A drawing of a giant monster standing on house with a red roof

Somerset House 2020 Programme Announced

• Filmmakers, photographers and designers explore the influence of skateboarding’s creative culture and community on the UK over the past 45 years in a new free exhibition No Comply

• Drawing inspiration from the dark side, brilliantly nonconformist British creatives tell a tall tale of modern Britain in The Horror Show! through three acts – Monster, Ghost and Witch – designed in the spirit of the funfair

• Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Somerset House presents a series of innovative installations and interactive events, interrogating how art and culture can inspire positive change in society’s relationship with nature

• Inspired by Somerset House’s historical connection to the Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, contemporary artists contribute to a special series of public art installations and events, exploring these milestone life moments, launching with a dinner in the Deadhouse and interactive installation Arrivals + Departures



No Comply: Skate Culture and Community
11 June-18 August 2020
Part of the Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series
Terrace Rooms, South Wing
Free Admission

This summer, Somerset House presents No Comply, a free exhibition exploring the phenomena of skateboarding and the impact of its culture and communities on the UK over the past 45 years. Through the work of leading filmmakers, photographers and designers, No Comply celebrates the UK’s vibrant and diverse skateboarding scene, documenting the influence the subculture has played in reimagining the cities, public spaces and culture which surrounds us.
Curated by Somerset House and Tory Turk, from an original idea by Frankie Shea, the exhibition showcases archival footage, film, photography and independent magazines, created and captured by artists and the skate community, drawing upon the rich D.I.Y ethos which has defined its creative culture for decades. Featuring rare memorabilia and personal archives, No Comply demonstrates the transformative power of skateboarding’s grassroots community, spotlighting the strength and collective spirit of its members in protecting urban spaces threatened by development for future generations. The exhibition also explores non-profit initiatives beyond the UK using skateboarding to empower and incite positive change.
No Comply invites visitors to discover the impact both municipal and D.I.Y skate parks have played in shaping the UK urban landscape, as well as interrogate the rise in anti-skate design, which seeks to deter skaters from engaging with cities’ skateable surfaces. Delving deeper into skateboarding’s creative spirit, No Comply also looks at how skate-wear, which has defined the subculture’s collective identity since its inception, continues to influence the mainstream.

The Horror Show!
5 November 2020–28 February 2021
Embankment Galleries, South Wing
Tickets go on sale in the spring

Roll up, roll up to Somerset House this autumn for The Horror Show!, an exhibition celebrating those who are drawn to the dark side.  Featuring Gareth Pugh, Gazelle Twin, Noel Fielding, Pam Hogg, David Shrigley, Ben Wheatley, Mark E Smith (The Fall), Jamie Reid and Derek Ridgers (and many more yet to be announced), these mavericks take inspiration from the fiendish, freakish and phenomenal to tell a tall tale of modern Britain. The exhibition is presented in three acts – Monster, Ghost and Witch – with each representing an era of British history from the past 50 years.  From 1970s punk to modern witchcraft today, the subversive is constantly re-shaping British cultural identity.

The Horror Show! summons the spirit of the funfair, setting the stage for a spellbinding spectacle of art, music, fashion, film and design. Through the weird and wonderful lens of some of our country’s creative iconoclasts, the exhibition reframes the political turbulence of the 70s and social division of the 80s, to the hollow hedonism of the 90s, hurtling at full pelt into the 21st century. It reveals a resoundingly British spirit of rebellion, showing how the state of the nation is inextricably linked to the desire to seek out something outside of the norm – or even of another world. 

The Horror Show! is co-curated by Claire Catterall, Somerset House’s senior curator, with Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, artists and filmmakers resident at Somerset House Studios.

April 2020
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Free Admission

As part of its year-round commitment to environmental sustainability, Somerset House celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, bringing together artists and designers from across the world who are contributing to the urgent effort to address the ecological crisis. Visitors are invited to experience innovative installations and interactive events, interrogating how art and culture can inspire positive change in society’s relationship with nature. Highlights from this year’s programme include a new flag commission from acclaimed British fashion designer Bethany Williams, and a series of interactive workshops to mark the closing weekend of Somerset House’s exhibition Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, open until 26 April 2020.


Arrivals + Departures
3-26 April 2020
Lancaster Place
Free Admission

For over 130 years*, Somerset House was home to all records of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the UK and archived the wills of the nation.  8.5 miles of vaults were situated within Somerset House, holding documents written by luminaries from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and even an egg, after one Briton put the entirety of their estate on an eggshell, which was carefully stored on site.  The first ever census encompassing every single British household was also organised from Somerset House, becoming the place to get the most real sense of the state of the nation.

At the dawn of a new decade, Somerset House honours its heritage with a special series of public art installations and events from March – October inspired by this chapter of Somerset House’s history. Contemporary artists investigate and interpret the incredible stories of our ancestors and imagine how we could also become inspirational ancestors for future generations.

The first interactive art installation will be Arrivals + Departures, opening on 3 April 2020. 

Created by artist duo YARA + DAVINA, Arrivals + Departures takes the recognisable form of an arrivals and departures board, displaying the names of people submitted by the public as a way of celebrating a birth (arrival) or commemorating a death (departure).  Capturing both the joy and sadness of an arrivals hall or departure lounge, visitors and passers-by can choose to contribute names as a way to acknowledge, celebrate and commemorate.  Names may range from the personal to the political, from our unsung personal heroes to national treasures, as they are shared on the large-scale artwork via a live interaction with a guide or online.
Throughout the spring and summer, Public Search Room - a display inspired by the room in which members of the public could research the records held at Somerset House - will be stationed inside Seamen’s Hall (the original site of the Public Search Room) and other spaces around Somerset House, providing an introduction to the building’s previous purpose.  The MA students of The Courtauld Institute of Art will also curate their summer show in response to this captivating subject.  More artworks and events will be announced in due course.
Arrivals + Departures is supported by Without Walls and commissioned by Artsadmin, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Freedom Festival Arts Trust.

*The records and the staff of the General Register Office and Principal Probate Registry left Somerset House almost 50 years ago to more purpose-built premises, making way for Somerset House to be transformed into London’s working arts centre today.

Somerset House Summer Series with American Express ®
9–19 July 2020
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Line-up announcement and tickets on sale in March

Marking 20 years of outstanding open-air live music at Somerset House, Somerset House Summer Series with American Express ® returns for eleven nights of exceptional gigs.  An unmissable summer experience, the series brings a vibrant festival atmosphere right to the heart of London, offering music fans the rare opportunity to enjoy world-renowned acts across a wide range of genres in a spectacular, intimate setting. Produced in partnership with Metropolis Music.

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House
13–26 August 2020
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Full line-up announcement in May

In August, Somerset House’s iconic courtyard transforms into the UK’s most beautiful open-air cinema, bringing the best of film to London’s largest outdoor screen.  Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House is the only UK open-air cinema to present hotly-anticipated film premieres, alongside a stellar selection of popular favourites, classics and cult hits.  Equally unlike any other open-air cinema, the festival unites film fans and film-making talent with a series of special guest appearances from superstars of the screen, inside the real-life movie set of Somerset House (last year saw the likes of Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Pedro Almodóvar and Josh O’Connor speak live to audiences).  As the sun sets over the London skyline on a balmy summer evening, live DJs spin a soundtrack inspired by the upcoming screening and a delectable selection of food and drink is served up.  The experience can be further tailored to individual tastes with a range of seating options, from giant bean bags to picnic spaces for enjoying a D.I.Y feast with friends. 

Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason
11 November 2020–10 January 2021
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Tickets on sale from September

Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason returns, forming the perfect place for family and friends to celebrate the winter season with its unrivalled festive atmosphere and central London location. Welcomed by the magnificent 40ft Christmas tree, visitors to Skate can experience skating on one of the UK’s favourite rinks, enjoy incredible sets from leading DJs at Skate Lates, and indulge in seasonal shopping and delicious food and drink from Fortnum & Mason. Transforming the beautiful neoclassical courtyard into a spectacular winter destination, Skate at Somerset House offers the ultimate festive experience for all ages, from morning to night.


27 February–1 March 2020
Tickets available from collect2020.org.uk 

The International Art Fair for Modern Craft & Design: Collect 2020, founded by the Crafts Council, will hold its 16th edition at Somerset House for the first time.

The only gallery-presented art fair dedicated to modern craft and design, Collect has established itself as the vanguard of growing global appreciation for crafted objects and presents an opportunity to invest in and commission extraordinary pieces of work by living artists. Thoughtfully curated by an expert panel, galleries from five continents, representing over 400 international artists, will showcase exceptional and breakthrough designer making and all its possibilities.  Work from the largest-ever contingency of South Korean talent will feature.
The fair also includes Collect Open, where 12 ambitious individual makers/duos have been selected to present outstanding and conceptual new work and installations on a larger scale.  An exciting talks programme includes Sheila Loewe, president of the Loewe Foundation in conversation with two Loewe Foundation Craft Prize 2019 commended artists participating in a special 30th anniversary showcase for The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.
Each gallery contextualises work in room environments including Venezuelan artist, Daniel Reynolds, who is producing a dramatic, bespoke piece in his signature ceramic and glass to hang in the West Wing.
Collect 2020 is sponsored by The LOEWE Foundation and Cox London.

Sony World Photography 202017 April-4 May 2020
East and West Wing Galleries
Tickets on sale from 5 March, worldphoto.org

A selection of the world’s best photography from the past year will return to Somerset House in the internationally acclaimed Sony World Photography Awards 2020 exhibition.
Now in its 13th year, this major exhibition celebrates photography in all its diversity from landscape to portraiture, wildlife to fine art by incredible talents, both established and emerging, from around the globe. All artworks are selected from the winning and shortlisted
entries from the Sony World Photography Awards.
Highlights include works by the Awards’ Photographer of the Year and a special presentation by renowned publisher Gerhard Steidl, this year’s recipient of the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Photography’. One Love, One Book: Steidl Book Culture. The Book as Multiple will showcase images and landmark titles by some of the world’s leading photographers while giving visitors insights and guidance into Steidl’s unique bookmaking craft.

Photo London
14-17 May 2020
Tickets available from 8 February 2020  www.photolondon.org

Photo London returns this May to show the best of international photography in the spectacular neoclassical architecture of Somerset House, where the term ‘photography’ was first coined in 1839. The fair remains dedicated to showing the best historic and vintage photographs while also focusing on fresh perspectives in photography, with new forward-thinking galleries and exhibitions exploring the boundaries and state of the medium.

National Saturday Club
6–14 June 2020
10am-6pm, late opening (11am-8pm) Wednesday to Friday
West Wing Galleries
Free Admission

The National Saturday Club returns to Somerset House to present its inspirational annual Summer Show.

This year, 1,500 13–16 year olds across the country have spent the past year exploring creative subjects they love, for free, in their local Saturday Club. The Summer Show is an opportunity to see all that these young people have created and considered, exhibited in the West Wing Galleries for one week only.

Courtauld Institute’s MA Curating Show
11 June–12 July 2020
Embankment West
Free Admission

Following their exhibition last summer, Generations: Connecting Across Time and Place, the students of the Courtauld Institute’s MA Curating programme will again mount their end-of-year exhibition in Somerset House. 

Their brief this year is to respond to one of the themes of Somerset House’s programme for 2020 - the history of the departure from the site of the Register for Births, Marriages and Deaths. The students will develop their theme over a six-month period and mount an exhibition and a related public programme in the summer, drawing on the rich resources of the Courtauld Gallery itself and the Arts Council Collection.

Art Night
20 June 2020

Art Night, London’s all-night contemporary art festival, celebrates five editions this summer. Transforming iconic and unexpected public spaces within the city from 6pm on Saturday 20 June into the early hours of Sunday 21 June, the festival will return to the sites of the first edition to celebrate its five-year anniversary: The Strand on the North Bank of the Thames, including Somerset House.

Titled Nothing Compares 2U, after the song penned by Prince and most famously performed by Sinead O’ Connor, the programme for Art Night 2020 takes inspiration from defiance in small acts and moments of self-determination, in everyday life, politics, music and literature. Further details announced in March.

London Design Biennale 2020
8-27 September 2020
Tickets on sale from 12 February 2020

Over 50 countries and territories will exhibit at the third edition of this international exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibition will provide a borderless arena for global collaboration and exchange between participants and audiences from Mexico to France, Pakistan to Taiwan, Hong Kong to Israel.

Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, The Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland and Venezuela have also been confirmed as participants. Award-winning artist and designer Es Devlin OBE has been named as the Artistic Director, revealing the 2020 theme of Resonance. The theme considers the ripple effect of ground-breaking design concepts on the way we live, and the choices we make, to reflect on urgent social and environmental challenges we face as an international community.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair 
8-11 October 2020
Tickets on sale from July

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair returns to Somerset House in 2020 for its eighth London edition.

With editions in London, Marrakech and New York, 1-54 is the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Striving to promote diverse perspectives, 1-54 invites leading international galleries specialising in contemporary African art to showcase the works of multidisciplinary artists of established and emerging profile, accompanied by 1-54 Forum and a Special Projects programme. Further details announced in March.


Somerset House Studios is an experimental workspace in the centre of London connecting artists, makers and thinkers pushing bold ideas, engaging with urgent issues and pioneering new technologies, with audiences.  Highlights from the 2020 programme include:
Gallery 31
Three new seasons opening January, June and October 2020

Throughout 2020, Gallery 31 – Somerset House Studio’s permanent exhibition space - will continue to profile the Studios community of resident artists by presenting work developed in-house and through its residency programmes with three new seasons incorporating new commissions as well as in-progress and existing works. Themes explored across 2020 will include the transformative power of change, the idea of the body as an archive and the exploration of care, support structures and friendship. 

Mutant Promise flagship programme
From April 2020 

Following the conclusion of Music Hackspace’s residency at Somerset House Studios in 2019, former director Tadeo Lopez-Sendon and producer Harry Murdoch launch new programming and producing platform Mutant Promise to profile and support the work of musicians who combine performance and composition work with a DIY-maker and music education practice. Taking its title from Adam Harpers ‘Evolution of Post-Internet Music’, Mutant Promise encapsulates a desire to work with artists who are restless with their medium, whose practice is to continually hack, modify, invent - mutate - the tools and instruments which they're given. The 'promise' is the certainty of the push forward that defines these tools, and how this process shapes new artistic practices in return. 
May 2020

Somerset House Studios partners with MUTEK and the British Council to host the second edition of Amplify in the UK, supporting women and non-binary artists working across the digital arts and electronic music in Argentina, Canada and the UK. This week-long residency connects a burgeoning network of artists and producers and culminates in a public programme of installations, presentations, panel discussions, DJs and live performances introducing some of the America’s best talent to the UK for the first time, alongside the London premiere of a major new audio-visual work co-commissioned with Abandon Normal Devices Festival.

9 October 2020

Somerset House Studios turns four this October and will once again open its doors for AGM, offering visitors rare access to the private corners of the building where artists make their work. For one night of the year, the Studios artists take over the former Inland Revenue building with a programme of performance, installations, DJ’s and a late-night access all areas party like no other. Previous AGM highlights include Mykki Blanco, Kode9, Beatrice Dillon and Hannah Perry featuring Mica Levi, Coby Sey and London Contemporary Orchestra. 

13-15 November 2020 

ASSEMBLY, Somerset House Studios’ annual experimental music season, returns with a programme focused on spatial sound. Following a new artist development programme developed by Somerset House Studios in collaboration with Studios residents and immersive sound agency Call & Response, five artists will participate in a transformational programme to develop expertise in this new immersive sound technology, resulting in five new commissioned spatial sound works rooted in any genre that will premiere as part of the ASSEMBLY programme.
ASSEMBLY 2019 was curated by Christian Marclay and featured new commissions from artists including Beatrice Dillon, Karen Gwyer, Haroon Mirza and Lawrence Lek.

AROUND SITE - Working, Eating and Drinking at Somerset House

Somerset House Exchange

This autumn, Somerset House launched the Exchange, a dynamic new shared workspace for freelancers, individuals and small businesses working in the arts and creative industries. By joining Somerset House’s thriving creative community, the Exchange offers members a unique network that sparks innovation, forges connections and offers opportunities for collaboration. A range of flexible and affordable memberships are available, starting from £60 a month, as well as bursaries to people who are underrepresented in the creative sector.

For more information, visit www.somersethouse.org.uk/exchange
Supported by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund.

Watch House
Opening late February

A brand-new café, Watch House, is coming to Somerset House’s East Wing, replacing Fernandez & Wells. With several existing outlets across London including Tower Bridge and Bermondsey Street, Watch House is based on a simple statement - beautiful, unique spaces, serving amazing food and modern coffee.

Boasting a state-of-the art brew bar and industry leading coffee equipment, visitors will enjoy an unrivalled coffee experience, with stunning views of Somerset House’s neo-classical courtyard. 

Alongside daily fresh sandwiches, artisan baked goods and an all-day brunch service, a curated selection of low intervention wines and a delicious small plate menu will be on offer throughout the day and into the evening.

Somerset House Terrace with San Miguel

Opening its doors for the second year this April, the Somerset House Terrace with San Miguel returns, providing a chance to discover a little piece of Spain in the heart of London throughout the Summer of San Miguel’s 130th anniversary year.

Unique to the UK will be the San Miguel Tap Station, offering a range of five special edition beers, each named after a city celebrating San Miguel’s global journey; from the floral hops of Hong Kong Brew to the caramel and coffee notes of the Munich brew, each with its own distinct and individual character. Also on offer will be the full range of San Miguel beers: San Miguel Especial, San Miguel 0,0, San Miguel Gluten Free, and the luxurious San Miguel Selecta. All complemented by a tempting new menu of authentic Mediterranean fare - perfect for lunch, dinner or a light bite.
Within this beautiful Thames-side destination, San Miguel will also be the official beer partner across Somerset House’s summer season including Somerset House Summer Series with American Express and Film4 Summer Screen.

Spring Restaurant

Led by Skye Gyngell, formerly head chef at the Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries, Spring’s elegant dining space is housed in the beautifully restored 19th century drawing room in the New Wing of Somerset House.  At Spring, food is celebrated for its conviviality and the joyfulness of sharing seasonal produce, through heartfelt, wholesome, produce driven cooking.

Bryn Williams at Somerset House

Acclaimed Welsh chef Bryn Williams opened his first London restaurant and bar in a decade here at Somerset House in spring 2018. Visitors can enjoy a casual, modern British dining experience with fruit and veg taking centre stage, alongside a fantastic bar for every occasion.

Hej Coffee

Conceived in Sweden and born in Bermondsey, Hej brings its authentic neighbourhood coffee shop vibe to Somerset House, serving speciality coffee, food and drinks in a welcoming accessible environment.

FOR PRESS ENQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT: press@somersethouse.org.uk / 0207 845 4624

Address:  Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Transport:  Underground: Temple, Embankment / Rail:  Charing Cross, Waterloo, Blackfriars
Website:  www.somersethouse.org.uk

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London’s working arts centre
Somerset House is London’s working arts centre and home to the UK’s largest creative community. Built on historic foundations, we are situated in the very heart of the capital.
Dedicated to backing progress, championing openness, nurturing creativity and empowering ideas, our cultural programme is ambitious in scope. We insist on relevance, but aren’t afraid of irreverence, and are as keen on entertainment as enrichment. We embrace the biggest issues of our times and are committed to oxygenating new work by emerging artists. Where else can you spend an hour ice-skating while listening to a specially commissioned sound piece by a cutting-edge artist?

It is this creative tension—the way we harness our heritage, put the too-often overlooked on our central stage and use our neo-classical backdrop to showcase ground-breaking contemporary culture—that inspires our programme. Old and new, history and disruption, art and entertainment, high-tech and homemade, combined with the fact that we are home to a constantly shape-shifting working creative community: this is our point of difference. It is what we are proud of. And it is what makes the experience of visiting or working in Somerset House inspiring and energizing, urgent and exciting.