Our Imagine Children’s Festival turns eighteen this year – where does the time go? Thankfully though it isn’t ready to grow up just yet.
Across half-term week (13-24 February) Southbank Centre hosts the best in children's theatre, comedy, DJs, dance, family parties, hands-on activities, and immersive experiences as the annual festival returns with full-on fun for children and their grownups. And of the 180 events jam-packed into the festival, half of the programme is, as ever, completely free.
This year’s Imagine features several fantastic music events, including a Queen Elizabeth Hall debut for a very special conductor; Mummy Pig. She’ll be wielding the baton for Peppa Pig: My First Concert, a fun interactive introduction to a live orchestra for ages 18 months and older, in which Peppa Pig and George learn about all the different sounds that instruments make together.
That’s not the only bit of guest conducting from a big star as Imagine also sees Sue Perkins lead the Orion Orchestra for the interactive concert Noisy Notes. Offering up a different kind of sound, world-record-breaking beatboxer Shlomo brings his Beatbox Adventure for Kids to Purcell Room giving everyone the opportunity to become one of his sonic superhero sidekicks.
To celebrate 20 years of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate we welcome three much-loved authors (and past laureates) Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman and Chris Riddell to discuss their famous stories and treasured characters. And we’ll also have the current Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child, the mind behind beloved characters Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola with us to discuss her inspirations.
David McKee, author and illustrator of Elmer the Elephant, Mr Benn and Not Now Bernard, hosts an exclusive event celebrating the 30th birthday of Elmer, his popular patchwork friend, and we also welcome the Syrian author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan, who introduces her story Tomorrow through an interactive storytelling and art workshop.
The National Poetry Library, situated in our Royal Festival Hall building, also gets in on the Imagine fun with a number of special events, including Rug Rhymes for the under-5s, Powerfully Persuasive Poems from hip-hop poet Simon Mole, and Picture a Poem Illustration Workshop with Ed Boxall
With live music, puppetry and dastardly dinosaurs the action-packed theatrical pirate adventure Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass is bound to keep little ones entertained. As too will The Singing Mermaid, a magical musical based on Julia Donaldson’s book of the same name, featuring puppetry from Little Angel Theatre
On 18 February we host a special interactive screening of Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the soundtrack performed live by the City of London Sinfonia orchestra, and a fun sing-along. And the following day we’ll be laughing our socks clean off thanks to stand-up from children’s comedian Jeremy Strong.
Our Kids Takeover returns for another year, giving children the chance to take the reins of the festival alongside the Southbank Centre team in all areas of the festival production, from contributing to the line-up to selling programmes, making tannoy announcements and ensuring shows start on time. But that’s not the only opportunity for your young ones to get involved.
For those who like to move their feet there’s Big Moves for Little Groovers, a hip-hop dance workshop for children ages 5+ (with big kids encouraged to join in too). Or if you prefer a more classic step there’s Strictly Kids where families to learn their favourite dance styles featured on Strictly Come Dancing, with demos from leading child ballroom dancers.
If making music is more your thing Chineke! Junior presents a whole day of free music making totally free on 17 February, where budding musicians can explore creating music in an ensemble, and reinterpret the sounds of the orchestra through dance, art and storytelling. Alternatively you can join Ken Wilson-Max for his all-singing, all-dancing This Is The Drum, where you can discover different drums from around the world, how play a simple rhythm and create a drum to take home.
Across our venues we’ve a great number of cafes and restaurants where you can take a seat and refuel before the next burst of fun, such as Skylon, situated in Royal Festival Hall, where kids eat free during half-term.
Elsewhere at Southbank Centre you can find familiar family-favourites. Facing the River Thames are Giraffe, whose kids menu is always popular, and Strada, where kids can enjoy any starter, main course, side, dessert and drink for £6.75. And at the river end of Mandela Walk, Las Iguanas' kids menu offer includes a main course, two sides and a dessert for £5.90.
These are just a few highlights from this year’s packed Imagine Children’s Festival line-up, which brings together 180 events across Southbank Centre’s venues on the side of London’s River Thames.