Cocker promises high and low culture as Meltdown curator

Jarvis Cocker, national treasure and former Pulp frontman, is to curate the Meltdown festival at the South Bank Centre in London this June.

Jarvis Cocker, national treasure and former Pulp frontman, is to curate the Meltdown festival at the South Bank Centre in London this June.

The week-long event, previously directed by artists as diverse as David Bowie and Louis Andriessen, will feature concerts, performances and visual art chosen by Cocker. Although it was too early to reveal details yesterday, he hinted at an eclectic range of offerings.

"I think the main thing is to mix things up; things that maybe shouldn't go together," he said. "I'm hoping to get a weird mix of contemporary things and revivals of old stuff; and as much as possible that involves audience participation to a degree. I'm hoping to get some film stuff together. There will high culture there, and low culture; some very low."

Last year Cocker released a highly regarded solo album and a compilation which included everything from Carl Orff to the Beach Boys. His interests include outsider art, minimalism, and social realism. He has also written music for Nancy Sinatra and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and last night duetted with Beth Ditto, lead singer of The Gossip, at the NME awards.He comes from Sheffield but now lives in France.

He regarded the Meltdown opportunity as "a bit like being asked to do Desert Island Discs: I jumped at the chance".

Of the sometimes derided South Bank Centre, he said: "I've always liked the look of the place; concrete is very under-rated as a building material. I love the idea of going back to the Festival of Britain and all that."

Cocker gained nationwide notoriety - and a good deal of praise - when he invaded the stage to protest at Michael Jackson's performance of Earth Song at the Brit awards ceremony in 1996.

Glenn Max, producer of contemporary culture at the South Bank Centre, said: "Jarvis seemed such an obvious choice. He has the right temperament; he pays the right kind of attention to the world, and has championed many different things. He has the right sense of humour, playfulness, and mischief."

· Meltdown is sponsored by the Observer.

Past curators

1993 George Benjamin

1994 Louis Andriessen

1995 Elvis Costello

1996 Magnus Lindberg

1997 Laurie Anderson

1998 John Peel

1999 Nick Cave

2000 Scott Walker

2001 Robert Wyatt

2002 David Bowie

2003 Lee "Scratch" Perry

2004 Morrissey

2005 Patti Smith


Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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