‘We’re going to the Barbecue!’ Ezra sings to passengers aboard bus 153 that stops directly outside. He’s been to the Barbican Centre less than a handful of times and yet it’s made an indelible impression.
From its skyscraper towers to the wall of light that ushers you in from the main entrance, there’s loads to gawp at.
Inside it’s a treasure trove of stuff to see and do. Our most recent visit was for Do Something Different Weekend, a family arts and crafts festival that saw dads and granddads come out to play along with the usual mummy-buggy set.
We also checked out maverick designer Ron Arad’s exhibition, Restless. As a parent, this is one of the more relaxing gallery experiences I’ve had. Mums and dads reclined on various Arad creations while kids in socks turned Arad’s large, ‘cubist’ sofa into a soft play area. Ezra and Jed couldn’t get enough climbing and hopping around. I managed to pull them away long enough to scope out the rest of Arad’s quirky designs, including his famous spiral bookshelves, but Ezra dragged me back to the sofa for one last bounce before we left. Restless is definitely worth a visit (hurry, ends May 16).
The Barbican holds many programmes aimed at parents of young children including its Family Film Club on Saturdays and LSO St Luke’s classical series for under fives. It’s also just a fun place to hang out.
Among several restaurants, there’s a waterside cafe where you can grab a bite to eat and let the little ones roam in between the tables. When the weather’s good, bag a spot on the terrace. Sitting out here, eating ice cream in the sunshine and watching the fountains spray up from the Barbican lake, it’s easy to forget you’re in the City of London.
And try not to leave the ‘Barbecue’ without sampling the plant life in its Conservatory. It’s the largest outside of Kew Garden and provides a leafy retreat from the madding crowd.
Barbican Centre is at Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS. Check the web site for visitor info.