What?: Regular readers will be fully aware of my contempt for library ‘rhyme time’ sessions, the inexplicably popular plague of the under-fives universe where the likes of Wind the Bobbin Up and Hop Little Bunnies, Hop Hop Hop are wheeled out twice a week every week at libraries across the country to the horror of many a parent/carer (probably).
I don’t want to give the impression that I think I’m above such things because that’s not the case at all and I know several mums who positively relish the opportunity to get an hour’s peace while their micro-monster indulges in a community centre singalong. But since my child shows about as much interest in rhyme time as she does in balanced meals and sitting still (i.e. none whatsoever), I have no reason to torture myself with 12 verses of Old MacDonald, complete with animal puppets whose species nobody can identify, or with gender-stereotyped renditions of The Wheels on the Bus, and so I don’t.
That is, at least, unless a session pops up that sounds like it might involve something slightly more inspiring than a lethargic trudge through the Dorling Kindersley Book of Nursery Rhymes. Rug Rhymes at the Southbank Centre at least appeared to be such a session if its webpage was anything to go by, and promised nursery rhymes, poems and rhyming stories; an audience with The National Poetry Library puppets, Federico and Firebird; the chance to find out what rhymes with rug (mug?); and hosts that looked vaguely interested in what they were doing.
We arrived on the late side of on time to find the National Poetry Library Reading Den area completely packed out, which was annoying but promising, with Bab managing to claw her way to the front to get to the Steiner-style wooden toys that had been left on the carpet/stare blankly at the hosts’ heads. Unlike with most Rhyme Time sessions, the hosts hadn’t been brought in specially but rather were Southbank Centre staff who are probably contracted to do it under pain of death, and I think it was fairly obvious that their hearts weren’t really in it as they waded laboriously through the long list of nursery rhymes, occasionally deciding between themselves that they’d just do two verses rather than the suggested 15.
If I’m really honest I really doubt I’d be able to muster any more enthusiasm than these two ladies did if someone asked me to sing 20 nursery rhymes to a room full of oblivious under-fives and their fatigued parents, but it did make me realise that these things really do need the insanely fanatical hosts that I instantly want to chloroform to be vaguely bearable. I was also a bit disappointed that Federico and Firebird only made the briefest of brief appearances and that we never did find out what rhymes with rug.
Where and When?: Rug Rhymes takes place in the Royal Festival Hall’sNational Poetry Library Reading Den (currently hosting Room for Children) every Friday at 10.30am until 15th December, excluding half-term week. 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 the reading den is located opposite the lift doors.
Best Bits: Royal Festival Hall is a day out in itself so it’s far from a wasted trip if your little one isn’t into Incy Wincy Spider.
Worst Bits: Pretty crowded and disappointingly lacklustre.
Facilities: Buggy parking, baby changing, step-free access.
Would We Come Back?: To the Royal Festival Hall? Definitely. To Rug Rhymes? No.
Bab stares at people’s heads at Rug Rhymes, Southbank Centre.