Southbank Centre: Festival of the World

The Southbank Centre’s ‘Festival of the World’ started at the beginning of June. Runnning until the end of the summer, artists from more than 200 countries come together to bring their talent and passion to honour the ideas of Pierre de Coubertin, who said “To really respect each other, first we must know each other.”

Celebrating the creative exuberance of being alive, offering a chance to experience other lives and cultures, it asks whether this makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

It worked perfectly with half-term … even though the weather wasn’t great, the Southbank Centre makes for a good day out, even with the children, and doesn’t cost much if you’re content just to ramble and explore. We spent pretty much the whole day in and around the QEII building and the Royal Festival Hall …. and there was plenty to see and do, and didn’t spend a penny on the attractions.

There’s a series of artworks and installations around the Southbank centre … most of which actively encourage hands-on interaction.

The London Earth Creature is a playscape designed by children based on a ‘rammed earth’ structure devised by Iranian architect Nader Khalili that has transformed low cost housing for communities in Africa and Asia.

We approve of public artworks that can be climbed on ….

Around the back of the Hayward Gallery … two large figures made of reclaimed wood and steel seem to be helping each other onto the roof. “Everything is beautiful when you don’t look down”.

Cool. They look like transformers. Or so I’m told 😉

Up the stairs to the Wastescape, a small concrete gallery transformed with recycled plastic milk bottles and sound, inspired by the people from the shanty-town  of Moravia in Columbia where recycling is integral to local life and culture. It was like a magical little cave ….

which lead out into a wonderland ….

There’s a garden on the roof of the QEII …. a little bit of wilderness, a cafe, a lawn, and a series of raised beds with crops of fruit, veg & salads ….. the perfect spot to stop for a long game of hide-and-seek (or a rest on a bench, depending how old and knackered you are!)

Lots of flags waving …. huge, brightly coloured, composed of the emblems of different nations blended together.

Making the mundane fabulous, thousands of bright green colanders envelop the concrete columns, making a cheerful path through what is generally just a service area. We tried to count them on one column, but gave up after a fairly half-hearted attempt!

We got into the spirit of it, and created some sculpture of our own ….

I’m not quite sure what the yellow things were …. but there were a lot of them around, scattered in different locations. And every time we came across them, the children stacked them into towers. We meant to go back later to see if they were all still there, but ….

it started raining.

and it didn’t stop.

so we went indoors.

We sat in a talking circle (and talked), watched a film in a plastic bottle cinema, conducted a Venzuelan orchestra, and became world citizens of antarctica … we have passports and everything.

Then went upstairs to snigger at the enormous flag-covered jubilee corgi …

And enjoyed the spontaneous performance art created by a large number of over-excited children on a vast, slippery, wooden floor.

It was fun … and I whole-heartedly approve of the RFH attitude on a rainy afternoon …. one of the very few large urban public spaces I can think of where children do not get tutted at for rushing about and being, well, children.

A sneaky way for me to get a quick culture fix without the children noticing … it didn’t cost anything, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Win.

3 responses to “Southbank Centre: Festival of the World

  1. I love the South Bank – wish I could get there to see the exhibition!

    As an aside, I’ve nominated your blog for a Versatile Blogger award – my latest blog post is all about it! x

  2. Sounds like you had a great day (despite the rain). Good to hear of a child friendly place, more galleries should be like this. I love the way children spontaneously react to art works, I think it can give adults new and different insights in to pieces.

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