Imagine Children’s Festival

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Imagine Children’s Festival
Martin Brown

How cool that one of London’s greatest annual arts festivals is for an audience half of which are scarcely out of training pants

Bringing much-needed pizzazz to an otherwise dreary February, Imagine is a mix of shows and workshops, play experiences and exhibitions, music, art and literature. With events for all ages (from babies to teens) and lots of options which are free and drop-in, Imagine is the perfect way to fire young minds and allow the kids to let off steam when the weather is usually foul and parks are knee-deep in mud. The festival takes place at Southbank Centre, February 9-19.

For 2017, Imagine’s main theme is inspired by the Southbank Centre’s year-long Nordic Matters celebration of art and culture from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. There will be a vast Lego landscape that young visitors can add to, helping shape a city for the future (February 12 to 19), a free pedal-powered screening of Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic ‘The Little Mermaid’ (February 16) and the magical Adventures in Moominland exhibition continues until April 23.

On any day during half term you can swing by the Royal Festival Hall and join colourful, weird and wonderful family events, but there are some great shows worth booking in advance, to avoid disappointment.

You’ll find the full schedule on the Southbank Centre website but stand-out dates we can’t resist mentioning include the London premiere of Hevisaurus, playing a gig for families on February 15. Hevisaurus are a Finnish dinosaur heavy metal band. Yes that sentence gets better with every word, doesn’t it?

For ages one to three, there’s the wonderful, immersive show Neverland (Feb 8 and 9) and two clubbing events for pint-sized party animals: Groove Baby (Feb 10) and Rave-a-Roo for the whole family (Feb 11).

For arts lovers, Terry Davies conducts the Aurora Orchestra in a live soundtrack to ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘Room on the Broom’ (Feb 13), and older children and young teenagers can hone their own skills at Stories Through Sound with School of Noise (Feb 13) and Leaps and Bounds with the Candoco Dance Company (Feb 19).

Imagine started life as a literature festival for children and there is still a strong showing of authors and illustrators – at readings and interactive creative sessions.

Many of these sell-out before the festival starts so it’s worth checking the website now.

Highlights include Olympic legend Chris Hoy presenting his new series of books for young readers – ‘Flying Fergus’ and ‘On Your Bike’ (Feb 17), and comedian/author Julian Clary and award-winning illustrator David Roberts in a live reading and drawing session of their new book ‘The Bolds on Holiday’ (17 Feb).

There is also an afternoon of reading and live illustration with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell and friends (Feb 15)

Multi-award-winning performer and storyteller Danyah Miller brings to life Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Why the Whales Came’, with a live Q&A with Michael Morpurgo himself (Feb 17), and ‘Kangaroo Kisses’ is an interactive storytelling session with award-winning actor and writer Nandana Dev Sen (Feb 19).


Event phone: 0844 847 9910
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Had a great day here with a great performance of Cat in the Hat followed by a mini production from a theatre school and a reading of Where The Wild Things Are. There was also sculptures and lego to explore. A great low cost day out as long as long as you don't mind a crowd!

We went to a brilliant drawing workshop today. However the Lego activity was already booked out by midday, and the Treehugger interactive was closed by 2.45 due to the queue, so we gave up and went elsewhere! A great idea but just too popular I think unless you get there really early.


Great activities for kids, but book at least 48 hours in advance. It's absolutely rammed, but well worth it. You can take your own food and drink and have in the foyer as the queues for food and drink are long.

Like a Dr Who episode, a door will open wide allowing for children, young and old, to be sucked in and immersed in World's of their own making. They will orbit, touch down, connect and possibly not escape the clutches of an amazing event. Go at your own risk! Imagination compulsory!

This sound like a really exciting thing for me my mum and dad and my sister to do to celebrate her birthday, while we are visiting London from our farm in Cumbria. I really would love to see the fun things planned and I hope to meet some really clever people. Well done for getting another year showing how capable us kiddies are.