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Winter 2000
Culture Watch:Take a Walk on the Wild Side
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"Meltdown consistently surprises, excites and infuriates in roughly equal measure," is how Time Out London describes the annual summer fest, with its lineup of guest artist/curators that have included Elvis Costello, Laurie Anderson and Nick Cave. That description seems fitting of Sefton, as well.

"It went from being a plucky outsider to being - a bit like myself, I suppose -absolutely the mainstream festival. It's the biggest thing, the busiest time for South Bank," says Sefton. Despite the bad timing, he managed to land the plum position at UCLA - once he became convinced the university truly was looking for someone with his daring alternative artistic vision to head up the program. He was, in fact, the only candidate asked to return for a second interview.

Indeed, Sefton, the "plucky outsider," is leaning a bit more mainstream as head of a conventional university department. "At Festival Hall, I had a chief executive and I was the outsider. Here, I am the one," he says with mock horror. And then, with resignation, "The alternative has to reside in my program now, and not in my attitude."

His exuberance for the job makes Sefton sound at times like a kid let loose in a candy store. But unlike a child with only instant, indiscriminate gratification in mind, he has a clear vision of where he wants to take UCLA's program: out into uncharted waters that expand, push, break, blur, cross and redefine boundaries.

"If you stick to rigid lines," Sefton says, "eventually you run dry and get boring."

That desire to stretch beyond traditional bounds, however, doesn't mean Sefton intends to trash the center's vaunted classical music program and replace it with rock concerts in Royce Hall, as a "very funny rumor" suggested. Rather, he will keep most of Performing Arts' usual lineup, but will add to the program.

"The way in which I relate to the rock world, for example, is to treat musical artists like other people treat composers and see what they want to do that isn't a rock gig," Sefton says. "I'm not interested in just doing rock gigs; I want to engage that world in a different way, but also engage all of the worlds that are here in different ways - to cross art forms."

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