One of the reasons I started this blog 10 years ago was to share my lifelong love of arts, culture and storytelling with a growing audience. After discovering that having a baby didn’t bar me from exploring the best of London’s vibrant cultural scene, I was on a mission to spread this message far and wide. As the coronavirus lockdown continues, the creative industries need our help more than ever.
If you also care about the individuals, organisations and communities who need the arts to thrive, I’ve put together a list of ways to support London’s most inspiring family arts spaces. This is just a selection of the hundreds of venues and providers that bring joy, imagination and education to children of all ages. You can SUPPORT THE ARTS by visiting them online, making donations, buying memberships or gifting future tickets to those in need.
Don’t forget to check out my Lockdown Bucket list of 200+ activities to entertain and engage you and the kids.
How to Support London’s Most Inspiring Family Arts Spaces under Lockdown
As a regular reader of this blog, you’ll find the north London theatre popping up again and again in my Weekend Scoop. Arts Depot has a relentless commitment to putting on family friendly theatre that’s accessible for all ages and backgrounds. After their coronavirus statement, the theatre received a swell of donations to enable them to continue after the crisis is over. Sadly they’ve had to cancel their 2020 panto, but there will be more to come from this beloved local spot. You can help Arts Depot secure its future too.
Barbican Centre was one of our top cultural playgrounds when the boys were little, as it offers so much space for them to run around. Plus they always have an interesting exhibition on, some lively shows and a bunch of free stuff for families. Get a taste of the Barbican’s eclectic arts programming for children and grownups via their Read, Watch & Listen site. They’ll be keeping it updated until the centre reopens (no earlier than Jun 30).
DISCOVER CHILDREN’S STORY CENTRE
Another registered charity faced with loss of funds at this time, Discover is an important local treasure trove, welcoming more than 150k children and families each year — many from disadvantaged backgrounds. Immersive exhibitions, children’s author readings and pop-up performances are just some of the joys of the centre, which also has a fun garden and playground. Their mission is to encourage a life-long love of stories, from babies upwards. If that speaks to you, why not support Discover with a small donation?
The site of a fantastic museum that hosts family friendly exhibitions, along with gorgeous gardens and an aquarium that’s perfectly sized for toddlers. While the museum is closed due to COVID-19, the Horniman Museum is doing its best to keep its 16.5 acres of gardens open, including throughout the Easter weekend. Please, please do maintain social distancing guidance — only visit with your own household group, and keep at least 2 feet apart from others. Wear whatever protective gear you have or take any necessary measures for the safety of yourselves and Horniman staff. You can also support through this difficult period by donating to the Horniman Museum.
Not only is Kings Place local to us (King’s Cross), it’s one of the most stimulating cultural hubs for families looking for arts and kid-friendly shows. Every year, they host the sell-out Guardian Cartoon & Art Family Day along with popular concerts by the Aurora Orchestra. While we’re stuck at home, this is a good opportunity to catch some of the acts you might not get to see if you’re visiting with younger ones (or you’re out of town). Watch some memorable past performances from Kings Place via video clips on Kings Place KPlayer. Don’t miss the haunting bluesy performance by singer-songwriter and cellist Ayanna Witter Johnson. Kings Place is a registered charity and relies exclusively on ticket sales, so needs extra help at this time. If you would like to donate to Kings Place, you can do so HERE
LITTLE ANGEL THEATRE
The home of puppetry in London is also on our doorstep and a magical space for young and old to engage and explore in stories. They are welcoming donations to Little Angel Theatre, as well as support via membership or becoming a patron. Little Angel Theatre is also offering a range of at-home resources for families, including special crafting videos for ages 3+.
While humans stay on lockdown, the animals at London Zoo are being cared for behind the scenes by hardworking staff. London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo are asking for your help, whether it’s a small donation to help feed a penguin, an annual membership, or you decide to adopt an animal. We became proud adoptive parents of a meerkat many years back and it’s a sweet thing to do while you’re at home with younger ones. You can also take a virtual tour of London Zoo and see what your favourite creatures are up to.
In response to the lockdown, London’s premier institution for dance theatre representing all different styles has gone digital! Last week in my newsletter (have you subscribed?) I linked to their showcase of balletlorent’s Rapunzel for families. You can also keep up with any breaking news and virtual performances via Sadler’s Wells on Facebook (try the flamenco workshop!). Any donations to the theatre at this time will be matched in amount, so it’s a good way to support the dance community.
A charity, a cinema, a live events venue, Rich Mix is an essential part of the east London landscape. Whether you want to watch baby-friendly cinema, party at their annual New York fiesta, or join in Mwalimu Express — the African pop-up mini festival, there’s something for all ages. Their doors are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak but you can support the arts centre with a one-off donation or by becoming a member. You can also gift a cinema ticket to a Tower Hamlets child in Year 6.
It’s no secret that the Southbank is one of my favourite spots in London and Southbank Centre is where it’s at. Each year, their Imagine Children’s Festival makes my London hot list of things to do with kids and their breadth of cultural events and free activities is second to none. Luckily you can still get your fix via their virtual platforms including the Southbank Centre blog and podcast. Southbank Centre relies primarily on ticket sales for funding, so supporters are invited to help them keep going or donate to a specific cause — such as helping young people access music or the wonderful Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden.
Just around the corner from London Bridge, this vibrant theatre puts on some of the liveliest and most engaging productions for children of all ages. Unfortunately they’ve had to cancel some upcoming shows and they’re now asking for support as a registered charity. You can donate to the theatre directly or why not give the gift of theatre to a deprived child? Buy a Pass It On ticket that allows a child who normally wouldn’t have a chance to visit the theatre, such as new refugees, young carers and children in care. When lockdown is over, you’ll know you’ve put a smile on a little person’s face.
Right in my Islington neighbourhood, the stunning Union Chapel is not just an events space and a working church, it’s also a homeless shelter. You can watch anything from stand-up comedy to musical concerts and family shows or cinema here. As part of the community emergency response to coronavirus, Union Chapel is now a drop-off centre for Islington Charities. They’re especially looking for non-perishable foods and hygiene products e.g. hand sanitiser, soap) and drop-offs are welcome 10am-12pm (Mon-Thu). Find ongoing details on the Union Chapel Facebook page. If you can’t get to the chapel, you can also make a donation online.
If there’s one company we’d recommend you check out as a Londoner or London visitor, it’s Kate Prince’s dazzling dance theatre collective ZooNation. We’ve loved watching their live shows including hip hop-inspired takes on the Wizard of Oz (Groove on Down the Road) and Alice in Wonderland (The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party). ZooNation gives incredible opportunities to young performers and however you can support their progress, it’s all welcome. You can watch clips from past shows on their website as well as find a really helpful resource for freelancers, self-employed and others in the creative industries.
Before you go, Time Out has a wonderful list of how to help and get help in London during these challenging times. Stay well and stay safe.