I’m constantly searching for new and exciting things for ASK (UltraBaby) to try and it doesn’t have to be outdoors and it doesn’t have to be running but it does have to be fun.

Recently I was informed that I’d be needing to utilise some annual leave for the GingaNinja to do an extra days work in February – I duly agreed and then proceeded to see what kind of mischief the child and I could embark upon.

With lots of excellent options such as the ‘robot exhibition’ at the Science Museum, the Maritime Museum in Greenwich through to the Jeffreye Museum in the east, London is rarely short of something to do, however, I felt like I wanted something a hint more active and then I stumbled upon an old favourite – The Southbank Centre, a location that has been home to many good times I’ve been a part of.


Given that half term was around us the Southbank Centre had laid on the ‘Imagine’ children’s festival, a collection of free and paid for events and exhibitions.

The Friday and Saturday though were my key times for looking for adventure and they had two things that really caught my eye;

  • Friday: GrooveBaby
  • Saturday: Rave-a-Roo

‘What the Mary Poppins are they?’ you might be asking yourself – let me explain using the words of the artistes themselves and starting with…

GrooveBaby
The Groove Baby Organ Trio returns to the Southbank after their sell-out show in November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. For Imagine the trio have created a groove-heavy funk programme with some familiar surprises for the little and big ones. Bring your dancing shoes because Friday lunch is the new Friday night! The Groove Baby Organ Trio are a searing rhythm machine featuring Phil Stevenson on guitar, Cameron Reynolds on Hammond organ and Chris Nickolls on drums. Also known as Root Down, the trio’s lyrical, funky compositions are inspired by such greats as James Brown, Funkadelic and Sly Stone, and Blue Note legends Grant Green, Lonnie Smith and Jimmy Smith.

ASK and I turned up to the Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall in good time, early enough for one of us to have the ganache coated chocolate marble bread from the cafe. Delicious.

Buggy parking had been allocated to the sides of the hall away from the performance space (although we had arrived on our back pack which we stowed with the buggies and was equally secure).


We were welcomed to the performance space about 15 minutes before the gig kicked off, a friendly bearded gent beckoned us down to the main floor, there were a few benches and lots of cushions liberally placed around the stage and there was a little ambient music playing in the background.

ASK found a bit of floorspace for us amongst the other adventuring parents and waited (almost patiently).

When the music kicked off a few minutes later the swathe of parents and children moved into a sea of gentle swaying and kick ass dancing as the funky jazz belted out across our dancing hips. I don’t deny being something of a jazz fan, especially when it gets funky so I was quite happy to be a very early adopter of the dance floor hips.

ASK and I cut a groove across the floor, spinning and twisting our feet into a lather. There was also a bit of crowd singing and UltraBaby joined in the funked up versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Row, Row Your Boat – cute.

After the hour of the event I think it’s fair to say that most parents could quite happily have continued, I know we could have – it was fun, funky and relaxed and reminded why I spent from age 12 to about 30 in nightclubs, festivals and gigs most weekends (and often weekdays too). Brilliant!

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Heres a little background on Rave-a-Roo which if you loved going to nightclubs and especially the super clubs then you should seriously consider attending with your child.

Rave-a-roo
Rave-A-Roo features live DJs, madcap hosts, bubble walkabout, hilarious interactive performances and fab giveaways. It’s an epic night out in a safe and spotless environment mixed with a kids’ festival. 
Nominated for Bizzie Baby’s Best Kids Event award and having already toured some of the UK’s biggest festivals last summer including Wilderness and Festival Number 6, this is larger-than-life party fun. People of all ages are welcome, from toddlers to grandparents, to dance, let loose, or sit back, watch and chill.

Rave-a-Roo was very different to GrooveBaby, being a Saturday afternoon meant that it was much busier and despite being in the same location had a much more frenetic atmosphere with a wider age range of children.

This was less ‘being cool’ than it was being ‘krazy kool’- we hit the dancefloor just a few minutes from the start with the performers warning everybody up a little and reaching the much missed classic ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’. The guys at R-A-R clearly knew the demographics of the audience!

To add authenticity to the rave atmosphere there were a huge array of glowsticks and inflatables available (some free, some paid for) and the lighting was a nice level, enough to make most parents reminisce about rpic times at places like Ministry of Sound, Fabric but probably not so much the infamous ‘Home’. The music was reasonably loud but not so much so that you’d be concerned for your child’s hearing. However, when we attend next I think I would take ASKs ear defenders just so she has the choice.

ASK and I once more got straight in on the dancing, cutting across the army of parents with some funky strutting and shape throwing, covering a good chunk of the dancefloor to get a feel for where we could get up to the most funky mischief.

It was reasonably crowded at the front for those desperately seeking the attention of the on-stage performers but the genius thing about Rave-a-roo were the roving performers with glowsticks, inflatables, bubble guns and smiles for the kids. This provided us with the option of being highly involved but not needing to crowd the main stage area – something we took full advantage of!

We funked up the edges of the party, dipping in and out of the more crowded areas to ensure we got fully involved!

Taking a toddler: Taking your two year to her first rave requires some persuasion and when after the first hour I was greeted by a grumpy ASK I simply broke out some food and drink and we had a short stop and thankfully, post refuel, we were ready for the second hour.

The highlight though for me was when they threw in a bit of ‘Jungle’ and ASK instinctively went ‘ape poo’ – hitting her stride within seconds of the music going on but failing dismally at the ‘musical statues’ element of this particular tune!

After the second hour I drew it to a close for us – leaving the other revellers to enjoy the remaining 45 minutes. UltraBaby had given her all and was now thunderously exhausted.

What an afternoon, what a pair of afternoons! What truly tremendous good fun!

Conclusions: Between GrooveBaby, Rave-a-Roo and the Southbank Centre my daughter and I had a truly amazing set of experiences. The dancing, the mood, atmosphere and general awesomeness of the events means I will be joining both of these events at future gigs – both free and paid for and of course I’ll continue to dip into the Southbank Centre – a real powerhouse for culture has diversity in the capital.

Notable mentions

  • The super funky, don’t get out enough clubbing, mid to late 30’s parents going a bit too wild at both events (I include myself in that number)
  • The outstandingly friendly and efficient staff of the Southbank Centre
  • The outstanding musicians from GrooveBaby
  • The brilliant Rave-a-roo performers with particular note to the lady with the bubble guns, she looked like she was living the dream!
  • The fact it was free was brilliant
  • ASK, who was willing to give everything I threw at her a try

For more information visit

Southbank centre, click here
Rave-a-Roo, click here
GrooveBaby, click here

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