Hanging Out on the South Bank


“I recognise this” said Eva as we climbed up the steps at the back of the Royal Festival Hall. “We’ve been here before”

Why yes, lady. Like 10,000 times. Admittedly less since we’ve not been within walking distance but as recently as the Easter holidays, when we went on the London Eye. And before that Feb half term, when we came down to the Imagine Festival. So yes, Eva we’ve been here before. But the Southbank Centre remains a great place to meet up with people. Our original plan was a picnic in St James Park but the weather’s been lousy all week and we were confident that it would remain lousy. That confidence was not misplaced.


So a picnic at the Southbank Centre it was then instead. Which has a roof, toilets  and coffee on tap. It also had the “Alchemy” Festival on, which meant there were various pretty things to look at  – a big tent (Five Rivers: A Portrait of Partition), multi-coloured ceiling hangings and these pictures of crystals. Eva said she wanted them all because they looked so pretty. Reuben said he wanted them all because they would make him rich. Who knew I was raising a Tory??

We had lunch with our friends on some tables, looking out towards the river. The weather outside looked sunny and promising so we thought we’d move on down to the playground. Once my children had run up all the stairs to the 6th Floor and back down again, with me in tow. We spotted a new display being put up around the 5th floor – millions of butterflies along the window:

You can guess what happened as soon as we’d cleared up our food, toileted and gathered all six kids and packed away. Yup, rain. It looked like a nature documentary where wildebeest suddenly start charging across the Savannah and David Attenborough solemnly wonders what’s spooked them. Is it wildebeest that charge? I have no idea. Nature’s not my thing. I once sold a pair of shoes to David Attenborough though. Where was I? Yes, people on the terrace suddenly charging for the doors. Which cued us in to the unclemency of the outside.

Weirdly though, it didn’t stop us. It wasn’t *serious* rain and so we waited for a bit of a break, then burst out into the fresh air and towards the riverside, stopping only to pose for a photo on the neon orange benches. It was tricky to get even four of the kids on the bench at the same time, but we tried:


Down the slope there were myriad distractions, from the bubble man to the carousel. Roo was especially distractable, yelling out everything he saw along the way “Hot dogs! Candyfloss! Ice cream!”. The boy has a goldfish like attention span sometimes, I swear. But also, there’s just a lot to divert a child on that short walk.


Which meant that yes, by the time we reached the playground, it was raining again. Apocalyptically, this time. But you want to know how to avoid your kids queuing for those two swings? Go when it’s raining. Sorted. Would have been even more sorted if we’d packed the waterproof trousers.


We’d lost half our party when the rain started, so we caught up with them at the Slug and Lettuce, where the kids spent half an hour playing with sticker books that Bob had thoughtfully provided. And I got to enjoy what I thought was going to be a small glass of Rose:


But these caged animals don’t stay still for long and by 3pm, we were back in the playground. I’d spotted something over yonder which I thought might be of interest, so we wandered over to take a look. The Udderbelly stage pops up on the Southbank this time every year and there’s often a garden bit to hang out in. In 2012, it was called the Magners’ Pasture and it was the very last place I blogged about before giving birth to Eva. I have to say it was more pleasant being there and not being 40+2 pregnant.


So, what was there? Well, a fairyglade-like walkway to get there:


And the kids highlight of the day, the Hilton Holipod. There are three rooms set up and you pose for a photo in each, which is recorded by 50 cameras and stitched together into a video. It’s easier to see than explain, so look here:

So good we did it twice, with Bob and Boby and without.

We also got a chocolate waffle to share because I am weak and Belgium gave us a taste for fine things.


And Eva wanted to pose in front of the Liquor Store because her Perform song mentions a liquor store. That sounds odd. It’s a Wild West theme, OK? Makes total sense.


On the way home, we found a load more of those orange benches, which the kids wanted to climb on and jump off. Roo’s favourite was this one, though it was mildly terrifying for us:

Sliding the Overground

make action GIFs like this at MakeaGif

So as ever, come on down to the South Bank. There’s always something to do and see and the good news is that the toddlers’ favourite pursuit – climbing the stairs of the RFH – still works for a nearly 8-year-old. And we didn’t even go in the singing lift.


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2 Responses to Hanging Out on the South Bank

  1. Linda says:

    We are heading to London in late June with a 4.5 year old and I’m combing through your blog for ideas! Coincidentally, we are staying near the Southbank, well more like near the Shard.

    Can you please let me know where the Hilton Holidpad display can be found? I tried searching for it online, but it did not appear.


    • katese11 says:

      Sure! It’s next to the Southbank Centre, as part of the Underbelly area. You kinda pass under the Golden Jubilee bridges, then there’s a massive purple stage and you go through a little walkway to get to the Holipad. It’s a temporary thing but I reckon it’ll still be there n June. If not, there’s always something fun on the Southbank 🙂

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