Imagine Festival 2023 | What to expect as the family arts fest returns to the Southbank Centre
Highlights of London’s leading arts festival for children aged 0-11 years old.
Why should adults have all the festival fun? This February, London’s leading arts festival for children is returning to the Southbank Centre. The Imagine Children’s Festival is celebrating its 21st year with a jam-packed schedule of over 100 events during two weeks. Parents and carers will be spoiled for choice with a programme of theatre, comedy, music, literature, poetry and dance during the half-term holidays. Over half of the events are free, making the festival accessible to everyone.
Among the highlights of the Imagine Children’s Festival 2023 are CBeebies’ YolanDa’s Band Jam, magician and TV presenter Stephen Mulhern, World’s Youngest DJ DJ Archie and scientists Ben Garrod and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Little ones looking for literature and poetry fun will enjoy readings and workshops from the likes of Michael Rosen, Zanib Mian, Cressida Cowell, and Janelle McCurdy. Meanwhile, budding little theatre aficionados can choose between Julia Donaldson’s Tales from Acorn Wood, Rapunzel, Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish and Hermit.
There will be plenty of interactive activities during the festival fortnight, including writing workshops, unlimited play, craft zone, hip-hop dancing demos with ZooNation’s Youth Company and printmaking with street artist STIK. This year’s festival is relaxed, so families are free to come and go from the events as they please. The bill includes inclusive events, including sensory adapted shows, BSL-interpreted and non-verbal performances.
- The Imagine Festival 2023 runs from 8 – 18 February 2023. At Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest stations: Waterloo, Waterloo East or Lambeth North. For more information and booking visit the Southbank Centre website.
What’s on in London this Halloween and Day of the Dead 2019
Find out what fairs, club nights, film screenings, late-night museum openings and other Halloween activities are on in October and November, including half-term fun.
Get ready for the scariest season of the year! As well as Halloween, there has been a rise in popularity of Day of the Dead festivities from Mexico.
This year, Halloween comes after the half-term holidays, so plenty of London attractions are kick-starting their spooky events early. If you’re a parent, there’s plenty of Halloween events on during the daytime and early evening.
Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to the best daytime and nighttime – for both children or adults – Halloween and Day of the Dead activities on in the capital this October and early November.
For a guide to what else is on in London in November, click here.
- 27 September – 10 November : Dark Arts @ Warner Bros Studio Tour
Dark Arts returns to the Harry Potter experience for the Halloween season. The Great Hall is full of 100 floating pumpkins, while the table features a Halloween feast on red apples, pumpkins and cauldrons of lollipops. Watch a live duel between the Death Eaters. Tickets: Adults £45, Children £37. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR. Nearest station: Watford (then a shuttle bus to studios). For more information, visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour website.
- 1 – 31 October : The Home of Halloween @ London Dungeon
One of London’s most ghoulish destinations offers a Halloween experience. Meet some of London’s most notorious characters such as Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, The Plague Doctor and The Torturer, watch an exclusive Halloween show and enjoy the rides. Tickets: Adults £30, Children £24. London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website.
- 19 – 27 October : Halloween @ London Zoo
A week of fiendish fun at London Zoo, featuring Grim Keeper tours, creepy crafts, spooky animals and more. Open 10am-5pm. Activities are free with entry to zoo. Entrance tickets: Adults £27.00, Child £17.55 (cheaper online). London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website.
- 19 – 27 October : Spooky Cats @ the London Museum of Water & Steam
Listen to a cat story every weekday at 11am, make your own cat craft, explore our Splash Cat trail, find the Museum’s hidden cats. Children in cat costumes enter for free. Tickets: Adults £12.50, Children £5.50. London Museum of Water & Steam, Kew Bridge Road, Brentford, TW8 0EF. Nearest station: Kew Bridge. For more information, visit the London Museum of Water & Steam website.
- 19 – 27 October : Halloween @ Battersea Power Station
A host of Halloween family activities are taking place over the half-term holidays, including Halloween scavenger hunt, eerie ear-making workship, pumpkin carving, Wicked Witches and Wizard Worshop. Dates and times vary for each activity. Free. Battersea Power Station, 188 Kirtling Street, Nine Elms, SW8 5BN. Nearest station: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road Battersea. For more information, visit the Battersea Power Station website.
- 19 October – 3 November : Ascarium @ London Aquarium
A Halloween experience at Sea Life London with the Sea Witch asking visitors to help unlock her treasure chest. Tickets start from £21 (online), £26 (on the day). Sea Life London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit the Sea Life website.
- 19 – 23 October : Pumpkin Carving @ Morden Hall Park
Carve your own pumpkin at the National Trust grounds and property of Morden Hall Park. Children must be supervised by an adult. 11am-4pm. Small pumpkin £4, medium pumpkin £5. Stableyard, Morden Hall Park, Morden Hall Road, Morden, SM4 5JD. Nearest station: Morden or Phipps Bridge (Tramlink). For more information and opening times, visit the National Trust website. For Metro Girl’s blog post about Morden Hall Park, click here.
- 21 October – 3 November : No Tricks Just Treats – Halloween @ London Designer Outlet
A host of events and activities will be taking place over half-term and Halloween, including complimentary face-painting, ghoulish actors, film screenings @ Cineworld, and a replica of the Ghostbusters Cadillac (1-3 Nov) to pose alongside for photos. Times vary. London Designer Outlet, Wembley Park Boulevard, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest station: Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the London Designer Outlet website.
- 22 October : Family Day: Halloween @ Benjamin Franklin House
A spooky family day with spooky 18th century stories told by Polly Hewson and gruesome games and crafts for 5-11 year olds. 4pm-5.30pm. Free, but advanced booking recommend. Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, Westminster, WC2N 5NG. Nearest stations: Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information, visit the Benjamin Franklin House website.
- 23 – 31 October : Spooky Storytime @ London Eye
Families will love the Halloween experience on the London Eye. Enjoy fast-track entry and step into a capsule for a 30-minute rotation while listening to spooky stories and leave with a Hotel Chocolat goodie bag. Tickets: £35 (adult and child combi). London Eye, Jubilee Gardens, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For tickets, visit the London Eye website.
- 24 October – 1 November : Spooktacular Kids Tour
Let your children see the sights of a capital with a 45 minute bus tour of the capital with live guided commentary for chidren. Departs at 4pm. Tickets: Adults £15, Children (5-15) £8. For more information and departure points, visit the Original Tour website.
- 26 – 27 October : Horniman Halloween Fair
A Halloween fair for the whole family, featuring creepy crawlies, Halloween trail, spooky storytelling, arts and crafts stalls, and food stalls. 10.30am-4.30pm. Free. Horniman Museum & Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ. Nearest station: Forest Hill. For more information, visit the Horniman Museum website.
- 26 October – 3 November : Halloween @ Ham House
Scare yourself silly on a family ghost tour of the 17th century house, which is said to have 15 different ghosts. Ages 7+. Tours from 6pm. Tickets: Adults £15, Children £15. Ham House & Gardens, Ham Street, Ham, TW10 7RS. Nearest station: Richmond Station. For more information, visit the National Trust website.
- 28 October – 3 November : Halloween @ Backyard Cinema
Travel through the Winter Night Garden to watch one of your favourite Halloween films at Backyard Cinema’s new permanent home in Wandsworth. Films include Beetlejuice, Scream, Shaun of the Dead, Hocus Pocus, Casper, The Witches and more. Matinees and evening screenings. Full bar and street food stalls available. Tickets: Adults £18.99, Children £9.50. Capital Studios, 13 Wandsworth Plain, Wandsworth, SW18 1ET. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website.
Things that go bump in the night
- 26 September – 10 November : Journey to the Underworld
An immersive, theatrical dining experience on a luxury train carriage on a journey to the Underworld. Featuring a four-course meal and interactions with characters. Time slots vary. Tickets: £57-£60. Pedley Street Station, Arch 63, Pedley Street, Bethnal Green, E1 5BW. Nearest station: Bethnal Green. For more information and tickets, visit the Funincular Productions website.
- 8 October – 2 November : London Horror Festival
Festival of live horror performance including cabaret, film screenings, Zombie weekends, midnight performances and a short horror play competition. Ticket prices vary. Most events take place at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Islington, EC1V 4NJ. Nearest station: Angel; or Pleasance, Carpenters Mews, North Road, Islington, N7 9EF. Nearest station: Caledonian Road. For more information, visit the London Horror Festival website.
- 18 October : Halloween Late @ London Dungeon
After-hours fun for adults-only, featuring a darker experience and drinks. Over 18s only. Arrival from 7pm-9pm. Tickets: £29. London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Dungeon, click here.
- 19 October : Festival of the Dead
Mexican-style festival comes to Limehouse. Expect full pageantry, giant skull processions, acrobats, dancers, decorative art, amazing costumes, confetti, CO2, light shows, live music and DJs. 9pm-2am. Tickets: £29.59. Troxy, 490 Commercial Road, Limehouse, E1 0HX. Nearest station: Limehouse. For more information, visit the Troxy website. Read the rest of this entry
Open House Junior 2017: Inspire little Londoners at the capital’s architecture festival
Open House London is a great opportunity for Londoners to have a look inside buildings normally off-limits to the public. While many parents will be looking forward to exploring the capital’s history and architecture, they may be wondering how to occupy the kids too during the weekend. Thankfully, Open City are making architecture accessible for young as well with the Open House Junior programme, which runs alongside Open House London.
From 16 – 17 September 2017, a selection of free activities and trails will help to inspire a generation of little Londoners. Open House venues, including City Hall, Paddington Central and The Leadenhall Building will be hosting activities, where you can drop in with your children.
Among the events and activities include:
- City of a Thousand Architects @ City Hall
Become an architect for the day! Plan, design and build a future London skyline from the heights of City Hall.
City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge.
- Build a View Shaper @ The Leadenhall Building
As part of the City of London’s Sculpture in the City programme, children can create a framed view of the city, inspired by the sculptures around The Leadenhall Building.
Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall St, City of London, EC3V 4AB. Nearest station: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Bank.
- Junior Activity Hub @ Paddington Central
Paddington Central is joining the Open House Junior programme and inviting families to explore, design and create.
Paddington Central Canalside (by the Westway), Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
- On your marks, Get Set, Lego! @ Kingdom Square
Join this quick-paced race to build the biggest and best LEGO structure. Enter your creation into the competition and be in for chance to win exciting prizes.
Paddington Central, Kingdom Square (outside 4 Kingdom Street), W2 6BD. Nearest station: Paddington.
- City of Bridges @ Paddington Central
Be inspired by Paddington’s many bridges, and using an engineering toolkit, come along and add to the gigantic city of bridges in the striking Paddington Central amphitheatre.
Paddington Canalside (outside Beany Green), W2. Nearest station: Paddington.
- Playmake @ Sheldon Square
Play. Make. Create! Paper forests, tinsel towers, and luminous lava fields. The Archivate Collective crew – a team of architects and designers – will be helping children make their city.
Sheldon Square, Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
Speaking about the event, Open City director Rory Olcayto said: “The more of us who participate in debating, shaping and mending the cities we live in, the better they will be, and the more reflective of our communities they will be too.”
- Open House Junior takes place during Open House London on 16 – 17 September 2017 from 11am-4pm (some times and age suitability may vary). Events are free. For children aged 5-11 and their families. For more information, visit the Open House London website.
Roll up, roll up to the Spiegeltent: Comedy, music, acrobatics and more come to Canary Wharf
With its skyscraper offices and busy professionals, Canary Wharf is usually associated with work. However, this September, the area is getting a huge injection of fun in the form of a 11 day festival in The Spiegeltent. Pitching up at Canary Square Park, The Spiegeltent will host comedy, music, dance, cabaret, acrobatics, theatre for both adults and families.
Opening the festival is award-winning Las Vegas veteran Peggy Sued with a variety night, featuring Pete Firman, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, Rod Laver, Felipe Reyes and burlesque bombshell Sophia St Villier. There’ll be the unique blend of circus swing and burlesque folk of Gabby Young + Other Animals plus the Nest Collective House Ceilidh Band.
One of the Spiegeltent’s biggest acts will be Scotland’s internationally acclaimed and award-winning ‘half-man-half-Xbox’ Daniel Sloss, brining his Edinburgh Festival hit show Dark.
On 15 September, Alex Horne and The Horne Section will be getting the crowd laughing with their new barnstorming mix of stand-up and music. Turning circus on its head will be the Aircraft Circus presenting Boudoir Circus, a dark and sexy soiree with acrobatics and dance.
As well as performances, there will be workshops too so you can acquire new skills and entertain the children. Learn to dance with the London Academy Of Dance, create your own scrapbook with Shimelle and ice gingerbreads to perfection with Serena Montesissa. The kids will be able to burn off some energy at the Big Fish Little Fish and their Family Rave. Or get the children into comedy early at Comedy Club 4 Kids, with stand-up and sketch from Luke Toulson, Bec Hill and Howard Read. Other family entertainment includes musical workshops by Boppin Bunnies, Bach to Baby and Theatre of Widdershins performing their musical puppetry show The Elves and The Shoemaker.
Other acts performing over the festival include improvisation comedy champions BattleActs!, psychic siblings Twins Macabre, BBC Folk Club winners The Nest Collective, Nepalese band Night and impressionist, art-folk ensemble Firefly Burning.
During the festival, there will a bar providing refreshments while the many restaurants and bars of Canary Wharf will be moments away should you wish to eat.
- The Spiegeltent will run at Canary Wharf from 10-20 September 2015. The tent will be pitched at Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, E14 5AH. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. Ticket prices range from free to £16 depending on event. For most tickets, visit SeeTickets, or for Daniel Sloss tickets, visit LiveNation.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
Guide to what’s on in London for families over the summer holidays 2015
As much as we love summer, the season also means one thing for frantic parents everywhere – how to keep their children occupied during the school holidays. Of course, my monthly what’s on guides includes many child and teen-friendly activities, but I’ve also done a round-up of attractions in the capital I’ve previously blogged about that would appeal to families, both free and ticketed, to give you some ideas.
For the August guide to what’s on in London, click here.
- Carsten Höller: Decision
Soar above the rooftops on a flying machine or whizz down a huge slide at this fun, interactive art exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank. Runs until 6 September 2015. Tickets: Adults £13.50-£15, Concessiosn £11, Under 12s free. Hayward Gallery, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- Serpentine Pavilion
Kids will find it an adventure going through the multi-coloured, multi-layered pavilion, which also includes a café so parents can put their feet up and enjoy a slice of cake. Open until 18 October 2015. Free to visit. Open 10am-6pm. Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens, Kensington, W2 3XA. Nearest tube: Lancaster Gate, Knightsbridge or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Serpentine Gallery website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- Alice’s Adventures Underground
Enjoy an immersive theatre experience with different shows available for varying age groups. Adventures In Wonderland for 5-10 years old and Alice’s Adventures Underground is for 11 plus and adults. Runs until 30 August 2015. Tickets for Adventures In Wonderland: Adults £18.50, Children £12.50. Tickets for Alice’s Adventures Underground: Tues, Wed and Sunday £35, Thurs £40-£47.50, Fri and Sat £47.50. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the Alice’s Adventures Underground website. For Metro Girl’s review of Alice’s Adventures Underground, click here.
- London Dungeon
Maybe more suitable for older children, a journey through London’s more gruesome history, including rides for those daring enough. Tickets start from £17.50 for adults or £15.94 for children, cheaper if booked online in advance. Opening times vary. Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube/train: Waterloo or Westminster. For more information and tickets, visit the official London Dungeon website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.
- London Eye
Enjoy some of the best views in London – and 360 degrees of it – from the big ferris wheel by the Thames. Opening times vary. Standard tickets (always cheaper online!) start from adults £19.35, children 4-15 years £13.95. Tickets can be bought from the Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For more information, visit the London Eye website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Eye, click here.
Egg-cellent guide to what’s on in London over the Easter holidays 2014
Easter Holidays means many different things to people – chocolate, bunnies, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and two bank holidays. However, to many parents and guardians it also means – eek, how do we keep the children entertained for two weeks?
My monthly ‘what’s on guides’ include many activities on in London during April, however for those looking for more family and Easter-centric ideas of what’s on during the holidays, I’ve put together listings of things to keep you occupied.
For an adults-only Easter activity, read Baileys Feaster Egg Hunt: Time for adults to have some Easter fun!
- 5 – 21 April : Charlie’s Chocolate Adventure @ Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is hosting Charlie And The Chocolate Factory-inspired events for their Easter Festival, including create your own chocolate bar, sing along in the inventing room, go nuts in the nut room and not forgetting the Easter egg hunt on 20 April. Must buy general entrance tickets: Adults £14.50, Children 16 and under (accompanied by an adult) Free. Activities vary in cost from free to £5. Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens. For more information and tickets, visit the Kew Gardens website.
- 5 – 21 April : Bunnies On The Run @ London Eye
Help Edwin find his missing bunnies and receive a chocolate reward. The experience includes an activity pack, a guided host to assist the mission and a 30 minute ride on the London Eye. Tickets: £24.21pp. Every Saturday and Sunday on the dates mentioned above, Good Friday and Easter Monday. Highly recommended that tickets are bought in advance. Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Eye website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Eye, click here.
- 5 – 21 April : Easter @ WWT London Wetland Centre
The London Wetland Centre are hosting several activities over Easter including a self-guided spring trail, paint your own egg, pond dipping and see the ducklings. Some activities include a £1 donation. General admission tickets: Adult £12.35, 4-16 years £6.90, family tickets £34.50 for 2 adults, 2 children. Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest train station: Barnes or Barnes Bridge. For more information, visit the London Wetland Centre website.
- 7 – 19 April : Easter Adventures @ Kenwood House
The historic Kenwood House is hosting several events for families over the holidays including the chance for a stately portrait and meet Lord Iveagh. Free admission. Opening times: Noon-4pm. Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR. Nearest tube: Archway or Hampstead Heath (overground). For more information, visit the English Heritage website.
- 17 – 20 April : Disney On Ice
Your favourite Disney characters take to the ice for the Worlds Of Fantasy show. Tickets: £24.25-£47.30 per person. Wembley Arena, Engineers Way, HA9 0AA. Nearest tube: Wembley Park. For more information and tickets, visit the Disney On Ice website.
- 18 – 19 April : Family Weekend @ Sadler’s Wells
Two day festival featuring family activities before and after performances of Rapunzel or Deep In The Woods. Tickets must be booked in advance. Tickets £12-£15. Takes place at the Lilian Bayllis studio or main Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R. Nearest tube; Angel. For more information and booking, visit the Sadler’s Wells website. Read the rest of this entry
Things that go bump in the capital: What’s on in London this Halloween 2013
Every year Hallowe’en appears to be bigger than ever before, and 2013 is no exception. Having just returned from the USA, where they really go to town for the Pagan festival, the UK has got a bit of catching up to do to match it. However, if you’re a fan of the spooky holiday, there’s plenty going on in the capital for both adults and children alike. Parents looking for some half-term ideas to keep their children occupied will also find some inspiration.
For the 2014 guide to Halloween in London, click here.
- 25 September – 9 November : Halloween at the London Dungeon
Of course, one of the city’s scariest places is the London Dungeon, who are making the most of All Hallows Eve with six weeks of frightful goings-on. As well as the usual features, the Hallowe’en festivities will also include a new character of the Pumpkineer, a graveyard themed shop and some other special surprises. London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website.
- 18 October – 3 November : Climb Of The Cursed at Up At The O2
The climb over the roof of The O2 has been given a Hallowe’en makeover, featuring a few shocks and surprises on your ascent. Once you read the summit, you’ll be given a Gothic-style map of some of the capital’s horror hotspots. The experience takes place during day and night. Tickets £30, highly recommend to book in advance. Up At The O2, SE10 0DY. Nearest tube: North Greenwich. For tickets and information, visit the Up At The O2 website. For Metro Girl’s review of Up At The O2, click here,
- 26 October – 2 November : Witch Academy on the London Eye
Imagine you’re on a broomstick and can soar into the sky over London… then open your eyes and realise you’re on the London Eye as part of the Witch Academy. As well as a 30 minute ride on the big attraction, an academy experience also includes a Hallowe’en character host, storytelling for four to nine-year olds and a 4D experience. Tickets are half-price for kids if booked online in advance, or £17.40 on the day. London Eye, near Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Eye website.
- 26 October – 3 November : Boo At The Zoo
London Zoo has plenty of spooky goings on during half-term week. Special events will be taking place across the zoo including The Curiosity Shop of Horrors, creepy creatures in the Amphitheatre and see the Nocturnal animals. London Zoo, Outer Circle of Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY. Nearest tube: Camden Town or Regent’s Park. For more information and tickets, visit the London Zoo website.
- 26 October – 3 November : Shriek Week at Ally Pally
Alexandra Palace hosts a week of creepy activities, including spooky storytelling, pumpkin carving, inflatable play area, Dance Macabre at the ice rink (1 November), face-painting and gory games. Alexandra Palace, N22 7AY. Nearest train station: Alexandra Palace or tube station: Wood Green. For more information, visit the Ally Pally website.
- 31 October : Pumpkin Carving Competition at Fortnum and Mason
Two competitions for adults (6pm on the Lower Ground Floor) and children (3pm in the Demonstration Kitchen) to see who can make the most creative and imaginative pumpkin. Adult participants pay £10 to enter, while children 10 and under are free. All entrants must sign up beforehand. Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER. Nearest tube: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. To find out more, visit the Fortnum and Mason website. Read the rest of this entry