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Festival of the World @ The South Bank Centre

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
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The Royal Festival Hall
Festival of the World - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website

Last year the South Bank Centre celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Festival of Britain. This summer's Festival of the World focuses on how the arts change lives and examples will be drawn from the worlds of music, poetry, art and comedy. There will be many free events, as well as paid ones, and all ages are catered for. The Festival is up and running and will continue until 9 September.

A huge range of events is planned, often several on any given day. To give you a flavour of what to expect Poetry Parnassus will be home to poets from 204 different nations, headed by Simon Armitage.

Poetry Parnassus
Poetry Parnassus - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website

Sounds Venezuela will concentrate on El Sistema, the system of music education in Venezuela, and will coincide with a visit by the Simón Bolivar Orchestra. Wide Open School will take place at the Hayward Gallery and will offer an eclectic programme of events devised by artists from more than 40 different countries.

Wide Open School at the Hayward Gallery
Wide Open School at the Hayward Gallery - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre website

'Robots' Climbing the Hayward Gallery
'Robots' Climbing the Hayward Gallery

Africa Utopia will be led by the Senegalese singer, Baaba Maal.

Africa Utopia
Africa Utopia - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website

The London Literature Festival will include writers from all around the world, including Will Self, and Michael Morpurgo (the Children's Laureate) from Britain. The Udderbelly Festival continues with a host of comedians until it departs for the Edinburgh Festival in July, but the Priceless London Wonderground will remain until the end of September where some of the acts will include:

Fascinating Aida
Fascinating Aida - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website


House of Burlesque
House of Burlesque - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website

Priceless London Wonderground
Priceless London Wonderground

In addition to the above events, there will be the usual concerts in the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, some of which will be free. Meltdown will be celebrating its nineteenth year at the South Bank. This year Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) will be curating twelve days of music, debate and performance.

Antony's Meltdown
Antony's Meltdown - Picture Courtesy of the Southbank Centre Website

There will also be surprises for all including aMAZEme in the Clore Ballroom and Unlimited – a celebration of work by deaf and disabled artists. Under the Baobob is a reconstruction of an African Baobob tree – a traditional meeting place.

The Baobob Tree
The Baobob Tree

Festival of the World Museum where you can learn how art has changed lives around the world, and where children can produce their own World Passport complete with a photograph and various rubber stamps; Rainbow Park – a multi-coloured sandpit, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is again open. Here you can learn about wild flowers and vegetables around the world, chat to the resident gardeners, and see some stupendous views along and across the Thames.

The Carousel is in place again as usual

The Carousel
The Carousel

and there is a brand new playground on Jubilee Gardens, where adults cannot enter unless accompanied by a child.

Jubilee Gardens
Jubilee Gardens

There are bars and cafés within the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth Halls, as well as many others on the Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Festival Terrace and Festival Riverside, pop up restaurants for the duration of the Festival and weekly Real Food Markets in Southbank Centre Square every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall

I hope I've given you enough reasons for visiting the Festival of the World.
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Why? To celebrate the worldwide diversity of the arts on London's Southbank
When: Daily between 1 June and 9 September
Where: The Royal Festival Hall and the Southbank
Cost: Many events are free and others are chargeable. Check the website in advance
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