Imagine Children’s Festival returns for a 17th year celebrating storytelling and changemakers

Southbank Centre’s annual multi-arts Imagine Children’s Festival returns for its seventeenth year from 7 – 18 February 2018, with twelve days of jam-packed fun over half-term week for children and their families. With storytelling at its heart, this year’s programme includes a specially curated Royal Festival Hall event celebrating the world’s leaders and pioneers who have changed the world, to inspire the next generation of young changemakers.

The twelve day festival includes inspiring and playful events and activities from Super Hero parties, magical immersive adventures and snail friendships to dancing scientists with flatulence. With over fifty per cent of the programme free, Imagine Children’s Festival has something for all ages, with leaders from the world of theatre, literature, music, dance and visual arts, including Caroline Bowditch, CBBC’s Ben Shires & Cerrie Burnell, Charlotte Cotterill, Radio 1’s Chris Smith & Greg James, Francesca Simon, Harry Hill, Jacqueline Wilson, James Campbell, Jess Thom, Joseph Coelho, Mitch Johnson, Patrick Monahan, Robin Stevens, Yuval Zommer and many more.

The Kids Takeover also returns for another year, giving children the chance to take the reins, managing the day-to-day of the festival, from selling programmes, checking tickets to making intercom announcements. This year the Kids Takeover will be partnering with local young carers groups, offering activities to children who look after a sick or disabled relative.

Highlights of the 2018 programme include:

    • Snigel and Friends, the story of an inquisitive snail and his insect friends, by award-winning performance artist and choreographer Caroline Bowditch (7 – 9 February).
    • CBBC presenter Ben Shires making his debut Southbank Centre residency, hosting an array of free events throughout the festival in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Events include a Super hero party with theatre-maker and comedian Jess Thom best known for her alter-ego Touretteshero (10 & 11 February).
    • Authors and illustrators Kate Pankhurst and Andrea Pippins, alongside a host of special guests, explore the world’s leaders and pioneers, in a specially curated event celebrating People Who Changed the World (13 February).
    • Author Jon Roberts discussing his new picture book Through the Eyes of Me, following the everyday life of a child with autism in a special autism friendly event (13 February).
    • An immersive adventure through a Marvellous Kingdom with musicians of the Aurora Orchestra, including dancing dewdrops, Sugar Plum Fairies and a rascally Mouse King (15 – 16 February).


  • Renowned comedian, author and presenter Harry Hill bringing to life his newest character Matt Millz, Britain’s youngest (and funniest) comedian, in discussion with illustrator extraordinaire Steve May, with live drawing and plenty of jokes (17 February).


    • Award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson discussing her much-loved characters including Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker, as well as her latest novel Wave Me Goodbye, set at the start of World War Two (17 February).
    • BBC Radio 1 DJ’s and debut authors Greg James and Chris Smith presenting a superhero event based on their new book Kid Normal, action-packed with games, singing and music (18 February).


  • A family fun quiz extravaganza with stand-up comedian and hilarious quizmaster Patrick Monahan (18 February).


Tamsin Ace, Imagine Children’s Festival Lead Programmer said: “At Southbank Centre we believe in the power of storytelling to enable children to better explore the world around them. We also want to make sure that children have access to great art from the earliest ages.

“With fifty per cent of our festival programming free, we hope this enables all types of families from all backgrounds to come along and try something new at Imagine. This year we’ve also expanded our programme of accessible events and performances to include events created for children with autism or tourettes or partially sighted or blind children. There truly is something for every child and every family at Southbank Centre’s Imagine Festival this February.”

For more information please visit the Southbank Centre website or call 0203 879 9555.


Over fiftysouthbankcentre.co.uk/…/imagine-childrens-festival per cent of the programme is free, with a range of activities and events for all children to enjoy on each day of the festival. CBBC Presenter Ben Shires makes his Southbank Centre debut residency hosting free events every day in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Writer, artist and part-time superhero Jess Thom returns to Southbank Centre helping children find and create their own superhero powers (10 & 11 February). Spin Doctor (The Doctor’s Orders) presents Fun DMC, a fancy dress party where children and parents can jam to hip-hop, funk and disco anthems (13 February) and BAC Beatbox Academy, a collective of young singers, poets and beatboxers, present a fun filled interactive workshop on the basics of beatboxing followed by a performance (13 February).

The sounds of the West End hit Southbank Centre with Baby Broadway, a sing and dance-along for the whole family with hit tunes performed by West End singers (7 February) and the elite musical theatre troupe West End Kids perform live (18 February). At the very end of each day, parents and children can end their festival day with Bedtime Stories, listening to a relaxing bedtime story in the Clore Ballroom (10– 18 February).


Jacqueline Wilson – July 2012 . ©James Jordan

Alongside a host of special guests, author and illustrators, Kate Pankhurst and Andrea Pippins present their respective new books Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and Young, Gifted and Black, in the specially curated event People Who Changed the World. The event explores the world’s leaders and pioneers, from Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, to cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, and looks towards the next generation of changemakers (13 February).

Bestselling award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson discusses her latest novel, Wave Me Goodbye, and some of her much-loved characters from her favourite books (17 February). Comedian, author and presenter Harry Hill presents his newest character Matt Millz, Britain’s youngest (and funniest!) comedian, in a special discussion of his new book, joined by illustrator extraordinaire, Steve May (17 February). BBC Radio 1 personalities and debut authors Greg James and Chris Smith introduce their new book Kid Normal, with an action packed event including games, singing and heaps of participation as they call on all heroes, villains and Super Zeroes to help them create a brand new superhero story (18 February).

Joining the lineup of literature events hosted in Royal Festival Hall, programme highlights include Lithuanian illustrator Aušra Kiudulaitė and author Evelina Daciūtė introducing their book The Fox on the Swing in a workshop for 6–10 year olds (13 February). Former CBeebies presenter and author Cerrie Burnell introduces the latest title in her much-loved series Harper and the Fire Star (12 February), Mitch Johnson, author of Kick, presents an engaging interactive event looking at how everyone is united by the game of football (10 February) and Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series and winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the younger fiction category, shares her inspiration behind her detective duo characters and invites the audience to join her in solving a murder mystery (10 February). Author of the much-loved Horrid Henry series,  Francesca Simon,  and illustrator Charlotte Cotterill will read stories and teach children how to draw in Hack and Whack (11 February).  Children aged 4–7 are invited to join author Nadia Shireen in a storytime Bumble Bear Workshop with live drawing and paper crafts (11 February) and the award-winning team behind Dave Pigeon, Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey, present an interactive workshop full of live drawings and readings (10 February). The BFI brings the wonderful and whacky world of animation creation to Imagine this year, in an inventive filmmaking event where imagination is key (14 February). Performance poet, playwright and author of Luna Loves Library Day, Joseph Coelho reads an inspiring story about the magic of books (12 February).

In an autism friendly event, Jon Roberts discusses Through the Eyes of Me, his new joyful picture book that describes the everyday life of a child with autism (13 February). Children are invited to step back in time in Tiny Owl Tales by Rumi as storyteller Alia Al Zougbi tells Persian tales (14 February), while in a separate event Nicola Davies will captivate children in Selkie and Mermaid stories, exploring the places they inhabit and magical tales of folklore (13 February). In a celebration of Chinese New Year, audiences can take part in an interactive workshop and hear stories of Chinese Year with Christopher Corr in The Great Race – Chinese New Year, for ages 6–8 (16 February). Author and illustrator Yuval Zommer presents a thrilling reading of his Big Brown Bear’s Cave books for children up to aged 5 (17 February). Hats of Faith is a workshop based on the new interfaith children’s book, which sheds light on the shared custom of head covering (15 February) and award winning artist and founder of The Pansy Project, Paul Harfleet presents his first picture book, Pansy Boy in a creative workshop (18 February).

Children and families will take over the National Poetry Library with a variety of poetry workshops and reading sessions for all. Shelley Boden leads Sensational Sensory Poetry and Living Paintings, interactive workshops for blind and partially sighted children inviting participants to use all senses to explore poetry (12 February). Poets including Carole Bromley and Alexander D Great present a poetry reading session for children aged 5–7 as well as Amina Jama and Dean Parkin who will cater to an age group of 8–11 year olds (12 February).


An abundance of theatre, dance and comedy takes place throughout the festival including the new comedy Me and My Bee, a show to help the world, one bee at a time (10–12 February). Children aged 1-5 are introduced to music and performance in Whoosh!, a heartwarming show where three musicians turn every slight breeze into a beautiful sound and the power of music does the talking (8 & 9 February). Performance artist and choreographer Caroline Bowditch presents her new inviting work, Snigel and Friends, a singing and dancing delight following the story of Snigel the inquisitive snail and insect friends, for children aged under 12 months (7–9 February). Children aged 4–7 are encouraged to join in on storytelling in the interactive play Mischief and Mysteries in Moomin Valley, filled with music and magical puppetry (10 – 18 February). Four dancing scientists invite participants to join them in their laboratory in Windibops, a comical show combining choreography, strange sounds (and smells), and a host of amusing characters to find the link between flatulence and global warming (14 &15 February). Children’s Theatre company Peut-Être Theatre embrace mess and harmony and ask if chaos and order can ever live side by side in the uplifting dance-theatre show Tidy Up (16 – 18 February). Broadcaster and comedian Hatty Ashdown, joined by Screaming with Laughter club founder Lucy Porter and Scummy Mummies, hosts an afternoon comedy club designed for parents with infants under a year old, performing their normal adult material with acts from TV and the comedy circuit (9 February). Comedian Patrick Monahan hosts The Big Family Quiz, a family fun quiz extravaganza full of story knowledge, music rounds, quick-fire competition and lots of laughs (9 February). Kid Carpet performs classics from his hit family theatre shows in his interactive Super Mega Rockin Rock Show (12 February).


Musicians from the Aurora Orchestra and writer-in-residence Kate Wakeling invite children aged four and under, and their families on an immersive adventure through the Marvellous Kingdom in Far, Far Away (15 – 16 February) and Chineke! Junior Orchestra perform music by 18th-century composer Joseph Boulogne (Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges) (15 February).  Southbank Centre and the Royal College of Music present Imagine Heritage Trail, a tour inviting participants to learn more about the history of the site, explore archive material and listen to wonderful live music (12 – 18 February). Mil’s Trills, Brooklyn-based children’s music project invites families with young children to celebrate community through original interactive songs by Amelia Robinson and her electric ukulele (9 February), and The Broken Swing Band perform sounds from the 1920s and 40s in a special Friday Lunch session guaranteed to get everyone swinging (16 February).

Two 30-minute animated films from Magic Light Pictures also serve classic fairytales with a mischievous twist for families and children with music performed by Southbank Sinfonia (12 February).


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