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Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre

School was out and fun was in, especially along London’s South Bank.

The Southbank Centre has been playing host to the ever popular Imagine Children’s Festival, which returns this year with even more attractions than usual. The good news is that although half-term may be over for most, the action-packed festival continues to run until Sunday 26 February.

I have never braved the Tube on my own with all three of my young men. Yet I felt compelled to conquer my fear of excitable little ones on busy platforms and venture up to Waterloo. I packed a bag with activity books, sharpened pencils and a delectable array of goodies. There was no moaning, no crying and the journey went remarkably smoothly.  

But when we arrived at the Royal Festival Hall, my heart sank. For there in the foyer was a lengthy queue of fed up parents, all surrounded by kids and similarly stuffed backpacks. They were all there for the free Become a Superhero workshop. Staff were on hand to help aspiring Supermen and Wonder Women create their very own super hero persona, complete with superpower and dazzling costume. The problem was that you needed to be super patient to stick out the lengthy wait of one hour or more! As patience has never been my super strength, my boys sadly missed out.

Another free attraction, the Imagine craft pavillion, was inundated too. So we went in search of a bespectacled man in a stripy red top called Wally. Yes, that’s right, he of Where’s Wally fame. The kids loved racing around the Royal Festival Hall in search of the popular book character, though they only found two “injured” cardboard cutouts behind the ticket desk. Probably not quite the idea, but they enjoyed themselves all the same.

After a quick pitstop for some ice cream sundaes at nearby Giraffe, we headed over to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids. If you’re wondering what Comedy 4 Kids is, it’s exactly as it sounds. Comedian James Campbell performed an hour-long stand up set especially for those aged six and up. James, a father himself, clearly knows what makes kids tick and he really gets down to their level. He made jokes about scooters, school and the double entendre that is the Nintendo Wii! Of course, this led to a good 10 minutes of toilet-related humour, which obviously had the kids tickled pink (there were a many adults chortling away to themselves too).

The packed-out comedy performance was unfortunately a one-off at Imagine, but there is much, much more in store for families this week. Highlights include a chance to meet bestselling author Jacqueline Wilson and the London Book Swap.

Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre until 26 February 2012. Read more