The Southbank Centre Marks Earth Day 2020 With 3-Day Digital Event
The Southbank Centre today launches a three-day celebration of literature, music, and art inspired by the natural world to mark the 50th anniversary of 'Earth Day'.
Centred around the Hayward Gallery's current exhibition, Among the Trees, this digital event invites audiences across the UK and beyond to reimagine how we think about trees and forests, as portents for the vulnerability of our precious planet. Dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (2020), Among the Trees online offers audiences a huge array of digital content, including exclusive videos, blogs, podcasts, playlists, and audience-generated content, in an urgent call to reflect on our shared humanity and co-dependence with the natural world.
With the doors to the Hayward Gallery still closed, and our immediate surroundings ever-reduced, Among the Trees has taken on a poignant new meaning since the outbreak of COVID-19. It is hoped that this 3-day deep-dive into the wonder of the natural world will provide a tonic to these times of unprecedented human challenge, as we come to value the great outdoors as never before.
In collaboration with the Hayward Gallery, the Southbank Centre's Literature Team and National Poetry Library today release ten newly-commissioned poems about the natural world, from some of the genre's most noted and acclaimed poets. Each taking a work from Among the Trees as inspiration, these poems will be read and shared digitally from 22-24 April. The shortlist includes:
1. Mona Arshi, 'Blind Eye'
2. Nina Mingya Powles, 'Living Portrait of a Tree'
3. Anna Selby, 'The Stillness Between Trees'
4. Will Burns, 'Global Stuff'
5. Dominic Bury, 'Seeing the World Begin Kindling'
6. Khairani Barokka, 'Terrain Vague No. 2 (Vacant Lot No. 2)'
7. L.Kiew, 'When we consider everything that grew'
8. Sean Hewitt, 'Crowhurst'
9. Victoria Adukwei Bulley, 'Knot'
10. Liz Berry, 'Fertility Deity, Copse'
Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word, says:
"When we set out on our project to commission 10 brand new poems inspired by Among the Trees, we could never have foreseen the far-reduced worlds we would all come to inhabit. In the past few weeks, our immediate surroundings have come into sharp focus, and we've all been turning to art to bring us a sense of solace and connection with life outside our windows. It's a poignant moment to be releasing these poems digitally, each one refracted through a particular artwork from the exhibition, attuning us to the expansive lines of communication that exist between the natural world and the human imagination. In these encounters between artists, poets, trees and forests, we see the possibilities of a more interconnected way of living, and in the midst of the gloom, glimpse a world ablaze with meaning."
Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery, says:
"Organised to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Among the Trees has already demonstrated itself to be a compelling guide to the role that trees and forests play in our lives and psyches. Bringing together the work of leading International Artists, the exhibition has allowed us to reflect on both the beauty and complexity of these indispensable organisms as well as on their precarity in a time of global warming and their vulnerability to the impact of industrial societies. We could never have imagined how the exhibition's central thesis would come to take on such poignancy when viewed afresh in this time of immense human challenge. While the doors to the Hayward Gallery remain closed, it is my hope that Among the Trees will continue to offer audiences a chance to reflect on the inspiring wonder of trees and forests and the urgent need to change the attitudes and behaviour that endanger the health of the planet."
Since launching its #SpringAmongtheTrees campaign, the Southbank Centre has received hundreds of submissions from across the UK and beyond, with online audiences responding to the challenge of sharing photos of trees from windows, a daily run, or pre-lockdown travels. Placing the audience in the role of artist, this digital activity has brought an appreciation of art - as a living, breathing medium - back to the everyday, at a time when museums and galleries remain closed. Spring Among The Trees now lives online as the Southbank Centre's curated selection of our audiences' photos, with the submissions demonstrating the vital and continued role of art in bringing solace in times of need.
Among the Trees online
Curator-led content: While doors to the Hayward Gallery remain closed, audiences can enjoy a virtual video tour of Among the Trees with Director Ralph Rugoff. In Walking among giants - the lifespan of trees, Hayward Gallery Curatorial Assistant Marie-Charlotte Carrier explores the way that trees, with lifespans so much longer than our own, challenge the way that we think about time, and put our human lives in perspective.
Artist-led content: Hugh Hayden, Eva Jospin and Eija-Liisa Ahtila provide insight into their works, alongside an interview between the painter George Shaw and novelist & art critic Patrick Langley, an event which was due to take place live at the Southbank Centre before closure was announced.
In the newly-commissioned audio-essay, 'A fly's-eye-view', poet Holly Corfield Carr explores human and non-human ways of looking at and listening to trees. Also available today: Dara McAnulty's 'A day in the life of a naturalist in lockdown' and 'Resist: Decolonising the climate conversation'. Further content will be released today from Pratyusha, Mark Waldron and David Wallace-Wells.
Music and the natural world: A bespoke Spotify playlist provides a musical accompaniment with tracks referencing, or inspired by, interactions with trees, forests or woodland and a further selection of tracks from Gillian Moore (Director of Music, Southbank Centre) will shed further light on the connection between music and nature.
Blog content: Blogs accompanying the exhibition include This Spring, get to know some urban trees, featuring texts by artists, writers and tree specialists on the Southbank Centre's own urban trees. In addition: Five things to know and City and tree: the story of London planes (by Paul Wood, author of London is a Forest and London's Street Trees).
Elsewhere, Hayward Gallery's art-educator Daniel Wallis shares family-friendly resources encouraging the nation's young-people to get creative with trees.
The Southbank Centre is a world-leading venue for literature and spoken word. Several stand-out events from the Southbank Centre's Spring and Summer Literature Seasons have now been rescheduled for the Autumn. These include Lisa Taddeo's Three Women (17 September, QEH) and Fortunately with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover 20 September, RFH). Announced this week, the Shortlist Readings for the Women's Prize for Fiction will now be held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 8 September, with tickets on sale on 27 April 2020. Further announcements regarding the Autumn Literature Season to follow.
The Southbank Centre's new weekly 'Culture Fix' email pulls together signature weekly digital content, including book podcasts from Louis Theroux, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Hilary Mantel and Hillary & Chelsea Clinton, plus contemporary and classical playlists and a chance to revisit iconic Hayward Gallery shows from the inaugural exhibition of Henri Matisse in 1968 to more recent shows by Tracey Emin and Jeremy Deller via Google Arts & Culture. Plus recommendations from the Southbank Centre's artistic team on the best music, performance, literature and the arts available online. Get your latest 'culture fix' here.