Family time: the Family Arts Festival 2015

Over the last few weeks we have been running several events for families as part of the 2015 Family Arts Festival. Whilst we run a year-round programme of events for young people, we placed a special emphasis on events for families – children, parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts, uncles... – to enjoy together during the half term holiday. Here's what we got up to!


Family Arts Festival logoFamily Open Day: Alice in Wonderland

Sunday 25 October
By Ben Palmer, Discovery and Marketing Placement Student

On Sunday 25 October LSO St Luke’s hosted a Family Open Day for 4–7 year olds, full of fun activities for the family.

The day started in the Jerwood Hall with everyone being taught a song together by Lucy Griffiths, accompanied by LSO musicians. After this we were split into three groups (White Rabbits, Dodos, and Cheshire Cats) to join three different activities in turn throughout the day: an Arts & Crafts workshop led by members of Tea Dance for Little People (TDLP), a Song & Dance session with Lucy, LSO musicians and Sally and Jon from TDLP, and a Storytelling workshop led by Greta from TDLP. I joined the Dodos, an integral character in the Alice in Wonderland story, and started off with Arts & Crafts.

Arts & Crafts

When thinking of Alice in Wonderland one of the first things you think of is the Mad Hatter and his tea party. Thus there was no surprise that the arts & crafts workshop was a long table full of materials for the families to make their own 'mad hats'. Many of the children were keen to show off their artistic side, making flamboyant hats and crowns, covered in gold playing cards and streaming with colourful ribbon.

It wasn't just the children getting involved however, as many of the parents pitched in to create some magnificent hats, possibly getting a bit too competitive in the process! At 11.35am it was time to put down the glue and scissors and move upstairs to the Singing session. By 11.45am I just about managed to shepherd upstairs the few stragglers who were still sat down adding more sparkles and heart stickers onto their hats, and we all joined Lucy and the LSO musicians.

Song & Dance

The three groups would be learning different songs in this session, which would then be performed in front of the others at the end of the day. Lucy Griffiths is very experienced when it comes to working with children – our Discovery Junior Choir being only one of the regular events at which she works – and this showed when our group learnt the new song she taught us very quickly. We were then tasked with learning the The Lobster Quadrille, which included a fun dance routine. This was the moment when Lucy asked the children to pair up with their parents, much to the dismay of some of the latter. I managed to find a partner to help support my poor dancing skills and joined in the fun. We had a wonderful time spinning around while trying to remember all the words to the songs. 

After that, percussionist Oliver Yates split us into three groups and taught us a rhythmic activity where we had to clap or stamp our feet depending on which word in a sentence we said. Each group had the same sentence but with the words in a different order, which led to a lot of confusion as Oliver made us do it a lot faster! Eventually we all fell over, and it was time for lunch.


After lunch I met up with my fellow Dodos in 'The Pool of Stories' where Greta from Tea Dance for Little People was running the Storytelling workshop. It was here while sitting on giant mushrooms that the children were kept enthralled as Greta led them along Alice's journey. It was a very interactive experience, with the children popping bubbles that Greta made, imitating characters from the book and even getting the parents pretend to be trees and bushes, much to the amusement of their children! A few times Greta would ask what a potion tasted of, or what animal the children would want to be, to mixed responses of cupcake, orange, and cola flavoured concoctions and not just one tyrannosaurus rex. Soon after 2.30pm the session was came to an end, so after a short break, we went upstairs to the final group performance. 

Final Performance

At 3pm we all met upstairs in Jerwood Hall to show off our hats and perform the song and dances each group had learnt. First of all everyone sang the song that Lucy had taught us right at the beginning of the day, aptly named Begin at the Beginning, a nice way of remembering all we had done from when we first learnt it. Next up was the White Rabbits who performed Down, Down, Falling Down, complete with motions of them slowly tumbling down the hole, and How doth the little Crocodile, where they used their arms to imitate the crocodile’s jaws. This was followed by our group performing the The Lobster Quadrille. Unfortunately I lost my partner and thus had to manage dancing alone, a frightening prospect to all of us older ones there, but the rest of the Dodos pulled off a wonderful performance. Finally, the Cheshire Cats stepped up to perform Who Stole the Tarts, a portrayal of the Queen of Hearts in the courtroom, which I found rather spooky.  

The day concluded with all of us singing together one last time before the families left with smiles on their faces and hats upon their heads. It was great to see so many of the children having enjoyed their day with us, and many stayed briefly to say thank you to Lucy, the musicians, and the members of Tea Dance for Little People. 

Reveal Ravel – pre-concert workshop

Thursday 29 October
By Aanu Sodipe, work experience student

On Thursday 29 October I was lucky enough to observe the LSO Discovery Reveal Ravel pre-concert workshop, led by composer and workshop leader, Michael Betteridge. Children ranging from ages 8 to 14, accompanied by their parents, were warmly welcomed into the Fountain Room at the Barbican Centre to take part in creative music-making based around Ravel’s Mother Goose Ballet, which was being performed by the LSO in the evening concert.

Kicking off the workshop, Michael introduced the participants to the four musicians they would be making music with and everybody listened to four short extracts from three of the Mother Goose Ballet’s fairy tale-inspired movements. Violinist Elizabeth Pigram played a melody from Sleeping Beauty and Trish Moynihan on the piccolo played a tune from Empress of the Pagodas, before Lorenzo Iosco on the bass clarinet and Jonathan Lipton on the French horn played two tunes from Beauty and the Beast. The children then enjoyed sharing their thoughts and ideas about the different melodies, coming up with words or phrases to describe the music and telling the group what each melody reminded them of. They were then given the opportunity to choose which fairy tale extract they wanted to work on and split into groups, which were each led by one of the musicians.

In their various groups the children chose instruments to use for the main activity of the workshop, which was to create an accompaniment to the fairy tale melodies. Some had brought their instruments along with them (there were violins, flutes, guitars and recorders), whilst others made use of the percussion instruments provided by LSO Discovery. Everybody felt comfortable sharing their ideas with the group and making up music to accompany their fairy tale. All of the participants’ creative ideas were put together, forming the basis for their group’s final performance. At the end of the workshop each group presented its ideas to the others, and afterwards everyone was invited to the Barbican Hall to see the London Symphony Orchestra play the full Mother Goose Ballet in concert.

As well as improving their creativity skills, the workshop allowed the children to make new friends and to learn about instruments that they may not have come across before. At the end, they all seemed very pleased with the music that they were able to make.

LSO Discovery Family Concert: Alice in Wonderland

Sunday 8 November
By Yasmin Hemmings, Discovery Departmental Assistant

On Sunday 8 November hundreds of families descended upon the Barbican Centre for LSO Discovery’s Wonderland-inspired Family Concert. Thanks to some help from the Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning team the Barbican foyers were transformed into a Mad Hatter's Tea Party including mask making, board game designing and giant card games. There was also a range of other free pre-concert foyer activities on offer including storytelling, singing and music workshops.

 Wayfinder in the foyer    Instrument workshop
Instrument workshop   Arts and crafts workshop


I was positioned on the Try an Instrument strings workshop, where children had the opportunity to have a go at playing violins and cellos. A queue quickly formed once the workshop began, with children ranging from 3 to 12 lining up for their chance to play an instrument. As well as me, two musicians were on hand to give advice and a helping hand to the budding instrumentalists, all of whom were eager to get stuck in. Putting myself into my old violin teacher’s shoes I soon got into the swing of things, showing the children how to hold a violin, how to pluck the strings and how to use the bow. The activity went down a treat with many youngsters queuing up twice in order to have another go. Some were already having instrumental lessons and were keen to show off what they had learnt but the majority of those who took part had never held or played a violin or cello before, which made the activity all the more exciting. There were more than a few proud parents looking on – perhaps wondering if a violin would be a suitable Christmas present for their child…

At 2.30pm it was time for the concert to begin, and the foyers cleared as families took their seats in a packed Barbican Hall. After the concert’s presenter Paul Rissmann had introduced himself to the audience the LSO played some pieces with a fantastical theme: Beethoven’s Overture to Prometheus (inspired by the Greek mythological character), a beautiful piece by Elena Kats-Chernin called The Dance of the Paper Umbrellas and two numbers from Tchaikovsky’s much-loved ballet The Nutcracker. It was then time for each section of the Orchestra to shine as Paul presented the audience with the Strings, Woodwind, Brass and finally Percussion.

The concert’s main event was the World Premiere of Paul Rissmann’s Wonderland Suite, a piece based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland composed especially for the Family Concert in collaboration with Dr Kiera Vaclavik, an Alice in Wonderland expert from Queen Mary University of London. A 20-minute orchestral and choral imagining of Lewis Carroll’s most famous story, the work was set across nine movements – six of which featured the LSO Discovery Junior & Senior Choirs who joined the LSO on stage. With some help from the Choirs Paul taught the audience key moments in the music and invited them to join in with the singing, meaning that from time to time the whole hall erupted in song!

LSO Discovery Choir   Paul Rissmann listening for the singing


Other highlights included LSO Co-Principal Percussion Sam Walton playing the saucepans (emulating the moment in the story when the Duchess’ cook throws dishes around the kitchen) and movements six and seven, 'The Cheshire Cat' and 'The Hatter’s Tea Party', which were accompanied by projections of artwork that had been sent in by youngsters attending the concert. Having heard music inspired by the most famous girl in children’s literature, the concert wrapped up with some rather magical music inspired by the most famous boy… can you guess who it was?

The day began and ended on a high and there were plenty of smiling faces (from both the audience and members of staff!) as people headed home from the Barbican. Feedback from families who came to the concert highlighted the success of the day – one parent praised the 'fantastic event', going on to say that it 'absolutely encouraged a real interest in music and the performing arts.' Thanks must be extended to all of the Discovery and Barbican staff who made sure the day ran as smoothly as it did, and all the fantastic workshop leaders, artists, and musicians involved, particularly Paul Rissmann.


Tickets are already on sale for LSO Discovery’s next Family Concert on Sunday 7 February 2016 which will be a Shakespearean extravaganza, marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death – expect love, war, laughter and magic.



Feeling inspired to get your own family involved?

As well as these special events we have a regular programme for children and their families:

Under 5s
> Early Years Workshops
> Storytelling Concerts for Under-5s

> Family Concerts
> LSO Discovery Choirs

> Digital Technology Group

> Activities for school groups

Under 18s
Tickets for our main evening concerts at the Barbican Hall are £5 for under-18s. 
> Practical info for attending with your family

Family Arts
As well as taking part in the annual Family Arts Festival, the LSO is a member of the City Family Arts Network along with the Museum of London, Barbican Centre, Barbican Children's Library, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Enjoy a year-round programme of activities in the Square Mile.