What?: Inspired and sponsored by Rum för Barn in Stockholm’s Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, RFH’s Room for Children is presented as part of the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters season as a retreat where young readers can discover the books best loved by Nordic children in a setting designed to stimulate their desire for storytelling and self-expression. Located just outside the centre’s National Poetry Library, the cosy space comprises shelf upon shelf of well-known Scandi stories across the full range of Nordic languages: Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Finnish, as well as some in English, and a variety of traditional wooden toys. When Room for Children isn’t hosting its Rug Rhymes and Nordic Storytime sessions for under-fives (check website for details), it’s open for family exploration and relaxation, with comfy chairs and cosy nooks to snuggle up in and plenty to occupy little hands.
Where?: The Royal Festival Hall is a four-minute walk from Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Waterloo & City, Jubilee, National Rail), and 10 from Embankment (Northern, District & Circle) and Charing Cross (Northern, Bakerloo). Enter the building via the blue (eastern) entrance and take the singing lift to the fifth floor, where Room for Children is located opposite the lift doors.
Best Bits: The magical reading spaces include giant yellow armchairs for family story-time and cute child-size reading nooks for solo study. We loved the simple wooden games, which had a wholesome Steiner feel.
Worst Bits: I found it quite difficult to engage Bab in the books as she likes to be read to and I don’t happen to speak any Nordic languages, although there are a small number of English-language titles if you prefer to keep things simple. The space isn’t supervised and was quite untidy when we found it, with books pulled off shelves and games scattered across the carpet, which probably wouldn’t matter too much with most children but Bab prefers a pristine space that she can destroy herself.
Facilities: The Royal Festival Hall is a fabulous spot for under-fives, with toilets, baby-changing and cafes galore, step-free access, a singing glass lift, plenty of space to roam and stairs to climb, and Jeppe Hein’s Appearing Rooms water sculpture outside to frolic in on summer days.
Would We Come Back?: There wasn’t enough to keep Bab occupied long enough to warrant a special trip, given that all she really wants to do at the RFH is locate the stairs and spend three hours climbing up and down them, but we will definitely drop by the next time we’re in or around the Southbank Centre.
Bab commandeers the enormous abacus at Room for Children, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre.