Family-friendly picks: Udderbelly and London Wonderground

Every year since 2009 a strange purple cow has popped up – or rather tipped upside down on the South Bank, marking the start of Udderbelly, one of London’s most popular festivals. Neighbouring the Udderbelly site and running almost concurrently is London Wonderground, a spectacular of cabaret, circus and sideshows all hosted inside its own beautiful 1920s Paradiso Spiegeltent.

Attracting hoards of beer swigging Londoners in the spring-summer sunshine, families could be mistaken for thinking it might all be a bit ‘grown up’ for them, but fear not! Yes, there is plenty within the programme for those lucky enough to steal a rare night out, but during the day, across two festivals and five months there is more than Lola’s Hot Dogs for arts-loving families to be sinking their teeth into.

Here’s my top picks:

Comedy Club For Kids
21st May – 16th July 2016, suitable for age 6+
So many stand-up comedians rely on swearing and vulgarity these days to pull in the laughs, so wouldn’t it be refreshing to see top-draw comedians perform the best of their wears, without the rude bits? As well as that the crowd are promised ‘never the same gig twice’. Sounds better than grown up comedy any day.

Double helpings of Schlomo’s Beatbox Adventure
2nd – 22nd May 2016 and 29th August, suitable for all ages
Occupying a space in the line-up of both festivals, the world-record breaking beatboxer returns to make music with nothing but his mouth and a mic.

Retelling of the Jungle Book
13th – 28th August 2016, suitable for age 8+
Hot on the heels of this year’s eagerly awaited remake of Walt Disney’s 1967 cartoon, this unique theatrical production brings the story of Mowgli into the 21st century, setting it in an urban jungle and packing it with street dance and circus.

The Showstoppers’ Fantastical Story Factory
7th May – 2nd July 2016, suitable for age 6+
Embracing the impromptu nature of working with kids, little people are given a free rein to set the storytelling agenda with this improvised musical show for kids.

Round it all off with Bedtime Stories
30th August – 4th September 2016, suitable for age 3-10
When it all gets too exhausting it’s great to know that you can just tuck yourself up in this bedroom installation and let the chaos outside wash over you, through magical light projections, theatre and dance.

Udderbelly runs until 17th July.
London Wonderground runs from 5th May to 25th September.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London SE1 8XX.
Admission prices vary.

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Last chance to see: DAS INSTITUT @SerpentineUK

In spite of her morbid obsession with Halloween (meaning the celebration lives on year-round in our house), nothing creeps a pre-schooler out more than a dark room. Add in strange lights and images of weird creatures and you have some of the ingredients which make DAS INSTITUT at Serpentine Sackler Gallery a surprising and exhilarating visit for little ones.

Featuring individual as well as collaborative works by Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder, the exhibition is their first major UK show exploring the transformative effects of light on bodies and spaces. As well as the skylights of the gallery being covered with coloured gels, the artworks themselves form a key source of light within the space as projected images, stained glass and neon shapes.

Despite my 6 months of graft, it took my 3-year-old a disappointing amount of time to recognise Breast 2010/2015. If first impressions count, these create a big one, enough for us to spend at least 10 minutes stood in front of them until she realised that their intermittent illumination was not simply controlled as a result of her blinking.

The hieroglyphic nature of Script 2015 housed in the South Tomb of the gallery also proved popular as the slide carousels presented an ever-changing run of unusual illuminated forms, but the centrepiece of the exhibition is by far the incredible hanging paintings and glass panels of Brätsch’s Mylars 2015. Staring down from the ceiling like a strange tribe daring you to enter, the installation is brought together by the neon under-lighting of Röder’s Deep Sleep 2010/2015. It’s a challenging space for any 3-year-old to enter, exciting and imposing all in one go, but fortune favours the brave; a thought I had to hang onto having just sent her into a room of precious art and tempting tubes.

With such a variety of shapes, forms and faces, as well as the anticipation of intermittent lights and slide carousels, DAS INSTITUT has absolutely transformed Serpentine Sackler Gallery. If you’re visiting Kensington Gardens, Princess Diana Memorial Playground or the big Museums over the Easter holidays, it’s definitely worth a look before the lights go out for good on the 15th May.

DAS INSTITUT is at Serpentine Sackler Gallery until 15th May
Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2 2AR
Open Tues to Sun 10am-6pm, plus bank holidays
Admission Free