Interview: Wendy Martin, Southbank Centre [BDE 2012]

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Wendy Martin

Over the next few weeks Lise Smith will be talking to some of the people at the different venues across London who are presenting British Dance Edition (2 – 5 February).
First up is a new comer to London – Wendy Martin is Head of Dance and Performance at Southbank Centre, the world’s largest multi-venue arts centre. Previously Head of Theatre and Dance at Sydney Opera House, she joined SBC in May 2010.

“When I moved here from Australia the first meeting I went to was a British Dance Edition curatorial meeting , and for me, being involved in BDE has been a great introduction to British dance. It’s exciting to be going into all those different venues in one hit, seeing the Opera House and Sadler’s Wells and Southbank. They’re very different spaces and they’re all driven by very different kinds of philosophies.

Southbank Centre is a multi-artform, multi-venue site and one of the really interesting things is how the general public use this place – if I walked over to the Festival Hall now you would probably find groups of people with their music players practising dance and this goes on here all day every day. It’s like the People’s Palace of London and we love the way people use it like that.

“What’s unique about the performances happening here is the live music element. One of the major things that goes on at Southbank is classical and contemporary music, so I was very keen that the work we presented for BDE had live music because that says something strong about who we are. The first piece ( National Dance Company Wales in Stephen Petronio’s By Singing Light) has a 30-person choir, the BBC National Chorus of Wales, performing live. The Richard Alston piece ( Unfinished Business ) is also set to a piano solo to Mozart . With contemporary dance it’s quite rare to have live dance and music – especially 30 people singing!

“It’s phenomenal to me how much is going on every night of the week – I’ve been so impressed since I moved here by the level of commitment to fostering the talent of artists, to building audiences for the work, and to engagement with the community. A lot of places in the world put on shows where the artists come and the artists leave; but everybody is trying to do a lot of work to connect with new audiences here. I’ve been really impressed.

“My top tip for visitors to London is that it’s a really great city for walking in – I walk everywhere, it’s much more interesting on foot than it is on the tube. And if they want the best coffee in London it’s all made by Australians in Soho! Try Fernandez and Wells in Beak Street, or there’s Flat White in Berwick Street. You don’t want to end up at Café Nero and Costa!”

What’s On