South Bank Winter: Beat The January Blues

Ruth Hargreaves
By Ruth Hargreaves Last edited 59 months ago
South Bank Winter: Beat The January Blues

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Photograph by Tomasz Kulbowski

Feeling the January blues? Beat them with a trip to South Bank London.


Nothing says "ya boo sucks to you, depressing January" like laughing your face off, and BFI Southbank boasts two January seasons taking place designed to make you do just that.

A Serious Man, a Modern World: Buster Keaton and the Cinema of Today runs throughout the month, offering a selection of films that celebrate one of cinema’s finest comic performers, Buster Keaton. As well as his greatest features and finest shorts from the early 20th century, the season also screens a number of more recent films that have a rather “Buster-esque” flavour to them (1-31 Jan).

The LOCO London Comedy Film Festival is back at BFI to lighten up London during the most miserable week of the year. Run by LOCO, a not-for-profit foundation that discovers, develops and screens the world’s most distinctive comedy film-makers, the festival offers screenings, premieres, workshops and discussions over four days. This year there’s a special focus on satire, with an exhibition that celebrates today’s leading British satirists and a special 50th Anniversary screening of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (11-23 Jan).

Or opt for all-out, dirty, outrageous cabaret comedy with Fascinating Aida at Southbank Centre. Celebrating 30 years in the biz with a new show, and following a sold-out 2012 tour, Fascinating Aida combine topical numbers with old favourites for glamorous, satirical and razor sharp wit that cuts deep. Ouch. If you want a taste of their act then listen to their brilliant Cheap Flights song (an ode to budget travel) which currently has over 10 million combined YouTube hits (until 13 Jan).

Bright Lights

A ghost elephant has turned up in your living room, and not only is he refusing to leave, he’s also invited some of his pachyderm pals over for a dance around to Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart. And you thought your Christmas come-down was bad. Don’t miss The Elephantom at The Shed, where masterful puppetry and imaginative silliness combine (until 11 Jan).

Protest Song, written by Tim Price and starring Rhys Ifans, is also at The Shed until 11 Jan. Funny yet hard-hitting, this one-man play explores the reality of the Occupy London movement and has already proved to be a big hit - advance tickets are sold out but day tickets are available, so keep your eyes peeled on the website.

Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Turgenev’s savage comedy, Fortune’s Fool continues at The Old Vic starring Iain Glen and Richard McCabe (until 22 Feb), and you can also catch Samuel Beckett’s surreal masterpiece Happy Days at Young Vic with Juliet Stevenson taking on the lead role of Winnie - a woman whose resilience and hope helps her to survive in a desolate and diminishing wasteland (23 Jan - 8 March).

The London International Mime Festival is another New Year highlight. From 8 January, celebrated mime artists and companies from around the world land in London for 25 days of highly alternative physical theatre. Juggling, puppetry, dancing plastic bags - the festival looks set to be a feast for the eyes and we cannot wait (8 Jan - 1 Feb).

London International Mime Festival


Indulged in a whole load of “merriment” over Christmas and New Year’s? OXO Tower Restaurant is offering The Ultimate Hangover Cure for those of you still feel a little fuzzy round the edges. Featuring the usual fried breakfast goodies, a selection of Bloody Mary-esque cocktails and even a Hangover Kit (including an eye mask, mints, refreshing face spray and cooling wipes), you’ll be pepped back up for 2014 in no time (until 5 Jan).

But if you still fancy a tipple, there are other ways to have a sobering experience with South Bank London. Move quick and visit some of the recently renovated Imperial War Museum’s fantastic exhibitions (all due to end on 5 Jan): IWM Contemporary: Mike Moore and Lee Craker (a dual photography exhibition that contrasts two perspectives on conflict in Iraq), Architecture of War (artists’ responses to the impact of warfare on our landscape), Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power (the combination of five photography projects that look at the impact of modern military architecture on the landscape) and Horrible Histories: Spies (explores the world of spies during the Second World War, based on the popular series by Terry Deary).

Lastly, don’t forget about the excellent Florence Nightingale Museum, which celebrates the life and work of this social reformer and tells her story using a unique collection of artefacts. The current Florence’s Footsteps exhibition focuses on how she has been portrayed in children’s books, Japanese manga and political cartoons, and how her image has changed over time (until 2 March).

Fresh Air

Get out and about! There’s brilliant stuff to see and do everywhere. If you favour dry land then we recommend a lovely long walk down South Bank with a pit stop in Jubilee Gardens. Situated right next to the London Eye and opposite the Houses of Parliament, it is a sustainable park in a beautiful setting that welcomes visitors throughout the year.

Play tourist for the day on board London Duck Tours’ Road and River Landmarks Tour that shows you many of London’s most iconic sights - first on the streets of London in one of their distinctive yellow DUKWs, then from the river aboard a City Cruise craft.

If you take a seasonal snap while out exploring South Bank then post it to the South Bank London Twitter using the hashtag #SouthBankWinter and London South Bank may add it to their winter photoblog, which already contains some beautiful pictures.

Last Updated 02 January 2014