Imagine: Children’s Literature Festival at Southbank Centre (12 to 20 Feb)


Imagine is the UK’s brightest and best children’s literature, poetry, magic and comedy festival.

Imagine, Southbank Centre’s annual Children’s Literature Festival, returns with an extensive nine-day programme of readings, storytelling, poetry, stand-up comedy, exhibitions, dance and music across the site – making it the ideal offering to spark the imagination this half-term.

To complement the ticketed events, there will be an exciting programme of free events, including a sing-along with folk super group and Southbank Centre Artists in Residence, Bellowhead; the opportunity to create stories through sound at The Hayward; a special Imagine Festival installation, including a magical library, on The Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall; an exhibition of Portuguese children’s book illustrations; an interactive trail to explore hidden poetry across the site; Kathak dance workshops with Southbank Centre Artist in Residence Gauri Sharma Tripathi; opportunities to hear the Gamelan; rapping and storytelling with Apples and Snakes; mask making and a performance of The Carnival Of The Animals.

The festival runs from 12 to 20 February, and is designed for children aged 5 to 11.

The Robot has identified the following highlights:

  • The Carnival of Animals
  • Comedy 4 Kids – covers everything from penguins to Nintendo Wii, and creates a unique environment for children to experience jokes and stories about their world – the show is guaranteed to make you giggle.  Suitable for children aged six and over
  • Magic with Paul Kieve
  • Jan Blake – one of the UK’s greatest storytellers, bringing a calypso flavour to the Festival, with stories inspired by Caribbean folk tales, accompanied by a percussionist and steel pan player

Adults £7
Children £4.50


The Princess Blankets
Friday 13 February, Purcell Room, 2.30pm, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children),

Schools ticket prices: £4 per pupil
One of the UK’s great writers, Carol Ann Duffy brings her powerful new fairy tale The Princess Blankets to the Imagine Festival. This is a story about a young princess who can never feel warm, and evokes human fears, frailty and love in a magical and haunting tale. The show features readings from Carol Ann with musical accompaniment on woodwind and brass by John Sampson. The show is suitable for ages eight and over.

The Day I Got My Finger Stuck Up My Nose
Saturday 14 February, Purcell Room, 11.30am, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
Brian Patten presents his exciting new poetry show for kids and their parents. He brings his infamous poems to life by serving up ghosts, goblins, naughty children and fantastic creatures.  The show is suitable for ages seven and over.

James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids
Saturday 14 February, Purcell Room, 2.30pm, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
James Campbell, returns to Imagine after his sell-out show at last year’s Festival, offering irresistible stand-up comedy for children (and their parents!). The hour-long Comedy 4 Kids show touches on everything from Penguins to Nintendo Wii, and creates a unique environment for children to experience jokes and stories relating to their world in a stand-up comedy setting. The show is suitable for ages six and over.

Paul Kieve
Monday 16 February, Purcell Room, 11.30am, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
Paul Kieve is a magician and writer who taught Daniel Radcliffe how to perform magic tricks and who worked as the magic consultant on the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In his new book Hocus Pocus a boy called Paul is visited by famous magicians of the past and learns about their amazing illusions and often grim deaths. Paul will read from the book and perform a number of illusions, and the audience is then invited to meet him in person after the show, which is suitable for ages eight and over.

Murray Lachlan Young: Modern Cautionary Tales for Children
Wednesday 18 February, Purcell Room, 2.30pm, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
Murray Lachlan Young’s interactive poetry show Modern Cautionary Tales for Children mixes poetry, storytelling, stand-up and panto, and children are invited to dance on stage, pen poems, and impersonate ponies in a riotous but poignant hour of merriment and mayhem. ‘Move over Hilaire Belloc, you have a tangled-haired, cape wearing rival. Young is enchanting children with poems about toilets, thumb-sucking and horrible ways to die’ (Sunday Times). The show is suitable for ages five to ten.

Jan Blake
Thursday 19 February, Purcell Room, 11.30am, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
Jan Blake is one of the UK’s great storytellers, presenting tales from around the world. This year she brings a calypso flavour to Imagine, with stories inspired by Caribbean folk tales, accompanied by a percussionist and steel pan player. The audience can meet Jan after the show, which is suitable for ages eight and over.

Cathy Cassidy
Friday 20 February, Purcell Room, 2.30pm, £7 (adults); £4.50 (children)
Cathy Cassidy joins the Imagine line-up to read from her new book Ginger Snaps and then answers the questions that children always wanted to ask. Ginger and Shannon are best mates, but when they befriend lonely Emily, everything changes. This is what Cathy Cassidy does best – turning the highs and lows of friendship into unbeatable and heartfelt stories. This show is suitable for ages nine and over.

Poetry Pathways
Thursday 12 – Friday 20 February, Royal Festival Hall, Ticket Desk, Free Admission
This interactive trail, suitable for ages 5-11, explores the hidden poetry of Southbank Centre with journeys starting at the Ticket Desk, Royal Festival Hall. The trail lasts about 30 minutes, depending on how much poetry participants can find.

The Bibliomancer’s Dream
Thursday 12 – Sun 22 February, The Clore Ballroom, 10am – 11pm, Free Admission
Bibliomancy is an ancient ritual that involves the random selection of a book and then picking a line or verse within that book to learn a truth, or inspire the imagination of the holder. Children can visit the magical library on The Clore Ballroom and delve into hundreds of books that hold secrets for them to discover.

Saturday 14 February, The Clore Ballroom, 1pm, Free Admission
Artists in Residence Bellowhead, turn their attention to children as they perform as part of Imagine. This is a gig with a twist – songs and stories are brought to life in Bellowhead’s unique folk style and the audience has the opportunity to form a very special part of the performance.

Portuguese Children’s Illustrations
Thursday 12 – Friday 20 February, Level 2, Blue Side, Royal Festival Hall
Free Admission, Suitable for ages 3-7 years
The Gulbenkian Foundation has generously supported an exhibition of Portuguese children’s illustrations. To celebrate the images on display, visitors are invited to create their own illustrations inspired by the drawings and books around them.

Kathak Stanza’s
Sunday 15 February, The Clore Ballroom, 2.30pm & 4.30pm, Free Admission
Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, Gauri Sharma Tripathi celebrates the voice-in-dance, with this imaginative workshop that combines words and traditional South Asian kathak dance. All that is required are voices, feet and a little imagination.

Poetry Pie
Monday 16 February, The Clore Ballroom, 2.00pm, Free Admission
The Launch of CBeebie’s Poetry Pie at Southbank Centre is being celebrated as part of Imagine Children’s Literature Festival 09. Poetry Pie vividly brings to life a range of poems specially written for Cbeebies. Some of these have been created by contemporary poets, others have been produced by young children. An animated cast of creatures act, dance and sing the words of the poems. Charlie the alien; Amber the hermit crab; Mischa the hamster; Evie the cow and Findlay the dragon, perform the funny and charming poems all of which are chosen to reflect the lives of children watching at home. Children will have the opportunity to be one of the first to watch these lively animations as Poetry Pie is launched on the Clore Ballroom at Southbank Centre. Suitable for ages 3-6

Poetry and Place
Tuesday 17 February, The Clore Ballroom, 11am, 2pm & 4pm, Free Admission
Children can work with a local poet to unlock the poetry and language that is all around them – under the stairs, behind the curtains, on their doorstep or round the corner. This event provides the chance to discover the poetry of children’s homes and where they live, and the poetry within Southbank Centre.

The Carnival of the Animals
Wednesday, 18 February, The Clore Ballroom, 11am – 1pm & 3pm – 5pm, Free Admission
Children are invited onto The Clore Ballroom to make and create masks and poems inspired by the poetry and illustrations from The Carnival of the Animals – the Apollo  Chamber orchestra, presented by conductor David Chernaik,  will also play the lively music by celebrated french composer Saint-Saëns. Children have the opportunity to work with renowned illustrator Satoshi Kitamura, talk to the musicians and create own art work to take home. This event is presented by Poems on the Underground and Apollo Chamber Orchestra.

Thursday 19 February, The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, 3.30pm for ages
4 – 7 years & 5.30pm for ages 7+, Free Admission
Spin! is an exciting show where poets, rappers and storytellers demonstrate just what words can do. Apples & Snakes is the leading organisation for performance poetry, creating fun and entertaining events which show what poetry is and can be.

Moving Words
Friday 20 February, The Clore Ballroom, 11am & 3pm Free Admission, suitable for ages 3+
This is a workshop for all the family, using poetry and creative dance, to explore ways of using the body to tell a new story. No dance experience necessary.

Gamelan & Poetry
Saturday 21 February 2008, The Clore Ballroom 11am, Free Admission
This is a day of poetry, story-telling and dance events on The Clore Ballroom, all related to the gamelan, the beautiful percussion orchestra from Indonesia. There will be activities to suit all ages and experiences, followed by a klenengan – a musical get-together with gamelan players from across the country who are coming together to explore traditional Javanese musical repertoire.

Celebrate Imagine at The Hayward, with workshops inspired by Mark Wallinger Curates: The Russian Linesman
Workshops are free with an exhibition ticket – special offer tickets for family visitors are available. Workshop tokens can be collected from The Hayward information point from 11am on the day. Places are strictly limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. All activities are suitable for ages 5 to 11. An activity trail, designed especially for families is also available free of charge for the exhibition.

Sound Wizards
18, 19, 21, 22 February 2009, The Hayward, 12.30pm
Strange and unlikely objects are used to create sound illusions and tell a magical story – a pair of gloves becomes a flapping bird and coconut shells turn into wild horses.

18, 20, 22 February, The Hayward, 3pm
Childrens’ stories and animations make mysterious use of people turning into creatures, monsters and alter-egos. Using animation techniques, children can transform themselves into a fantastical imaginary character.

Mirror Image
19, 21 February, The Hayward, 3pm
This workshop explores tricks with light and involves playing with mirrors and reflections, enabling participants to see different versions of the world around them.

Twilight Transitions
19, 20, 21 February, Dan Graham’s Waterloo Sunset Pavilion, The Hayward, 5pm
Day transforms into night, as children can watch the sun set over the London skyline to the sound of live music and poetry for children. Free admission. No exhibition ticket required.

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