Every year the lunatics take over the asylum for two weeks, as the Southbank Centre hosts Imagine Children’s Festival, its annual arts festival dedicated to children.
Many of you will already be familiar with the space, and welcome some quiet contemplation whilst the kids throw themselves onto bean bags in The Clore Ballroom, or ride up and down in the JCB Singing Lift. For those of you who aren’t, the Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, comprising of three iconic buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) located smack-bang in the heart of London’s bustling South Bank.
Packed with events and activities to keep families busy over half term, last year’s highlights included live illustration by Quentin Blake, The Big Sleepover on the Royal Festival Hall stage and a time machine. This year promises to be bigger and broader with events and activities for all ages.
Highlights from this year’s programme include:
– The return of the popular The Big Sleepover
– Russell Brand will be keeping it clean, channeling his energy into reading from his new children’s book The Pied Piper of Hamelin
– The London premiere of a brand new production of Brundibár, the renowned children’s opera by Hans Krása
– Bouncing Cats and Boom Boom Pups, a new Southbank Centre commission by Hip Hop spoken word artist Maxwell Golden who has created a special call and response children’s show
– Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play – The stars of the hit BBC TV series and books by Lauren Child are brought to life by a magical mix of puppets, live interaction and music
– A bigger programme for babies with Baby Yoga sessions, Move and Shake and two shows for under-threes by Half Moon Young People’s Theatre; Curious and Circles in the Sand. Plus there will be a brand new early years soft play village
And for those who are usually put off by the high prices, the good news is that over half of the 2015 programme will be free of charge, offering all families and schools a chance to sample literature, music, theatre, poetry and dance, without having to part with a penny. There are also a wide selection of shows and activities for under £5.
Best of the free activities are:
– A family concert in The Clore Ballroom by the Young Orchestra for London, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
– Have a go strings with In Harmony Lambeth, drop-in session for kids to try their hand at playing the violin, viola, cello or double base under expert guidance
– Cowboy Max, a free family theatre performance packed with adventures, from trick roping, whip and joke cracking to magic and song
– The chance to challenge the Queen of Hearts to a game of Flamingo Croquet on the Festival Terrace
And for fidgety bums there’s a host of dance activities such as Move and Shake and the grand Animal Parade, as well as nearby Jubilee Gardens; a great place to burn-off excess energy whilst watching some of the Southbank’s best street performers.
Most of the popular shows started booking out before Christmas, so if you haven’t already, get booking. Alternatively, you could just take a flight of fancy on the day, mosey on down and see what’s what.
One thing is for sure, it’s exciting, it’s noisy, it’s mayhem, but it is enlightening and absolutely always memorable. If you have been looking for the right opportunity to dip your toe into the children’s arts scene, then this annual spectacular is the perfect place to start.
Imagine Children’s Festival is on at the Southbank Centre from 9th – 22nd February 2015.
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