Free fringe arts festivals for families this September

Totally Thames, Open House, Tall Ships – London is awash with festivals this September. Dig deeper and you’ll find there are a host of lesser-known arts festivals also vying for your attention, by opening their arms to welcome family visitors…

Deptford X

What is it? Contemporary art festival now in its 18th year. Platform 2016 showcases the work of 5 specially selected emerging artists, as well as Deptford X Fringe which invites a wider community of independent artists and projects to participate
Where is it? Various venues across Deptford (Nearest stations New Cross, Deptford and Deptford Bridge DLR)
When is it? 23 September – 2 October, Daily 12-6pm (plus special events and late openings)
What’s in it for families? Platform 2016 features a host of installation and sculpture which should be interesting to viewers of all ages. Seek out Joey Holder’s work in the atmospheric Crypt at St Nicholas Church or head to the Deptford X gallery to enjoy Manual Mathieu’s large-scale installation of white sheets (previously planned for Giffin Square). Deptford Fringe, however, is where things really hot up (if you can navigate the clunky and impenetrable website). Local street art collective Artmongers are inviting the public to help them replace their Deptford Marbles mural with Deptford Maze, whilst artist Hannah Clayden is hosting an architectural-inspired children’s workshop  which reimagines how buildings work – taking inspiration from the Anthology Deptford Foundry. There’s also visual, sound and performance art almost every day (and night) at Vinyl Deptford X.

Merge Festival

What is it? Known for presenting contemporary art in more unusual settings, Illuminate Production’s Merge Festival celebrates the rich history and culture of Bankside, through a range of art forms including interactive installations, experimental theatre and live music.
Where is it? Various venues between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge (Nearest stations London Bridge, Southwark, Blackfriars, Mansion House, Cannon Street)
When is it? 24 September – 7 October, various times see programme and map for details
What’s in it for families? Almost everything on the programme is family-friendly. On Your Wavelength (Wednesday to Sunday, 12-7pm, Railway Arch, 37 America Street SE1 0NJ) invites you to use your collective mind-power to influence a unique laser and sound installation. Experience the epic light and sound show from the sidelines for free or for a small fee you can don a headset and contribute your brain’s activity to a large-scale digital artwork. Also fun for those looking for some spooky pre-Halloween fun, Chain Reaction (Thursday to Sunday, 1-7pm, Kirkaldy Testing Museum, Southwark Street, SE1 0JF) is a journey through a series of playful, interactive and mechanical artworks. Set in the basement and animated, this installation creates a very ghostly ballet.

Design Carousel

What is it? If as a parent you’ve always felt frozen out of Frieze, Design Carousel (part of London Design Festival) is London’s first children’s design fair. Featuring design for children (as well as by children), the aim is to entice and immerse children and families in the world of design and creativity.
Where is it? Coram’s Fields, 93 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DN (Nearest Tube Russell Square or Kings Cross)
When is it? 24 September 2016, 11am-5pm
What’s in it for families? Coram Fields alone is a hidden gem of a central London playground, but the one-day takeover boasts over 15 children activities and workshops from 3D printing to modelling with clay, costume making and live music. There’s also a chance to contribute to the Futures Wall which aims to capture ‘live’ how children perceive the future, and create an evolving piece of art to be donated to Coram’s Fields.

Art Licks Weekend

What is it? An arts festival which celebrates the work of emerging artists and grassroots arts projects
Where is it? Various venues across East and South East London. Search their map for what’s close to you
When is it? 30 September – 2 October 2016, Daily 12-6pm although some specific event times apply
What’s in it for families? Bespoke led artist led tours for schools and other school groups as well as a smorgasbord of events, performance art and open studios to inspire even the very young. Highlights include AltMFA’s States of Flux (Saturday, 3-5pm) a live art tour along the Thames coast responding to the states of flux associated with the movement of rivers and along waterways, and Virtual Choreography (Thursday 6-9pm, Friday & Saturday 12-6pm) where visitors can contribute their own moves and gestures to those collected from a range of Hackney Wick locals.

Tribe Festival

What is it? On a mission to change the world through though-provoking art, #TRIBE16 features over 120 UK and international artists in a ‘living exhibition’ of contemporary art, music and performance.
Where is it? 47-49 Tanner Street, London SE1 3PL (Nearest Tube London Bridge or Bermondsey)
When is it? 30 September – 2 October 2016, 9am-5pm
What’s in it for families? The whole event is family friendly but the Creative Kids Loft promises group mural painting with artist Marc Craig, poetry workshops and sketch sessions, plus it’s a stones throw from More London Riverside whose summer festival is on until 31st October and White Cube which will be hosting a brand new interactive exhibition by Anthony Gormley

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