Countdown to Yoko Ono’s Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre

BYLINE: Michael Holland

For some it is THE event of the year; for others it is the musical version of art’s Turner Prize; for everyone it is a big topic for discussion. In the past it has been curated by such luminaries as Elvis Costello, John Peel, Nick Cave, Bowie, Morrissey, Patti Smith, Jarvis Cocker and Ray Davies, but this year it will be Yoko Ono.

Meltdown programmer Jane Beese spoke to Weekender about the festival that is planned up to two years ahead of its start date. ‘It’s a constant item on my agenda,’ she says. And on that busy agenda will be choosing a curator: ‘We like to choose artists who have an eclectic range of media that they work in, and a healthy history of collaboration and interests.’ So Yoko Ono, who was ‘honoured and delighted to be asked’, truly fits that bill.

With legendary acts including Jeff Buckley, Blur, Radiohead, Sinead O’Connor and The Fun Lovin’ Criminals rocking up there in the past, it must always be hard to top what went before, though I’m sure Yoko Ono will not be phased. In her line up for 2013 there will be Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sue, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Boy George and a very special performance of Double Fantasy.

Beese tells me that there is a dialogue with the curator ‘to reach the best possible programme,’ and that ‘Some curators are more open to suggestions than others.’ Ono, though, as been ‘a really wonderful curator,’ says Beese, ‘full of generous, creative spirit which is completely infectious.’

Jane Beese talks of ‘once in a lifetime moments’ at past Meltdowns, though cannot pick a favourite when I ask: ‘I think they are each too unique to compare,’ she argues.

And unique they are; with no two line ups the same, Meltdown is always different from other, run-of-the-mill festivals. ‘Meltdown usually comes from a contemporary music starting point,’ she begins, ‘but can – and has – included theatre, classical music, dance, spoken word, visual and performance art.’

Finally, I asked what she thinks will be the highlights this year: ‘Well – definitely Yoko and Plastic Ono Band on the first night – her show in Berlin on the eve of her 80th Birthday in February was definitely one of my shows of the decade. I’m really looking forward to Immortal Technique in the RFH on 16 June, Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto on 19 June and Deerhoof on 21 June. And of course, the finale of Double Fantasy live, with some very special guest vocalists.’

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 14 – 23 June 2013
http://www.meltdown.southbankcentre.co.uk
Box Office: 0844 847 9944 / http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/meltdown

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