A Day Out at The Southbank

On Saturday The Pixie Girls and I headed to the river on the creative london bus (no.168), to the Imagine Festival which is running now until Sunday 24th Feb, (we wrote about it here). Although most of the ticketed events were sold out days before, we got stuck into the fun and friendly atmosphere, free performances, and busy Book Swapping event.


We took along a bag full of well loved books, and the Pixies had a rule to collect only 3 each. It seemed to work, and as the 6-year old is loving her ability to read, she picked up some books (all about horses and unicorns of course) that she will be reading by herself. The smaller Pixie picked up a Pooh Bear, Angelina the Ballerina and Pinkalicious book. Smiles all round. Thank you BookPeople for sponsoring that moment.


We watched the Babar the Elephant : National Youth Orchestra performance in The Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall, which kept the kids entertained for the 30 mins, although many of the smaller ones at the back of the room had trouble seeing through the heads of families. The show was introduced by a really entertaining and whacky looking Mistress of Ceremonies. I’m not sure of her name, but she was dressed up in full Madame Munster outfit, and started the show off with a brilliant sung operatic introduction to reading music. She sang her way through squiggles, circles, wobbly lines and a few dots, and the kids loved it. If and when I do find out who she is, I’ll let you all know, as she would be fun to see in the future.


At the RFH Imagine Festival there is also a UV sea life aquarium that has been drawn by all the families on a roll of paper about 80 metres long. The kids take the highlighter pens, and draw away, and there in-front of you is a really simple idea turned imaginative sea world, made out of paper, pen and a long wall. Great idea for a party, if you have a couple of UV lights hidden away from your raving/ 80’s partying days maybe?


We often hang out at the Southbank, mainly around the Royal Festival Hall as a meeting point, as it is so open plan and well stocked with family friendly things (free water, loos, open spaces, coffee, nice sofas – you get the picture). There is a good range of kid-friendly places to eat, although unless you are organised (are you?) and get out early, you may have to queue for Giraffe, Wagamama or Strada. We often grab a coffee from EAT, and if we’re having a treat get some dim sum from Ping Pong at the back of the RFH. At the weekends there is often a food market on the Waterloo Station side of the RFH, which has an endless choice of worldly dishes to tempt you with. They even have a churros stand, which I try to avoid as my Pixies just love them so, and it’s too mean to say no when they’ve spied them.


When you need a splash of fresh air, you have the River Thames on your doorstep, which then reveals so many things to see and play with. You can pick from a few of these… The London Eye, Graffiti Skate Park by the Royal Festival Hall, The Hayward Gallery, weekly food markets and festivals, various green space, a delicious Wahaca mexican pop up restaurant, The Oxo Tower, Coin Street playground, plenty of ice cream vans, and that’s the ‘everyday’ stuff.


We are hoping to make it to the Light Show at The Hayward soon. It is meant to be a great one for the kids, and has had heaps of good reviews, and it was fully booked up all day on Saturday when we there, so it must be a hot ticket. You can book here, (which is advised if you are making a special journey to see it).


9 times out of 10, there is a family event happening at either the Soutbank Centre, the National Theatre, the Udderbelly Festival in the Summer, London Wonderland, classical music for tots from The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the RFH, and in the past they have hosted Wayne Hemingway’s Vintage festival.

If you want to walk and talk, and definitely bring the scooters for the kids, then there’s all the fun to be had if you make your way down (East) towards London Bridge and Tower Bridge. On your journey beside the Thames you will find The Tate Modern, Hays Galleria, Boris Johnsons office at City Hall, HMS Belfast, Dim T restaurant, The Gaucho, Pret, a few Pubs, Starbucks, Vinopolis wine merchants,  Tower Bridge and whatever the weather make sure you schedule time to hang out at Borough Market on the way.

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My idea of heaven is a late lunch (ideally with the girls for a gossip) at Brindisa Tapas restaurant just by the market, at London Bridge. It throws you into a Spanish swirl, with the best wine, seranno ham, gambas, and most importantly a glass of heart warming and cheek blushing red. What’s more here’s a cheeky secret to share, they have the best spanish recipes on their website here, and if you have a foodie friend that you need to give a generous birthday present to, how about one of their wine tasting and ham carving courses at their Ham School at Borough. It sounds like a fantastic evening out, £75 for 2 hours with personal carving tuition. That’s got to be a good scout skill to add to your CV on LinkedIn.

We will come back to sharing more of the fun of the Southbank world soon, in the meantime, drop us a line if you find anything special on your adventures especially if you manage to get the kids to one of the creative events, even if it is being inspired by all the amazing graffiti in the skate park. Photos please. xo