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The best free things to do at this year's Festival of Love

Rosie Percy

With the world still apparently in a big bloody mess, it's a good job that the Southbank Centre welcomes back its annual Festival of Love this weekend. It's a chance to remind ourselves that not everything is totally terrible and restore a little faith in humanity. 

The sentimental seven-week festival has a huge calendar of events, half of which are totally free. Well, The Beatles did say that money can't buy you love. 

Here's our pick of the best free bits to fall in love with love all over again on the South Bank. 

It Must Be Love

Say it from the heart. The It Must Be Love workshop teaches how to weave, print, and sketch with the help of illustrator Amy Brown, to create something personal for the people you love. 

July 9-10, noon-6pm. The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall & Level 2 Foyer (Green Side) at Royal Festival Hall.


Forget the cucumber sandwiches - this isn't like any other afternoon party. SecretSundaze celebrates the opening of the Festival of Love on the Riverside Terrace, with underground electro tunes from resident DJs Giles Smith & James Priestley.

July 10, 2pm-9pm. Riverside Terrace.

Love Stories from Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre archive has collected real-life love stories of people who have met, loved and learned there over the building's 65-year history. Take a look for some top notch mush, or even add your own tale.

July 8-Aug 29, 10am-11pm. Archive Studio, Level 2 Foyers at Royal Festival Hall.

Dated: a Historical Exploration of Dating

Was it easier to find a soulmate before swiping? Dated: A Historical Exploration of Dating includes an intergenerational exchange of advice and archive of online dating that aims to find out just what we want from dating - and how we get it. 

Dated installation: July 16, 2pm-7pm (last admittance 6pm). Level 2 Foyers (Blue Side) at Royal Festival Hall.

Inter-generational exchange: July 16, 2pm–2.45pm: Level 3 Foyers (Blue Side) at Royal Festival Hall.

Changing the World

People across the country have nominated a those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of others around them. These Change Makers take to the stage to give talks on what they do, and why. If that won't inspire your faith in people, we don't know what will.  

July 30, 1pm-3.30pm. The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall. 

Home Sweet Home

Like 'The Sims' but in real life, Home Sweet Home lets you pick a plot and build a cardboard home in a neighbourhood complete with its own postal service and even a radio station. An adults-only housewarming on the Saturday and street party for all ages on Sunday lets you raise a glass to your new abode and meet the neighbours. 

August 20-21, 10am-6pm. The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall. 

Dance Through the Decades

Work your way from the Mashed Potato to the Running Man at Dance Through The Decades. The afternoon dance-off celebrates anniversaries of big hits from each decade jumping back from 2016 ten years at a time. 

August 28, 1pm-3.30pm. The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall.


For more details on these, and all other events, take a look at the full Festival of Love listing here

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