Keep warm and get inspired at London’s Southbank Centre this January. This sprawl of artistic venues has a cracking line up all month which includes poetry, circus, acrobatics and art. There’s plenty of options to keep children entertained, but take care to feed them in one of the restaurants near Paddington first to keep them energised!
Events for young children
Until 23 Feb, Royal Festival Hall, £8, suitable for all ages
If you have ever wondered what sound feels like or what music looks like – Soundpit is the event for you this January. Play in giant sandpits illuminated by beautiful graphics and compose your own masterpiece. Run your hands through the sand, sit in it or even walk across it. This is a fun, interactive, creative experience suitable for children and adults.
Family Gamelan Taster Session
Until 25 Jul, Royal Festival Hall, £10, suitable for ages 6+
Regarded as one instrument but played by many people, the Javanese gamelan comprises gongs, metallophones and drums. It generates rich, sonorous and mesmerising sounds and is believed to inspire self-confidence, improve coordination and sharpen listening skills. Drop into a 2-hour workshop at the Southbank and learn the basics during your stay at the Park Grand for the perfect family bonding experience.
Riveting performance and dance
Until 5 Jan, Royal Festival Hall, from £29.50 for suitable ages 3+
Experience daredevil entertainment which transports you to the golden age of circus! Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze, high-wire performers and more unite in this spectacle. The show includes sensational life-sized elephants created by the puppeteers behind War Horse, putting elephants back in the ring as never before. Captivating and groundbreaking, snap up a ticket and before the run ends.
Anima by Joli Vyann
22 – 23 Jan, Purcell Room, from £18, suitable for ages 7+
Breathe in. Now, breathe out. The latest show from Joli Vyann blends dance and acrobatics to take us from the cradle to the grave through an intimate look at the simple, yet constant, act of breathing. Featuring only two performers and a live Taiko drummer, the show explores how breath affects our emotions, physicality and our very being.
Zebra by Wes Peden
24 – 26 Jan, Purcell Room, from £18, suitable for ages 7+
Master of technical innovation and manipulation, professionals juggler Wes Peden presents a new solo show which gives astonishing new life to vinyl records! Watch mind-boggling sequences of evolving shapes and constellation in a thoroughly unique performance.
World-class music as part of the London Philharmonic Orchestra series
15 Jan, Royal Festival Hall, from £14
Sukanya is an opera which takes a tale from the famous Sanskrit texts of the Mahabharata and combines traditional Indian instruments, Western orchestra, singers and a dance ensemble. After a terrible mistake leaves the ancient sage Chyavana blinded, the beautiful princess Sukanya finds herself marrying for the sake of her kingdom – will her love grow?
18 Jan, Royal Festival Hall, from £14
This sublime choral-orchestral mass is presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir. You’ll be humming along to the subtle half-tints and serene melodies all the way back to your room at the Park Grand Paddington.
Fascinating art exhibitions
Until 26 Jan, Hayward Gallery, £20
This is a major retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of London-based British artist, Bridget Riley. The exhibition brings together Riley’s iconic black-and-white paintings of the 1960s, expansive canvases in colour, early figurative works and recent wall paintings. The exhibition also includes rarely-seen drawings, studies and preparatory materials that offer an insight into Riley’s working methods from 1947 to the present day, as well as the three-dimensional Continuum (1963/2005).
Library of the Unword
Until 29 March, National Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall, free
Presented by London-based artist Joo Yeon Park, this exhibition commemorates the 30th anniversary of writer Samuel Beckett’s death. The work comprises 126 framed mirrors with writings and drawings printed on Korean manuscript paper. The exhibition also features archival items on Beckett from the National Poetry Library collection including audio, images, press cuttings and a rare copy of his poetry collection.
Engaging literature and poetry events
The Pen-Ting Poetry Showcase
8 Jan, National Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall, £5
Seven poets from the dynamic poetry scene of London perform their works in an open-mic night that ranges from hip-hop, politics and speaking truth to power. The line-up includes Pen-Ting founders SKY GOD and The Repeat Beat Poet.
TS Eliot Prize Readings
12 Jan, Royal Festival Hall, from £12
A highlight of the 2020 literary calendar, all are welcome to come along and listen to the poets shortlisted for the coveted TS Eliot Prize as they read from their own work. Taking place on the eve of the award ceremony and the announcement of the winner, this is a unique experience to be a part of, whether you’re a poet or not.
Comedy to make you hoot
Sandi Toksvig Live: National Trevor
23 Jan, Royal Festival Hall, from £ 22, suitable for ages 14+
Sandi Toksvig, the host of Bake Off, QI and Fifteen to One, realises some people harbour an ambition to be a National Treasure but, following a misunderstanding with a friend, Toksvig has decided instead to become a ‘National Trevor’: half misprint, half Danish comedian, novelist, actor and broadcaster. Expect tall stories, fascinatingly funny facts, silly jokes, a quickfire Q&A and a quiz. Don’t expect tap-dancing, leotards or a forward roll.
Matt Forde: Brexit, Pursued by a Bear
Until 22 May, Purcell Room, £17.50, suitable for ages 14+
Broken pledges, fake deadlines. And that’s just Britain’s leading political comedian, once again promising his last show as an EU citizen (maybe). Former political adviser, Matt Forde, is known for his podcast The Political Party, a weekly celebration of politics and its personalities, and the Dave TV show Unspun with Matt Forde.