What is purple and will make you laugh a lot?

Can you believe it’s that time of year again? That’s right – Udderbelly Festival is bringing a splash of purple to Southbank Centre as it grazes by the river for the next 15 weeks.

As ever, you can expect the best in comedy, circus, kids’ shows and more*.

We’ve put together this handy interactive guide to Udderbelly’s Pasture to give you an idea of just how much there is to see and do at the most moo-vellous festival on earth.

*By more, we mean the opportunity to play a life-size game of Jenga (amongst other things).



March has been an incredibly busy month for the Southbank Centre Gamelan Programme. In addition to numerous schools workshops and courses at the Royal Festival Hall, our touring gamelan has been busy with a number of outreach projects as part of our ‘Foster A Dragon’ scheme.

On 11 March, Southbank Gamelan Players – ensemble in residence at Southbank Centre – and dancer Ni Made Pujawati travelled to Portsmouth Guildhall to perform for 600 school pupils, students and members of the public. This was a concert to launch a new World Music Series in partnership with Portsmouth University and the Portsmouth Cultural Trust. This was followed by two participatory workshops which were a great success.

Gamelan in the News 26 March 2015 11029562_789337221143069_7125627273698086058_o

On 12th March, 34 year 7 pupils performed on the gamelan at Sedgehill School as part of Lewisham Live! The gamelan at Sedgehill School has been lying dormant for a number of years, however, with the help of Southbank Centre gamelan tutor David McKenny, Sedgehill School and the Lewisham Music Hub, it was brought to life for a number of weeks culminating in a great performance! Well done to all involved!

Gamelan is a great tool with which to promote happiness and well-being. on 23rd March, Southbank Gamelan Players took the gamelan into St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, to perform as part of a free recital series organised by BREATHE Arts Health Research and The St. Thomas’ Hospital trust. This was a performance for patients, staff and visitors to the hospital and a chance to relax to the mesmerising sounds of the gamelan over the lunch hour. We had a warm and engaged audience and the acoustics were ideal for the gamelan.


It is fast approaching Southbank Centre’s Chorus Festival, so the gamelan teamed up with Voicelab to offer young participants in Voicelab’s Easter Course a chance to learn to play the gamelan and accompany a Javanese children’s song. Well done and thanks to all 46 young people who played and sang beautifully yesterday!


There are still many opportunities coming up to get involved with the gamelan. We have two ‘Voices of Indonesia’ workshops during Chorus Festival to explore Balinese Kecak (Monkey Chant) and Javanese singing, and Family Gamelan Taster Sessions in April and May 2015.

To find out how you can get involved, please see: www.southbankcentre.co.uk/gamelan


01_gamelan - credit photographer Sam Peach

Hi there!

Did you know that Southbank Centre, London, has been home to a beautiful Indonesian Percussion orchestra called Gamelan since 1987? Our gamelan is called ‘Kyai Lebdhajiwa’ meaning ‘The Venerable Spirit of Perfection’.

I’m Sophie Ransby and I have the fantastic job of looking after the gamelan and programming many fun activities with the instruments at the Royal Festival Hall. There are events and offers for people of all ages to get involved.

I have started this blog to highlight and document the workshops, classes and activities that happen around the gamelan programme.

To find out more, please see  www.southbankcentre.co.uk/gamelan


Imagine Children’s Festival Joke Book

Imagine Children’s Festival Joke Book


There are lots of fun events and games at Imagine Children’s Festival this half term >>

The children from the Festival Ideas Cloud have got some cracking jokes to share with you.
Can your friends and family guess the answers correctly?

1. Why was the maths book sad?
Because he had too many problems

2. What do babies and footballers have in common?
They both dribble

3. What do you call an alligator in a vest?
An investigator

4. What did the karate people eat when the pig was there?
Pork chops

5. What happened when the man was doing the splits and eating a banana?
He turned into a banana split

6. Where do pirates go shopping?

7. What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

8. What do you call a ghost that is a goalkeeper?
A ghoulie

9. When it was a hot day, what did the footballer do to cool down?
He went out and sat next to the fans

These jokes were brought to you by The Festival Ideas Cloud Advisory Board, made up of children aged 8-10, who help us shape the Imagine Children’s Festival. Each year a different group of children from our Associate Primary Schools in Lambeth are invited to take part in the projects. They tell us what they want to see in the festival, help us develop events and create copy and design for marketing. This half-term they are taking over the Guardian Children’s Books website. Have a look at what they’ve got up to >> here

Alice in Wonderland Quiz by the Imagine Children’s Festival Ideas Cloud

Alice in Wonderland Quiz by the Imagine Children’s Festival Ideas Cloud

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland










Imagine Festival is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! We have lots of events that you can come to during the Festival.

How well will you do in our quiz?

1.) What is the white rabbit’s catchphrase?
a.) I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!
b.) Hippo, Hippo, Hippo
c.) Hurry up, Hurry up, Hurry up!

2.) Why does Alice shrink?
a.) Because she got stepped on
b.) Because Batman makes her shrink
c.) Because she drinks a potion

3.) What is the Queen’s full name?
a.) Queen of Hearts
b.) Queen of Diamonds
c.) Queen of Spades

4.) What game does Alice play?
a.) Golf
b.) Croquet
c.) Football

5.) What does Alice use to play the games?
a.) A cat bat and a dog ball
b.) An elephant club and a mouse ball
c.) A flamingo club and a hedgehog ball

6.) Which animal does Alice follow to Wonderland?
a). A door mouse
b). A rabbit
c). A frog

7.) How does Alice get into Wonderland?
a.) She jumps in the sea
b.) She climbs in a teapot
c.) She falls down a hole

8.) Who wrote Alice in Wonderland?
a.) Cathy Cassidy
b.) Lewis Caroll
c.) Jacqueline Wilson

9.) Who played the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s film of Alice in Wonderland
a.) Johnny Depp
b.) Louise Walsh
c.) Katy Perry

10.) What colour dress does Alice wear?
a.) Orange and pink
b.) Purple and green
c.) Blue and white





Come and explore the mad world of Alice in Wonderland at Southbank Centre this half term >> here

This quiz was brought to you by The Festival Ideas Cloud Advisory Board, made up of children aged 8-10, who help us shape the Imagine Children’s Festival. Each year a different group of children from our Associate Primary Schools in Lambeth are invited to take part in the projects. They tell us what they want to see in the festival, help us develop events and create copy and design for marketing.  This half-term they are taking over the Guardian Children’s Books website. Have a look at what they’ve got up to >>  here

West India Dock

My studio is on the jetty of West India Dock so, to end this series of posts, I’m going to concentrate on the river outside my door. Below is a historical overview of the Docks and after that photographs that I have taken of activity on the River while I have been working here. I will end with a series of sound posts from Seth Guy.

Main Trade

Despite being outside the centre of London, West India Docks set a precedent for London dock systems, both with its design and operation. Initially it dealt solely with produce from the West Indies, except tobacco, supervising the loading and unloading of vessels as decreed by Parliament. As a result, West India Docks mainly traded in rum, molasses and sugar. Other items that were imported and exported, included: Jute  Coir  Oil Spirits & Wine  Shell  Horn  Cork  Indigo Spices Baggage Coffee  Hardwood

During the 20th century, the docks also handled grain and, as refrigeration became common, meat, fruit and vegetables also became regular commodities. South West India Dock mainly dealt in the timber trade.

Types of Vessel

The West India Docks were constructed to berth large sailing vessels and accommodate the many lighters that serviced the Thames. The docks were also used by a large number of barges, which transported coal around London. The design of the West India Docks dictated that sailing vessels should enter the docks from the Blackwall Basin and lighters enter via an entrance on the Limehouse side. This prevented congestion and made it easier to control the loading or unloading of the vessels. The conversion of the City Canal into the South West India Dock, added much needed berths. However, the dimensions of the dock entrance, despite being a foot deeper than the rest of the dock system, limited the number and size of the vessels berthing, to less than 6000 tons.

The docks continued to be used throughout the 20th century. In 1943, the Rum Quay at West India Docks was used to build concrete petrol carrying barges for the war.


  • The West India Docks covered 295 acres, much of which is now covered by the Canary Wharf estate.
  • The original dock system consisted of two parallel docks. The 30 acre Import Dock was 155 metres long by 152 metres wide. The 24 acre Export Dock was 155 metres long by 123 metres wide. By having separate docks for loading and unloading, it was hoped to avoid vessels taking up valuable quay space for long periods of time.
  • The Limehouse entrance and the Blackwall Basin linked the dock system to the Thames. There were two sets of locks in each basin, connecting the basins to the river and to the docks. From 1806, the docks could also be accessed via the City Canal.
  • The basins allowed up to 20 vessels to enter the system at high tide. The docks could berth a maximum of 600 vessels at any one time.
  • City Canal was purchased by the West India Dock Company for £120,000 for conversion into the South West India Dock. This created a further 29 acres of dock space.
  • 6 metre high security walls surrounded the dock system, as did a ditch that was 2 metres deep and 3.7 metres wide. The site of the dock dictated strict security arrangements, including patrols of armed guards.
  • The warehouses were designed by George Gwilt and built by William Adam. They were usually five storeys high and built using locally made brick with limestone dressings. They had distinctive semi-circular and round windows.
  • There was a continuous line of three-quarters of a mile of warehousing, lining the Import Dock. This housed nine vast sugar and molasses warehouses. The Export Dock had fewer buildings lining the quays.
  • The company employed 200 full time labourers. A range of tradesmen also operated on site including coopers, painters, carpenters, blacksmiths and engineers.



In the summer I had the bizarre experience of watching the Italian warship ‘destroyer’ Luigi Durande de la Penne come through the dock and past my studio. Here are some photographs I took:

luigid1  luigi

I was extremely lucky to be able to watch the Festival of Tall Ships from the vantage point of the jetty. Here is a selection of photos I took:

tallships1  tallships2

tallships3  tallships4

tallships5  tallships6  tallships7  tallships8  tallship9


Seth Guy’s sound recordings:

1 Tower Bridge Riverboats:

‘Excerpt of a field recording made on a very windy day at the riverboat launch at Tower Bridge. Several boats arrived and left, each with a multitude of passengers on board and those waiting to get on. Apologies for the wind noise.’

2 Two boats back to back churning water:

‘Brief excerpt of a field recording of two riverboats back to back churning up the water between them. Recorded on the key side at Tower Bridge amid the tourists. Very windy day, apologies for the wind noise.’

3 Riverboats leaving and arriving:

‘Excerpt of a field recording made on a floating jetty on the Thames at Saunders Ness. A boat leaves picking up no passengers to go east toward Greenwich, and then another arrives to pick up three passengers to go west toward Tower Bridge.’

Thanks so much to Seth for all of the recordings he’s made.

Mirrorcity: the fictional and the real.


Henry Somers-Hall is a Philosopher currently teaching at Royal Holloway, University of London. He co-edited the Cambridge Companion to Deleuze and has written two monographs on Deleuze:

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Hegel, Deleuze and the Critique of Representation: Dialectics of Negation and Difference (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012)

I know Henry because he contacted me to use a detail of my drawing Field 4 for the cover of the second of these books, which I was very happy to agree to.

When I knew that Henry was going along to visit Mirrorcity recently, I asked if he would write some thoughts for this blog which he very kindly agreed to.

Here they are..


‘JG Ballard believed that reality had already exceeded the visions conjured by science fiction by the end of the 20th century.’

The Ballardian Plato

I want to explore here the significance of the fictional exceeding the real, with reference to some of the works in the Mirrorcity exhibition. In what sense does the real exceed the fictional? Ballard’s claim is that the modern world essentially involves an inversion of the categories of the real and the fictional:

We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind: mass merchandising, advertising, politics considered as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the pre-empting of any free or imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. (RE/Search #8/9: J. G. Ballard. RE/Search Publications, 1984, 97-8)

The world is run through with categories of thought that allow us to live with ease and without consideration – the paradigm being for Ballard the suburb, ‘the optimum of what people want’ (R/S, 15) which is also ‘the death of the soul’ (R/S, 15). In response to the simulacra of the modern world, the artist’s role is, by a parallel inversion, to open moments of reality within the fictional.

For the writer in particular, it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent reality. (R/S, 98)

As such, for Ballard, the artist’s role is one of the selection and sorting of different images. The artist applies a test to experience, and chooses those images which escape from convention and the death of the soul. This question of the selection of the real places the artist in dialogue with the philosopher (and indeed, Ballard himself claims that ‘science fiction at least attempts to place a philosophical and metaphysical frame around the most important events within our lives and consciousness’ [R/S, 97]). Ballard’s project here reiterates the aims of the founder of the Western philosophical tradition, Plato. The key question that Plato asks is how we can tell the difference between the real and the pretender – how can we determine the differences between our encounters which have a basis in reality, and those which are merely illusory. By way of example, in the dialogue, the Statesman, Plato asks what it is for someone to be a statesman, and develops the definition of statesmanship as ‘knowledge of the collective rearing of human beings.’ (Plato, Statesman, 267d) Once we have this definition, we are still faced with a difficulty, however, as it appears that there are a large number of people who fulfil this description: ‘merchants, farmers, millers and bakers’ (Statesman, 267e). The task of philosophy is not to formulate definitions, but to select those beings that are legitimate, and the rejection of those who are not, a process Plato equates with the separation of precious metals from their alloyed state by means of fire. Merchants, farmers, millers and bakers all fulfil the definition of the statesman, so we cannot determine the difference between them by simply relying on the way that they appear. Rather, philosophy takes the form of genealogy. For Plato, philosophy involves seeing which entities can be seen as copies of an eternal realm of forms, and which are merely transient appearances.  Those that participate in permanence are real objects, whereas those that do not are mere simulacra. In many dialogues, we have the introduction of a myth. In the Statesman, the visitor introduces the fable of two cosmic eras, that of Cronos, and the present age of Zeus. Each of these gods allows ordered existence to carry on in the world by ensuring that the universe continues to revolve around its circle.  By incorporating a myth into the structure of our enquiry, we are able to resolve the question of which of the various contenders is in actual fact the statesman. That is, myth provides an archetype by which to properly separate the pure gold of the statesman from the mixed elements of the other figures. How does it do this? Well, these gods’ governance of the universe provides us with a model by which to assess which of the claimants is the true statesman. Thus, ultimately it is mythology that completes the philosophical project of Plato’s dialogues. How does this process of selection relate to Ballard?

Icons and Phantasms

For Plato, the world of appearances contains just shadows or copies of real things. Those copies that resemble real things have more reality than those which do not. An important point to note, however, is that there are two ways in which something can be a copy of, or resemble, something else. The visitor sets these two ways out in the Sophist:

Visitor: One type of imitation I see is the art of likeness-making. That’s the one we have whenever someone produces an imitation by keeping to the proportions of length, breadth, and depth of his model, and also by keeping to the appropriate colours of its parts.

Theaetetus: But don’t all imitators try to do that?

Visitor: Not the ones who sculpt or draw very large works. If they reproduced the true proportions of their beautiful subjects, you see, the upper parts would appear smaller than they should, and the lower parts would appear larger, because we see the upper parts from further away and the lower parts from closer. (Sophist, 235d-236a)

Something can therefore resemble the way something is (in which case it is an icon), or just in the way in which sculptors may employ tricks of perspective, it can resemble the way something appears (in which case it is a phantasm). The true statesman resembles the Idea or form of the statesman in the first of these senses. The pretender only resembles the appearance of the form, not the form itself. The problem, therefore, is to distinguish the candidates who bear a true likeness from those which merely appear to. At the heart of the difference between real images and fictional images for Plato is therefore a difference in the conception of space. There is a difference between the way something appears, and the way it actually is – the geometry of the painter and the geometry of the architect. For Plato, what is privileged is the geometry of the object understood in its mathematical clarity, outside of the vicissitudes of temporal experience. For Ballard, on the contrary, clarity is precisely what obscures our understanding of the essence of things. His story ‘The Intensive Care Unit,’ for instance, extrapolates to a society where interactions between individuals are only permitted via television. This sense of the clearly defined is an extrapolation of the clarity aimed at in the modern city. Ballard talks of Dusseldorf as the city ‘where nothing is ever allowed out of place.’ (R/S, 15) This clarity of vision, where the world is clearly demarcated, is the limit of the ‘voluntary self-limitations which allow human beings to go out, sit down, walk down the streets, take planes, and lead bourgeois lives with videos and word processors.’ (R/S, 21)

Here we can see the first essential difference between the Platonism of Ballard and that of Plato himself. For Plato, it is the illusory that is unclear. We can’t determine whether objects of appearance are tall or short, beautiful or ugly, because they are in space and time, and hence can at different moments have contrary properties. Clarity occurs when we consider the world apart from the way that it appears. For Ballard, on the contrary, it is the clarity of the world that is an illusion. As he puts it,

The mere existence of our own sort of musculatures, the particular skeletal morphology of the mammal, not to mention the whole vast system of inventions and dampers and blocks and subterfuges of various kinds – elaborate mental languages and visa systems that operate on all sorts of borders of the brain, which is in itself an incredibly elaborate structure – if you could only shine a light through the whole of it, existence would seem as bright as the sun! As shocking as a blast of sunlight, or a blare of noise. (R/S, 21)

Central to Ballard’s approach are, therefore, ‘perceptual dislocations’ (R/S, 51) that break through the web of fictions that constitute reality. There are two moments to the Ballardian approach. First, there is the dislocation that breaks through the banalities of the fictional. Second, there is the real that we then encounter. Works such as the photo-montages of Stezaker create images through juxtaposition that prevent the normal functioning of the mental languages and visa systems of the brain by slipping between categories. As such they disrupt the smooth assimilation of the visual stimuli they present. Similarly, Tim Etchells’ City Changes projects a set of mutually contradictory descriptions of the city. In these cases, we have the mode of disorientation and fragmentation that opens the way to the real.

We can find an example of this defamiliarisation of space in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition:

Tallis stood behind the door of the lounge, shielded from the sunlight of the balcony, and considered the white cube of the room. At intervals, Karen Novotny moved across it, carrying out a series of random acts. Already, she was confusing the perspectives of the room, transforming it into a dislocated clock. She noticed Tallis behind the door and walked towards him. Tallis waited for her to leave. Her figure interrupted the junction between the walls in the corner on his right. After a few seconds her presence became an unbearable intrusion into the geometry of the room. (Ballard, Atrocity Exhibition, 43)

Here, what is behind appearances is not the unified object, freed from the contradictions of appearance, but instead a fragmented space, without the unity of the elaborations of the brain. As an exploration of this realm prior to the fictions of the real, Ballard writes that ‘fiction is a branch of neurology: the scenarios of nerve and blood vessel are the written mythologies of memory and desire.’ (R/S, 149) Just as with Plato the exploration of the individual is also the exploration of the city, so it is with Ballard, who notes that from the architectural spaces of the city, we could reconstitute the psychology of a people. (R/S, 44) Such a fragmentation, therefore, does not simply open out onto a new perspective, but also onto the complex network of affects and interrelations that gives rise to our neurology. In this aspect, Emma McNally’s works go beyond the simple fragmentation of perception to posit an order behind our world that does not share the structure of the object, but rather presents the complex traces and paths that lie behind our simple conception of the world. This is the second moment of Ballard’s model. In this sense, one can draw a connection between the inversion of Platonism in Ballard’s writing, and many of the artworks on display at Mirrorcity.


Today’s sound is Seth Guy’s Deeper River (version 4) …

‘A treated prepared microphone recording originally made at City Airport. Wind, rain, and aircraft providing much of the noise and atmospheric sounds throughout. As with previous “Deeper Rivers”, headphones are advised':