clore Ballroom afterwards. There’s a cost associated, of course – £1950/£2950 (which, considering the cost of mounting a wedding, that’s a bit of a bargain). To find out more, book a place at the open evening by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s music and dance, food and drink and even a beach at the Southbank this summer. Basically, rock-up, open your mind and kick back. Most of is free with some reasonably priced ticket-events too. I can think of no better place to spend your daytime in London during the summer. Do try and get along.
The Southbank’s Festival of Love runs from 6 June to 31 August. More information on the Southbank’s website.