In its inaugural year Merge Festival was a great success, bringing together art, music and performance in unusual locations and historic venues around Bankside. It featured many critically acclaimed free events and reached a diverse audience. Here are some of the highlights of 2011: 

Never Records

Never Records was an innovative arts and music installation by New York artist Ted Riederer. Musicians were recorded straight onto vinyl, which could then be played by visitors to the show. Making only two records, one was given to the recording artist, while the other was kept in the Never Records shop to become a permanent exhibit in a mock record shop for visitors to listen to. Ted also recorded onto vinyl at a special live performance in the Bear Pit in collaboration with Philip Jeck, the artist and musician renowned for his soaring soundscapes, using vintage turntables and electronics. 

Arturo Vega

Merge staged “The Ramones and Me” at Tate Modern, a talk by Arturo Vega, the artist behind the Ramones’ artwork. This was complimented by a display of Arturo’s artwork on real Ramones vinyl at the Never Records Store. Arturo also created a special Never Records logo for the festival and screen printed it live and free for anyone who turned up at the Never Records exhibition with a blank T-shirt. 

Very sadly Arturo passed away on June 8th 2013.   R.I.P. Arturo

Jamie Reid

Merge showcased iconic punk artist Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols artwork, assembled together for the very first time to co-inside with the Sex Pistols 35th anniversary. This retrospective exhibition of collage and poster work also included a talk with a slide show and a live performance by Reid’s daughter Rowan Reid. Jamie helped define the image of punk rock with some of his best known works adorning the covers of Sex Pistols albums “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols” and singles "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save The Queen". This was a rare chance to see the iconic original artwork including the Sex Pistols bed. 

The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company

THSC were Merge Festival’s artists in residence, running spoken word workshops with a Bankside youth centre, performing on the Riverside Stage and at a special live event in the Bear Pit. Founded by MOBO-award winning hip-hop artist Akala Daley, The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company explore the social, cultural and linguistic parallels between the work of William Shakespeare and that of modern day hip-hop artists. 

Riverside Stage

This alfresco stage hosted by the Gladstone pub provided free live music performances on the Thames river walkway outside the Tate Modern, showcasing up and coming talent alongside established acts. Passers by were entertained by The Borough Lovers, Syd Arthur, The Snakes, Erin K and Tash and Billy Bones, amongst others.

The Tapeworm

This special evening of performances was curated by cassette-only label The Tapeworm, featuring exemplary music from a line-up of the label's mates including BJ Nilsen, CM von Hausswolff with Mike Harding, Peter Hope-Evans and Savage Pencil, Zerocrop and Ken Hollings. On the walls were videos by People Like Us and drawings by Savage Pencil. 

Caravan Theatre

Possibly the smallest mobile theatre in London this unique performance space, inside a vintage 1970’s caravan, was situated on the riverside walkway by the Tate Modern and at Bankside Mix’s Canvey Street. Holding an audience of 6 people, the caravan showcased new and innovative performances by Silvia Mercuriali, Neil Bennun and Hannah Ringham.

Musical Happenings

Throughout the festival we hosted a series of musical happening in unexpected places at unexpected times, such as cafes, parks and local businesses. Including Easy and Late at the Tate with Rory More, Gemma Ray and the Karminsky Brothers; Limozine and James McArthur & the Head Gardeners on the terrace of the Blue Fin Building, and early evening music in Canvey Street.

Merge 2011