What?: When an otherwise fairly pedestrian-sounding under-fives activity takes place in the same building where Pavarotti once belted out Nessun Dorma accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra it takes on a certain je ne sais quoi that, try as it might, the local children’s library can’t quite replicate. This 35-minute music and movement session has all the ingredients of your average nursery rhyme-warbling, tambourine-whacking, parachute-flinging baby-and-toddler class, but with the added advantage of an inspiring setting and charismatic musician to lift it from bland to memorable.
We arrived vaguely traumatised by a diabolical twat-filled, delay-ridden, four-train tube journey at the arse and of rush hour. This was made worse by the fact that, despite it taking approximately six years for us to get there, we were still early, which meant I was forced to spend 15 minutes pre-class trying to rein in Bab’s shoplifting tendencies in the gift shop while she had multiple large-scale floor tantrums because I wouldn’t buy her an embroidered Royal Albert Hall Christmas bauble. I was also initially dispirited by the floor cushions that had been laid out in a semicircle out of snack-slinging distance of the host, which usually means clinging to your child by its ankle while it makes fruitless attempts to free itself and climb onto their lap, thus sabotaging the entire performance.
Thankfully there were no such child-zoning regulations, and Bab and her pint-sized pals were free to explore the space, crash the stage and peel the stars and spacemen that had been stuck around the room in a nod to our session’s ‘space’ theme off the walls. Prince Albert the resident puppet was in attendance and seemed happy to join in with the anticipated renditions of ‘Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, complete with percussion instruments and a guitar accompaniment; a flight around the corridors of the Royal Albert Hall in our ‘rockets’; and a parachute-tossing session during which we attempted to launch him into ‘space’.
Ok so, like I said, this class was nothing we haven’t seen before. Music and storytelling classes for the under-fives are 10 a penny in London and, in all likelihood, the entirety of the Western world, and we’ve probably been to three basically identical sessions in our immediate postcode alone. That said, if you and your mini maestros are fans of the tried-and-tested musician-led, all-singing, tenuously storylined format then you’re unlikely to find a more beautiful setting than this – short of actually going to the moon, which would have been cool but probably a bit of a nightmare with the buggy.
Where and When?: The Royal Albert Hall is a 13-minute walk from South Kensington (Piccadilly, Circle, District). Sessions take place at 10am, 11am and 12pm on selected weekdays until 24th November (check website for details).
Best Bits: Location, location, location.
Worst Bits: Nothing new, but cute nonetheless.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, cafe, buggy parking.
Cost: £5 per under-five.
Would We Come Back?: If we lived nearby, yes. From our current address, probably not.
Bab meets Prince Albert the puppet at Storytelling and Music at the Royal Albert Hall.