Imagine 2017 is a great big hygge of a children’s festival

It’s that time again! Booking is now open for one of the biggest and most exciting events in the family friendly arts calendar, Southbank Centre’s 2017 Imagine Children’s Festival.

Running for the duration of February half term (9-19 February 2017), the festival is conveniently timed, at exactly the midpoint in the year before our beloved Edinburgh Fringe, providing a much-needed fix of arts and cultural activities which span theatre, dance, literature, spoken word, workshops and installations.

An extension of the Southbank Centre’s season Nordic Matters, this year’s festival celebrates all that is great and good about Nordic society; equality, sustainability and play, responding with an incredible programme which is diverse, inclusive and affordable, with more than half the line-up this year being free.

Proving no child is too young to enjoy Imagine, highlights for the under 3’s include the fully immersive performance; Neverland, which uses 360 degree video projections and original music to tell the story of a child’s imagination, as well as circus performances for all the family in Wow Hoop. There’s also a chance for you to prove you’ve still got it (as well as no pressure for little ones to stay quiet, or stay put) thanks to the infectious Groove Baby, Rave-a-Roo and Swedish Baby Rave.

Those with pre-schoolers (3-5’s) will probably already be more than familiar with The Gruffalo and Room on a Broom, but will not have seen anything like the Aurora Orchestra (conducted by Terry Davies) in René Aubry’s inspired scores, breathing new life into these well-loved film adaptations. Lively littluns will love the slightly surreal, Finnish dinosaur heavy metal band, Hevisaurus, who are making their London premiere following unprecedented success in their home country. Those preferring a slightly more mellow tempo might prefer Kangaroo Kisses, a fantastical interactive story-telling session with award-winning actor and writer Nandana Dev Sen.

Parents and carers visiting with older children are in for a celeb-tastic treat with dad’s favourite, breakfast radio star Christian O’Connell, introducing his first kids book, Radio Boy. Comedian and author Julian Clary and award-winning illustrator David Roberts will also be reading and live drawing, as they introduce their new book The Bolds on Holiday. Denmark’s most famous export LEGO® will be on-site inviting children to build their city of the future, fresh from building their own flagship store in London’s Leicester Square and building rather large walls between themselves and the Daily Mail. For older theatre-lovers there’s the incredible Danyah Millersprinkling her storytelling gold dust onto Michael Morpurgo’s enchanting tale, Why The Whales Came, following last year’s acclaimed treatment of I Believe In Unicorns.

From my discussions with Imagine’s own Tamsin Ace a few months ago, it was clear that the festival’s popularity shows no sign of wavering, which makes it so surprising that no other arts institutions have taken up the mantle to challenge their family-friendly crown. If (like us) you can’t wait until February for most of these delights, next month the Southbank Centre unveils its first ever UK exhibition on Moomins, in their long running immersive and interactive exhibition Adventures in Moominland. The exhibition is devised from the work of Finnish author Tove Jansson, and promises a host of theatrical sets and rare archive illustrations.

Arts Aloud is lucky enough to be attending the preview, meaning you’ll get our verdict as quick as a flash, in fact, quicker than you can say “Jack Frost”, or “Jokul Frosti” for our Nordic friends.

Imagine Festival takes over the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre from 9-19 February 2017.
See website for details of the full programme.