Southbank Centre announces programme for new year-long Belief and Beyond Belief – exploring what it means to be human in the 21st century

Southbank Centre announces programme for new year-long Belief and Beyond Belief – exploring what it means to be human in the 21st century


Featuring prominent writers, thinkers, artists and scientists including Karen Armstrong, Professor Stephen Hawking, Richard Holloway, Vladimir Jurowski, Sir Roger Norrington, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elif Şafak and Mona Siddiqui OBE


In partnership with London Philharmonic Orchestra


Also including Remona Aly, Julian Baggini, Nick Baines, Sarah Bakewell,  Edmund de Waal, A.C. Grayling, Anab Jain, Joanna Kavenna, AL Kennedy, Sara Khan, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Abdul Rehman Malik, Sayed Razawi, Philippe Sands, Marcus du Sautoy, Indarjit Singh, Jasvir Singh, Murray Shanahan, Nick Spencer, Nathalie Stutzmann, Colm Tóibín and more to be announced


Belief and Beyond Belief
10 January – 17 December 2017
Southbank Centre
#BeliefandBeyond @southbankcentre

Southbank Centre’s new year-long festival Belief and Beyond Belief built around eight themed weekends throughout 2017 offers a diverse programme of music, literature, performance, talks and debates featuring some of the most prominent writers, thinkers, artists and scientists of today including Karen Armstrong, Professor Stephen Hawking, Richard Holloway, Vladimir Jurowski, Sir Roger Norrington, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elif Şafak and Mona Siddiqui OBE.


The cross-artform programme investigates the great questions surrounding our experiences of life, death, religion and spirituality and explores what it meant so be a human in the 21st century – debating which religious beliefs remain relevant today.


Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said “Belief and Beyond Belief is a landmark investigation into what it means to be a human in the 21st century. In a world of both secular and religious convictions, the current polarisation of faiths, deficit of happiness and rise of mental health issues suggests we are struggling with a wider discussion of spiritual and community life. With our partners London Philharmonic Orchestra, we tackle society’s most pressing moral dilemmas and examine the meaning of spirituality today through music, theatre, art, discussion and debate. The festival, like Southbank Centre, is for absolutely everyone – all ages, backgrounds and belief systems.”


Highlights include:

  • In an exclusive event to mark Professor Stephen Hawking’s 75th birthday and the launch of the landmark app Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe: A Brief History of Time Revisited, Professor Stephen Hawking is in conversation discussing his proudest accomplishments as a physicist in Royal Festival Hall (16 January)
  • London Philharmonic Orchestra devotes nearly all of its concerts in 2017 to Belief and Beyond Belief, providing the musical backbone of the festival. With 27 concerts built around the weekend themes, LPO and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Vladimir Jurowski – together with a host of leading conductors and artists – explore what it means to be human in the 21st century in works ranging from Haydn’s The Creation and Beethoven’s life-affirming Choral Symphony – to John Adams’s Harmonielehre and Krzysztof Penderecki’s cataclysmic 1966 St Luke Passion
  • Keynote addresses from prominent leaders, writers and thinkers including Mona Siddiqui CBE (Does Struggle Give Life Meaning? 21 January), Marcus du Sautoy (God of the Gaps, 4 February), Elif Şafak (When Politics Meets Religion: Power and Faith, 8 April), Karen Armstrong (Is Religion Inherently Violent? 4 November) and C. Grayling (Can War Ever Be Justified? 5 November)
  • Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and author of A Little History of Religion joins a panel discussion on The Search for the Meaning of Life followed by a candid discussion on his struggles with religion (21 January)
  • Composer Krzysztof Penderecki in conversation with Director of Music at Southbank Centre, Gillian Moore, in a free pre-concert talk, ahead of LPO’s performance of Penderecki’s St Luke Passion (4 March)
  • Irish author Colm Tóibín discusses writing from the perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus Christ, in his Booker-shortlisted novel, The Testament of Mary (16 December)
  • A broad range of panel discussions featuring leading authors, religious leaders, philosophers, scientists and artists including Remona Aly, Julian Baggini, Nick Baines, Sara Khan, Joanna Kavenna, Indarjit Singh, Sarah Bakewell and more
  • A diverse programme of performance and participation events explore and celebrate humanity, religion and spirituality including The Monkey Trial a theatrical performance based on the 1925 Scopes Trial which debated the teachings of evolutionism versus creationism (4 – 5 February); and a series of Sunday Assembly‘s (from 21 January) which explore the themes of each weekend in a foot-stomping show, with music and stories from the local community.
  • A variety of free events including storytelling, pre-concert talks, yoga, mindfulness, workshops, singing groups, craft activities, a parade inspired by the Mexican festival Day of the Dead and more.



The eight weekends of Belief and Beyond Belief look at challenges to spiritual belief and ask which, if any, of the mores, rituals and practices of religious belief can be relevant and useful to the world in the 21st century. It asks what are the risks to societies if they become more secular and how that will influence artists.


Belief and Beyond Belief also looks at the broader questions of what it means to be human, what is the human spirit and what qualities separate us from the animal kingdom. It will attempt to disentangle the positive contributions of religious beliefs from ideological or politically motivated manifestations which, in some cases, reinforce discrimination and even fuel violence.


Through music inspired by spiritual belief and the search for something greater than ourselves, the festival attempts to ‘lay open the grandeur, enigma, and conflict in our search for, and understanding of, the divine.’ (Vladimir Jurowski)


Including as broad a range of religious and secular viewpoints as possible, above all, the festival addresses the seemingly innate need in so many people to find meaning for their lives and a sense of where they fit into the universe.


Naomi French

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