7 Step Guide to First-Time Edinburgh Fringe for Families

Last year’s Edinburgh Fringe was momentous for me. Alongside putting together my definitive Best of Free Edinburgh Fringe for Families, for the first time ever since being footloose and child-free, I decided to let my children (aged 5 and 3) in on the fun, organising a week-long break to take in Edinburgh Fringe. I entered into this decision completely accepting that our experience might be unrecognisable from what we’d enjoyed in the past, yet contrary to my assumptions, it was one of the most memorable family holidays we have ever had. It wasn’t, however, without its challenges. What I learned forms an invaluable guide for those visiting this year with children.

1. Book early to avoid bankruptcy

If you’re reading this planning to visit this year, and you haven’t yet booked flights or accommodation, it’s likely you’ve already missed the boat. The cheapest flights are on sale up to a year in advance, but booking in the sale at the end of the year prior, can usually yield good results. We paid approx £400 return for 2 adults and 2 children (including seat selection) from London City to Edinburgh with Flybe. Easyjet and Ryanair also provide affordable alternatives from a range of UK airports, and occasionally British Airways muster up a bargain. Alongside travel, the price of accommodation in Edinburgh can swell by more than 30% during the fringe, with family options limited, depending on how comfy you want to be. Airbnb is obviously a great option, but ensure you’re centrally located or the daily commute could really take its toll. We stayed in Holyrood Aparthotel, just a stone’s throw from The Pleasance, offering all the comfort and services of a hotel (daily cleaning, concierge, safe, free wi-fi, family friendly) but with the flexibility of self catering, saving us on lunches out and evening meals. Our 2 bed apartment with fully equipped kitchen cost approximately £1100 for 5 nights, but there are less glam options from around £850. It was great to have a base to escape when we needed to, and the kids settled in a treat. It was our home from home.

2. Never underestimate the power of planning

If you think you can just rock up, pick up a programme and point and shoot, you’re wrong. Edinburgh’s Fringe programme is immense and unless you take the time and effort to familiarise yourself with what’s on offer for you, you’ll be well and truly bamboozled. Far from sapping the life out of spontaneity, creating an activity wish list by day and time was a brilliant way of wading through the haze. We still embraced so many of the flyers waved in our faces, but it enabled us to be much more nimble. By having plenty of back-up, we never missed anything that we really wanted to see, and there was no confused panic if events were cancelled or didn’t live up to expectations. For planning, the Fringe website has come a long way in terms of usability, with the range of performances well categorised, easy to find and book. There is, however, definitely still some value in rooting through the many pages of the pre-ordered printed programme with a highlighter pen to choose your goals. Similar planning principles should also be applied to any eateries that you are keen to try. Historic Edinburgh’s restaurants and cafés generally lack space, especially during the busy festival season, so always carry a picnic in the day and book ahead for popular dinner venues, such as yummy pizza pick Amarone, beautifully housed in an old banking hall.

3. It’s not all child’s play

When it comes to choosing what to see and do, there’s no right or wrong. Edinburgh has everything from Shakespeare for Kids and science shows, to mad cap magic. There’s even a kids pub quiz! My husband and I did our own shortlist based on what we liked, what the kids might like and what was new and unusual, then we merged it all together. Visiting with children also doesn’t have to mean you’re limited to the children’s shows. There are almost 800 performances classified as ‘U’ or ‘Universally Suitable For All’ with only 131 of these listed as children’s shows. Providing they aren’t in an unsuitable venue (e.g. age restricted pub), don’t stipulate age, are at a time that works for you and aren’t too lengthy for fidgety bottoms, you can seek out something for you all to enjoy. Perhaps (if you need to) pre-book one or two things that you know the kids will love, so that you have some guaranteed big-hitters. For example Les Petits’ First Hippo On The Moon by David Walliams is running for the majority of the festival at The Pleasance, and can be booked in advance through the Edinburgh Fringe website. Bagging a dead-cert might leave the door open for you all to experiment elsewhere.

4. Free, can be stress free

The beauty of ‘free’ is the right to bail at any time, without loss of money or more importantly, loss of face! This year’s programme has well over 100 free performances, activities and events under the ‘U’ classification, 17 of which are children’s shows. The PBH Free Fringe is a great place to start, as is the Free Festival, yielding everything from children’s theatre such as Blue Bird, Ceilidh Kids dance lessons for children and adults and the (almost) educational Science Magic. There’s also free fringe music every day in the glass-roofed hall of the National Museum of Scotland, plus don’t miss its stunning views from the recently refurbished roof terrace. Virgin Money’s Fringe on the Royal Mile is also a brilliant place to watch free previews of hundreds of Fringe shows, making it a great place to discover gems beyond the children’s programme.

5. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day

You might be on holiday and you might be at Edinburgh, but avoid the temptation to pack out your agenda more than you’d ever dream of at home. Try to cluster your activities into one or two neighbourhoods, to avoid trawling back and forth across the city (as we did when we were child-free). This is where your wish list from Step 2 will serve you well, giving you a chance to stroll and take impromptu stops, exploring the many hidden gems of this beautiful city. There are also some great hubs that you can head to if you’re at a loose end, such as The Pleasance Courtyard, where there’s always craft activities on offer for visiting children.

6. Be prepared to ditch the buggy

Although the Georgian New Town is more accessible, the Medieval Old Town causes havoc with any stroller, with parents having to endure the stress of busy, narrow pavements, whilst little ones experience bone-shaker sensations generated by the prevalence of historic cobbles. Laden with an almost unusable buggy board and having not brought along a toddler-carrier, we had to resort to carrying our youngest quite a bit. Yet another great reason to be realistic with your daily quest.

7. Take a Break

If you’ve made it here to Step no. 7, you should have done everything you need to sit back and relax, as much as you can when on holiday with children.  As with any city break (especially this one during festival time) it’s busy and it’s hectic, and it can take its toll, especially on very young family members. The good news is that Edinburgh’s parks are plentiful. Whether the wilds of Holyrood Park (the gateway to King Arthur’s Seat) or the brilliant children’s playground at The Meadows, there’s plenty of break-out space for children of all ages to let loose. Less than an hour from the city by bus, beautiful beaches are also abound, such as the swathes of beach-combing sand at Portobello. This Victorian seaside suburb has bags of character, pretty beachfront cafés and more recently, a few chichi shops, making it a great option for an escape. Once at the beach, all that remains is to give yourself a huge pat on the back for clawing back your old life, whilst introducing your children to one of the everlasting giants of the arts scene.

Edinburgh Fringe runs from the 4th to 28th August. 

Share your Edinburgh highs and lows this summer by tagging me on Instagram or Twitter and as they say in Scotland; Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye, or whatever is meant to happen to you, will happen to you! Good luck and happy hols!

Review: Imagine Art Club, David Hockney for Kids

A focussed way to tackle big exhibitions with kids, with no time for boredom to set in.

When Imagine Art Club founder, museum educator and visual artist Agnieszka Arabska created her David Hockney for Kids event, it was met with an unprecedented response. I was one of over 17,000 people who spotted the event on Facebook, which saw almost 7000 people express an interest in attending and over 600 people confirm their place. Whether it was the draw of one of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists, or Tate’s unwavering popularity at attracting families, it reinforced our shared opinion that children just aren’t suitably catered for when galleries stage major exhibitions.

Established in 2012 in Hanwell, West London, Aga’s successful Saturday School and After School Club combines practical art activities across a range of materials, with interesting ways to learn about artists and art movements. This includes devising child-friendly visits to important museums and galleries in London.

When I first visited David Hockney back in February, I commented on Tate’s lack of family provision for this exhibition. Now, in its closing weeks, I found myself back at Tate Britain with my eldest daughter (aged 6), to road-test one of Imagine Art Club’s trips, feeling lucky to have bagged myself a place on their sell-out run.

Communication before the event was very good, with clear meeting points and start times, and permission forms to sign. When we arrived, we found the group, with Agnieszka impossible to miss, checking off our names whilst showcasing her colourful Hockney socks.

The group size was small and intimate (around 10) which was ample for such a crowded space. Most children were aged 6 to 10 years and left their parents at the door, but accompanying (paying) adults were welcome for those not quite yet at that stage.

Before we entered, we gathered into the corner for a short ‘story’, the tale of sugar magnate, art collector and founder, Sir Henry Tate, and a simple introduction to David Hockney as well. Pitched perfectly, the ‘briefing’ was gentle and slow, with questions to get them thinking and an invitation to chip in. A frisson of excitement ran through the group, as each child received their sketchbook and some freshly sharpened pencils.

Dividing into two smaller groups, we headed in and straight to Hockney’s photo collages housed in Room 7. It was great to enter with purpose, but I did have to hurry my young companion, who seemed keen to take in much of what we’d passed.

Huddled in the corner again, we talked about Polaroid and the art of photo collage, before moving slowly from piece to piece, observing the technique in action. Everyone enjoyed counting the vast numbers of photos used and spotting signs of Hockney with his cheeky tip-toe presence. We even created our own collages, using colourful sheets of cleverly prepared stickers.

Next stop was Room 4, home to Hockney’s infamous A Bigger Splash. We sat down right in front and talked about the painting. What did it remind us of? How do we know he is somewhere hot? How do we find Hockney in the picture? The process was the same, with the children challenged to question, think and look, before recreating for themselves.

Further fun activities included searching for life-like textures amongst Hockney’s double portraits and adding our own rich colour to Hockney’s Hawthorne Blossom Near Rudston (2008) in a room full of his Yorkshire paintings. Our time spent with Hockney’s digital and screen time work was all too brief, before we had to exit via the gift shop. The remainder of our time as a group was then spent making cards and writing messages for David Hockney, who celebrates his 80th birthday in July.

Imagine Art Club’s gallery trip was a breath of fresh air. In a world where all too often family or children’s gallery activities are unstructured arts and crafts, happening outside the exhibition space with little or no link to what’s going on next door. These guided exhibition tours take the learning back into the gallery, losing none of the opportunity for creativity, but re-writing your typical curator tours in a fun and interactive way.

For newbie gallery visitors, the trips are highly educational and a low-risk way to ensure you really make the most of your ticket. For those perhaps used to spending more time in this space, the schedule might feel limiting, lacking flexibility and freedom to explore what takes your fancy. In the room packed with spectacular double portraits, we spent so long spotting textures in our books, we didn’t always step back and appreciate the magnificence of the bigger picture. Similarly, my daughter commented that she would have loved to have spent longer watching Hockney’s iPad creations unfold, “…because that’s what it’s all about mummy, isn’t it?” That is what it’s about for her. On the whole, however, the experience was highly positive, and we both agreed that we learned so much more and looked so much deeper than if we’d have gone it alone. It was the perfect supplement to our usual visits, and a real treat for bigger exhibitions.

The next Imagine Art Club visit is on the 21st May.
See Facebook page for details of American Dream for Kids at the British Museum.
Imagine Art Club runs on Saturday, 10am-12pm or 1-3pm, £27.
There is also an After School Club.


Family friendly arts activities for Easter

Whether you’re running out of ideas at the end of week one, or you’ve just broken up with the holidays ahead of you, the arts have excelled this Easter with a whole host of treats from across the spectrum. Here’s my top picks for families.

David Hockney at Tate Britain
Until 29th May, 10am to 6pm, Adults £19.50, Children £17.50, Under 12s free (up to four per family), All ages
If you weren’t aware that one of the greatest British artists of our time is currently exhibiting his biggest every collection of work at Tate Britain, where have you been? Alongside a host of famous works, his spectacular double portraits and mind-blowing digital work makes this unmissable for kids.

Vuelos by Aracaladanza at Sadlers Wells
14th April 3pm, 15th April 11am and 3.30pm, Adults £18, Children £12, Recommended age 5+
Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s quest to make man fly, this playful production will leave young viewers wanting to take flight! Forming the centrepiece of Sadler’s Wells annual Family Weekend, the performance dates are accompanied by a mini festival, as the doors of this seemingly intimidating venue are being thrown open for families, inviting them to take part in storytelling, workshops, games and craft activities. If this isn’t enough, Sadler’s Wells still have a few tickets left for their infamous My First Ballet, off-site at the Peacock Theatre.

Wicked Wednesdays workshops at Wilton’s Music Hall
12th April, 11am to 3pm, Free, Recommended age 6+
Any opportunity to introduce the children to this London treasure housed in a fascinating part of the East End, is not to be missed. Using the original Victorian wallpaper in the Mahogany bar as inspiration, families are invited to design and make their own, in this free to drop-in creative workshop.

We’re Stuck! at Shoreditch Town Hall
12th to 15th April, various show times, Adults £12, Children £10, Recommended age 7-12
Whilst we are on the subject of magnificent historical buildings, not a million miles down the road, this Grade II listed wonder is debuting a brand new interactive show for children, inspired by the latest educational neuroscience around our relationship with maths. Using comedy, clowning and general silliness, the show promises a voyage of discovery exploring how amazing and utterly rubbish our brains can be at maths – and how we can best grow our grey matter.

Tudor Tales and Treats at The Charterhouse
14th April 2017, 11am to 3pm, Drop in suggested donation £3, All ages
As part of a pan-London celebration of literature, Cityread has teamed up with the unique Charterhouse to transport visitors back to the 16th century, in a family day packed with storytelling, sweet-making and traditional Tudor dance. Once a monastery, a boys school, a private mansion and now an almshouse, you couldn’t pick a more atmospheric location to explore SJ Parris’ Tudor thriller Prophecy, the focus of a number of more grown-up events as part of this year’s collective read.

Urban Festival at Southbank Centre
Until 17th April, See website for full programme and admission charges, all ages.
No half term would be complete without a trip to the Southbank Centre, and for those who have chosen to stay in London over half term and celebrate the art and artists of our city, Urban Festival is most definitely for you. Quite a bit of the pre bookable programme is now sold out, but if you miss the free Fun DMC hip-hop disco in the Clore Ballroom this weekend, then definitely drop in to Craft the City on 15th and 16th April and create your own city of the future entirely out of cardboard.

Free Family Highlights For Brighton Fringe

If you can’t quite afford to ship the family all the way to Edinburgh Fringe this year, or simply feel it’s too great an undertaking altogether, why not combine a day out at the seaside with amazing arts activities from all genres, at the lesser known Brighton Fringe? This year’s kids and youth programme spans an incredible 126 shows and events, staged throughout May and the summer half term. If you’re looking to keep things cheap and cheerful, here’s my freebie family highlights that are definitely worth the day trip.

Freebie Theatre

Before you head anywhere, you might want to start by joining the obligatory face painting queue as French street theatre collective Le Facepainting promise to ensure that you look the part (The Warren Children’s Area, St. Peter’s Church North, from 10am, 5-7, 12-14, 19-21 May, All ages). Families will love A Fool and Three Courses, a new perspective on Shakespeare’s King Lear, which steps into the shoes of the King’s young daughters and the struggles that they face as siblings and as royalty (The Deck, Kings Road, 11am, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 May, All ages). If, however, you fancy a bit more control over your theatrical experience, Playback Impro (Laughing Horse @The Quadrant, North Street, 1pm, 20-21, 27-28 May, Age 7+) allows you to input into the narrative, with four actors taking it in turns to play back audience stories and moments, adding their own comic improvisation.

Cashless Cabaret

Circus duo Edwin and Emilia from Spain, pose as two English gentlemen in Upside Down and Inside Out, a traditional circus show featuring comedy, clowning, acrobatics and juggling (Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco, Old Steine Gardens, 4pm, 27-29 May, All ages). Bringing their own form of cabaret dance, world record holders Marawa’s Majorettes are hosting a free hoola hooping workshop at Shiny Town in the Brighton Pavillion Gardens (12pm midday, 28 May and 4 June). In the same location, there’s also a range of sideshows on offer from 1pm on the 6 and 27 May during the Fringe City Family Picnic. If you’re visiting with older children, they might enjoy eclectic performance troupe House of Verse, who are hosting a Live Open Jam celebrating rap, beatbox, spoken word and DJing (Marwood Bar & Coffeehouse, 52 Ship Street, 5pm, 3-4 June, Age 12+). Workshops are also available earlier in the day for a small fee, but need to be booked in advance.

Music For No Money

Doing their bit to bring the sunshine skies of Rio to the Brighton Riviera, the city’s first and only traditional Samba school, Brighton School of Samba will be performing twenty-minute sets on the 6 May (2pm) and 27 May (2.15pm) at Fringe Venue 303 in New Road, all ages welcome. Also bringing their unique show to Brighton are masked music group GorillaBot, whose party always seems to be interrupted by strange and silly events (Ship Street pedestrianised area, 1pm and 3pm, 6-7 May, All ages). If, however, you take music a bit more seriously, there’s also free live organ music every Tuesday at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street (1.10pm, 9, 16, 23 and 30 May, All ages).

Accessible Art

Get to know the many faces of the city and get your own portrait done at Faces of Brighton & Hove, an exhibition hosting an eclectic array of work from a local arts collective (St Patrick’s Hove, Cambridge Road, 11am, 5-7, 10-14, 17-21 and 24-28 May, All ages). Those lucky enough to find The Banjo Groyne between Palace Pier and Brighton Marina on Madeira Drive, will be treated to more than just a sculptural installation, they’ll get a spoken word performance too, in The Tempest, The Shore (12pm midday, 5-31 May, 1-4 June, All ages). There’s a host of interactive exhibitions at Cultureground, a gallery that showcases children and young people’s work from across the city, inviting visitors to view, talk or make (Brighton Youth Centre, Edward Street, 5pm, 30-31 May and 1-3 June, Age 5+). If all this leaves you feeling in a need of an escape, why not get outside of Brighton to combine art with some fun at the farm, as artist Jon Clayton invites you to enjoy his farmyard sculpture and open studio, in a beautiful rural setting. He’s even making refreshments available – cue kids cheer (Ashurst Place Farm, Ashurst, from 11am, 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 May and 3-4 June, All ages).

Brighton Fringe, England’s largest arts festival runs from 5th May to 4th June at various venues.
See website for details and the full family programme.

Affordable Arts Activities for Half Term in London

Half term is fast approaching, and if you’ve been unorganised, don’t panic and throw away a fortune on last minute fun. Whether you’re visiting London, or lucky enough to live here, look to the arts and you’ll always find plenty going on. Here I gift you, Arts Aloud’s definitive list of inspirational activities, without the city price-tag.

Affordable Art

London is currently awash with fabulously free, family friendly art, much of which we have road-tested and given a big thumbs up! On the South Bank, it’s easy to while away a whole morning in the ever-reliable Tate Modern. Soak up the immersive acoustics and flying objects of Philippe Parreno’s Anywhen in the Turbine Hall (Reopens 10th Feb, Sun-Thur 10am-6pm, Sat & Sun 10am-10pm, Free) or interact with the best of new art in The Tanks. Plus don’t miss their BP Family Festival (11th & 12th Feb, Free) offering even more in the way of play, performance, sound and dance. Meanwhile, north Londoners should be privileged that the magnificent Passage/s installation by Do Ho Suh is currently on their doorstep at Victoria Miro, and visitors to artsdepot won’t even need to ward-off little fingers, as artist Yuen-Ying Lam invites interaction with all works in her latest exhibition To Hold and Be Held (12th to 18th Feb, Daily, see website for opening hours). If you made it to our recommendation at the Barbican a few weeks back, you’ll love the current 7-part performance art installation by Sonia Boyce: We move in her way at the ICA (Tues-Sun 11am-6pm, £1 Day Membership). Staying central, it’s your final chance to don some 3D glasses and get lost in the mesmerising digital art of Lucy Raven at Serpentine Gallery (until 12th Feb, Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, Free).

Thrifty Theatre

When is opera ever free? Hardly ever. So make haste and kick-off half term in the East End, with Ulla’s Odyssey at Rich Mix, a nautical adventure which follows fourteen year old Ulla in her attempt to sail the world single-handed (12th Feb, 2pm, Free but ticketed, age 7+). The performance is preceded by an interactive workshop, giving kids a chance to sing and speak out (12.30pm, Free but ticketed). Half term also brings about a rare chance for families to enjoy a ‘taster’ of brand new children’s theatre in Theatre in the Pound at The Cockpit Theatre (14th & 15th Feb, 12-3pm, £1). Performances contain three, 15 minute shows and range from puppetry and opera, to Shakespeare, with a chance to have your say at the end. Alternatively, if you’re looking for theatre in a slightly more historical setting, grab the opportunity to introduce kids to the magical Wilton’s Music Hall. For a short run only, the equally magical (yet slightly more stupendous) Morgan & West’s Utterly Spectacular Magic Show For Kids (and childish grown-ups) promises brain boggling illusion and lots of crazy capers, not forgetting a whole lot of magic! (16th & 17th Feb, 11.45am, tickets from £5, age 5+).

Fabulously Frugal Festivals

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Imagine Children’s Festival? You must have been asleep for the last 3 months, I’ve been writing about it since November. Back at our beloved Southbank Centre, the pinnacle of the children’s arts calendar arrives in the form of a 10 day extravaganza of theatre, dance, literature, spoken word, workshops and installations. Yes, the big-ticket productions are pricey, but more than 50% of the programme is now free, with highlights this year including a free pedal-powered screening of The Little Mermaid with prizes for the best underwater-themed costumes and a free bedtime story in the Clore Ballroom to close each day of the festival. Also on a mission to use the arts to inspire kids, is SMASHfest, a festival dedicated to all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The festival runs the entire week of half term at The Albany Theatre and Deptford Lounge, and features something every day, from comedy and variety shows, to interactive installations, experiments and film, many of which are ‘pay what you can’, or absolutely free.

Penniless Poetry

If the hustle and bustle of the Imagine Children’s Festival gets too much, then the serenity of the Saison Poetry Library is a brilliant place to escape, offering a chance to rest and peruse Britain’s most comprehensive collection of poetry. Prefer the words to come to you? Well there’s currently an interesting reinvention of work by Philip Larkin, some created entirely from Neon by artist DJ Roberts (Tues-Sun 11am-8pm, Free). For those who enjoy crafting their own poetic prose, Sara Hirsch will be hosting two drop-in workshops (15th Feb, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1-3pm, Free) at the Museum of London, inviting your input into a poem about the Great Fire of London, with a performance of the final draft at 4pm the same day.

**DISCLAIMER**Information and availability correct at time of publishing. Arts Aloud can not take any responsibility for scheduling changes or missed performances. Please check in advance of visit to avoid disappointment. Happy half term xx 

Enjoy the silence: Family friendly highlights from the London International Mime Festival

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I reviewed the fabulous Kite at the Soho Theatre, part of the London International Mime Festival. Having criticised the festival in the past for having too few family friendly performances, in this, their 40th anniversary year, the festival has come back bigger and broader with even more on offer for younger viewers.

Promising the very best and newest work, this month-long celebration of contemporary visual theatre embraces circus, mask and puppetry, as well as physical and object theatre, showcasing home-grown talent alongside artists from all over the world. Although most performances are still biased towards the evening, there are plenty of weekend matinees to choose from.

Here’s our top 5 picks…

Barons Perchés at the Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins (Age 7+)
11th to 14th January, Wed to Fri 7.30pm, Sat 6pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concessions)
70 mins/no interval
In a sequel to Fenêtres, a production inspired by Italo Calvino’s story, The Baron in the Trees, this story rejoins the disillusioned young nobleman in his self-imposed exile, now with the appearance of an unexplained companion. Whether a shadow, a brother, doppelgänger or his alter ego, Mathurin Bolze’s unique physical theatre, explores how the friendship plays out inside their intimate living space.

Teatro Delusio at The Peacock Theatre (Age 7+)
12th to 15th January, Thurs to Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2.30pm, Tickets £15 to £29
70 mins/no interval
Don’t be spooked by the curious masks! Instead, be wowed by three impressive quick-change artists playing some thirty different characters, as leading theatre company Familie Flöz bring their Edinburgh comedy to London. Set backstage in a concert hall, three theatrical technicians feel they’re on the wrong side of the curtain, and imagine life in the spotlight, as they battle to fulfil their own dreams and ambitions.

Marée Basse at the Barbican Theatre (Age 8+)
17th to 21st January, Tues to Sat 6.30pm, Sat matinee 1pm, Tickets £18
60 mins / no interval
Most of us parents and carers are more than familiar with that dip in the day when thoughts start to turn to drink, but you might be less aware that it is commonly known as ‘marée basse’. Sounding almost like a Two Ronnies sketch, having hit the bottle, faded variety acrobats Benjamin and Mickael embark on a journey of one-upmanship, which is not for the faint-hearted. Daring acrobatics, knife-throwing and even apple peeling, feature in Sacekripa‘s deadpan clown around, all set in their ramshackle home.

Nothing to Say at Jacksons Lane (Age 5+)
20th to 22nd January, Fri 8pm, Sat 6pm, Sun 3pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concession)
70 mins / no interval
Winner of both the 2014 Barcelona City Circus and Catalunia Circus awards, this playful performance by Leandre takes classic clowning away from slapstick comedy and into a more charming space, promising to enchant young viewers with a host of magic and surprise in this UK premiere.

Throwback at Jacksons Lane (Age 8+)
1st to 4th February, Wed to Thurs 8pm, Fri 7pm, Sat 6pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concessions)
60 mins/no interval
With their special blend of friendship, awe-inspiring skills and infectious energy, homegrown circus group Silver Lining combine impressive aerial and acrobatic work with memory and nostalgia, in this pacey feel-good spectacular.

London International Mime Festival runs from 9th January to 4th February 2017 across various London venues. See website for further productions, performance times and venue information.

For more ideas on enjoying arts and culture with the kids check out #culturedkids

the Pigeon Pair and Me

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.