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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.

YolanDa’s Band Jam will be among the events taking place at this year’s Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre

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.

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Party through the decades at a Vintage New Year’s Eve @ Southbank Centre

© Neil Buchan Grant

Party through the decades as you welcome 2018 at the Vintage New Year’s Eve Party
© Neil Buchan Grant

Fancy something a bit different than a house party or your local pub for New Year’s Eve? How about celebrating the dawn of a new year in a vintage nightclub and enjoying stunning views of the capital and its fireworks?

Returning to the Southbank Centre this month is A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party, an extravaganza of dancing, drinking, dining and more from HemingwayDesign. Curators Wayne, Gerardine and Jack Hemingway will transform five floors of the Royal Festival Hall into vintage nightclubs, dining rooms, a vintage hair and beauty salon and photo studios. At midnight, guests will have the opportunity to watch the capital’s iconic fireworks over the Thames from the riverside terrace (weather permitting).

Highlights of this year’s party include:

  • The Torch Club

Enjoy the sounds of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s with live big band music from Alex Meedham and his 18 piece orchestra. Meanwhile, DJ Daddy Rich will be spinning original vinyl and dance, while vintage dance tutors Mark & Hoc will be showing guests the moves from yesteryear.

  • Bar Bonkers

Experience pure joy as you immerse yourself in the world of ’80s and ’90s, with the best pop, rock and dance anthems, musical bingo and karaoke. Cheer along to the sounds mixed by disco dancing DJ Anna Greenwood, Jess Indeedy, DJ Helix, while their dancing grannies deliver a special edition of Indeedy Musical Bingo.

  • The TIKI Bar

Sip colourful cocktails while gazing over stunning views of the River Thames in a very tropical pop-up. Listen to the sounds of 1950s exotica Martin Green and DJ Martin Karminsky while revellers show off their samba and mambo skills, as hula girls do the limbo.

  • The Studio

Explore the history of disco as The Studio revisits some of the greatest club nights from the mid ’70s to the early ’80s. Partiers will be treated to the sounds of funk and disco, to electro and Northern Soul.

Throughout the evening, top Jive teacher Andrew Hall will help guests learn the Jive basics, while DJ Mr Jinx will be hitting the decks and The Jive Romeros will be mixing classic American and early British rock ‘n’ roll in Let It Rock. After midnight, The Clore Ballroom will become a cabaret club with live performances and vintage dancing and music.

In addition to the wealth of entertainment, there are also some dining packages available to add on to your ticket. Guests can feast on a three-course meal and have the use of a reserved table by the main ballroom floor for the whole night and access to a dedicated bar. Or if you want something lighter, there is also a buffet dining option.

  • A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party takes place on 31 December 2017 from 7pm until late. At Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tickets: Party £99 (second release), £119 (final release), Add buffet for £35, Add dining, reserved table all night and access to dedicated bar for £85. For more information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website or phone 020 3879 9555.

For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.

For a guide to London’s other New Year’s Eve events, click here.

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Carsten Höller – Decision review | Interactive art, flying machines and slides

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Soar above the roofs at the Southbank on the flying machines at Carsten Holler: Decision exhibition at the Hayward Gallery

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Forget the gift shop, exit down the slides instead

Most of the time, going to an art exhibition means keeping a safe distance from the art in question and definitely no touching. However, that all changes with Belgium-born artist Carsten Höller’s new exhibition Decision, which opened last month at the Hayward Gallery.

This new exhibition explores perception and decision-making. From the beginning, you are given the first of many decisions to make – to go through Door A or Door B. The door we chose immediately plunged us into darkness so we had to rely on our sense of touch, gingerly walking along the sloped dark tunnels while touching the walls. While it was very disorienting, it was fun, although I was glad to eventually reach the light again.

The first room in the gallery kick stars the theme of a suspended reality. The room contains Flying Mushrooms, which invites the visitor to be part of the machinery which sends them spinning above our heads. Another room contains a huge pile of white and red pills which are dropping from the ceiling. There’s no sign to say what they are so if you can, put your trust in the artist that they won’t be harmful and swallow one if you wish.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Get transported into another world with the virtual reality headgear

One of the big draws has been the robotic beds, which glide around a dark room. People can actually pay £300 to spend the night on one. In the same room, are virtual reality headsets which transport you into a dark, snowy forest. The headset left me feeling confused, dizzy and a bit freaked out. Another dizzying experience was the Upside Down Goggles, which had my friends and I stumbling around a balcony looking at the London skyline from upside down, which was very clever.

For those with a sense of adventure, there’s two interactive pieces to give you a thrill. Two flying machines on  one of the balconies see you strapped into a hand glider-style frame with a safety harness ensuring you won’t fall. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a wait and my visit to the exhibition was within a strict time frame as I had plans afterwards so didn’t get the chance to try. There was a queue of about an hour and riders are given a substantial amount of time to fly above the rooftops, so bear this is mind if you want to try it out. Finally, to exit the exhibition you are given the option of sliding down the Isometric Slides – picking left or right. I was actually surprised by how fast I went down and the slides gave me more of an adrenalin rush than I anticipated.

Overall, it was a fun way to spend an hour or two. It was definitely a very different experience than I am used to having from an art exhibition. I really felt like all my senses have been fully exercised in different ways.

  • Carsten Höller: Decision runs at the Hayward Gallery until 6 September 2015. Tickets: Adults £13.50-£15, Students £11. Hayward Gallery, Belvedere Road, Southbank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website.

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Hop along: Giant rabbits ‘Intrude’ upon the Southbank

Travel through the Tunnel of Love at the Southbank’s Festival Of Love

Stik hits the South Bank: Street artist brings colour to Hungerford Bridge

Stik South bank © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Stik mural under Hungerford Bridge at the South Bank

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Each stick person was individual with their expression and clothing

While I love the South Bank, few would disagree with me that the brutalist architecture and concrete isn’t the most visually appealing. Those passing under Hungerford Bridge as they walk from Jubilee Gardens to the Southbank Centre would be hard pressed to ignore the mud coloured walls surrounding them. Earlier this month (2-4 August 2013), the Southbank Centre hosted a three-day Urban: Celebrating Street Culture festival, which included DJs, breakdancers, street artists, skaters, free runners and poets doing their thing.

I attended on the first day and was fortunate enough to see street artist Stik in action creating a mural along a particularly drab piece of wall under the bridge. At the point I saw him, he had created a string of his white stick people against a yellow backdrop. When I returned a few days later, they had acquired outfits and different expressions.

Speaking about the South Bank, Stik was quoted as saying: ‘The South Bank has already made a commitment to having a great deal of artistic freedom for street artists and graffiti artists to come and express themselves on their premises. It’s become part of the institution of street art.’ I applaud the Southbank Centre for allowing Stik to create street art on the site and I hope it remains all the walls for the foreseeable future.

Stik South bank © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Stik starts off by creating plain stick people…

Stik South bank © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Stik in action creating the mural during the Urban: Celebrating Street Culture festival

For another Metro Girl post on art on Hungerford Bridge, read A different kind of street art: Painter on Hungerford Bridge.

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Alchemy Festival 2013: Bringing the sub-continent to the Southbank