What’s on in West Essex this early May Bank Holiday weekend: Saturday 30th April – Monday 2nd May

I love it when the May bank holidays come around as it means that Spring is well and truly on its way, and then hopefully Summer is not too far behind. Here’s some inspiration for local activities for children in West Essex including Wanstead, Chigwell and Epping as well as lots going on in central London especially at the Southbank Centre.


Performers from Russells International Circus

Roll up, roll up the circus is coming to town. There’ll be acts from the Romanian State Circus, a motor bike on a high wire and stars all the way from Cuba.

Groupon currently have 60% off tickets via the Groupon website.

Dates: Wednesday 27th April – Monday 3rd May
Times: Various depending on the day, see Russells Circus website for more details
Tickets: Adults £14-18, Child £12- 16 or try Groupon for discounted tickets
Address: Wanstead Flats, Capel Rd, London E11 2LT
Further information: Russells Circus website



Did you know that Roald Dahl used to be a spy? And also a fighter pilot, inventor and historian of chocolate? Learn all about the beloved children’s author at this interactive exhibition at the Southbank Centre and find out what inspired his famous characters and stories. The tour features unique items from the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre archives and interactive installations to spark the imagination.

Recommended for ages 7 – 12. Exhibition content is unsuitable for younger children.

Dates: All weekend
Times: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 6pm (every 15 minutes), Monday  11am – 3pm (every hour)
Tickets: £10/11 Adult, £8/9 child
Address: Spirit Level at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Further information: Southbank Centre Website


London’s biggest waterside festival takes place every year over the early May Bank Holiday weekend and has been running in Little Venice since 1983.

You can look at the decorated boats in the pool, or watch a Punch & Judy show in Rembrandt Gardens. As well as boating competitions and parades, there will be lots of activities to keep the children amused. Visit the tasty selection of food stalls, see what’s on offer at the real-ale bar, or peruse the stalls selling the weird and the wonderful.

Dates: Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May
Times: Opening ceremony from 2pm on Saturday, activity times vary, final procession 3pm on Monday. See festival website for further details
Tickets: Free
Address: Little Venice is the junction of the Regent’s Canal and the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal. Find directions here on the festival website.
Further information: IWA Canalway Cavalcade festival website


On Saturday, you can visit this traditional fayre is set in woodland which features fun for all the family. Highlights include donkey rides, Punch and Judy, circus skills, traditional crafts, children’s games, animals, barbecue, beer tent, teas and coffee.

Dates: Saturday 30th April
Times: 11am – 5pm
Tickets: Free admission
Address: Swaines Green May Fayre, Swaines Green, Lower Swaines, Epping (entrance through the recreation ground)
Further information: Swaines Green website


The William Morris Gallery hosts monthly family days and this Saturday will be a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of Africa. Create a Tanzanian Tinga-tinga, make a giant map of Africa and handle real objects from Kenya brought to us by the Ken100 project. In partnership with African Diaspora Kids. It’s a drop in event suitable for all ages.

Dates: Saturday 30th April
Times: 1pm – 4pm
Tickets: Free admission
Address: William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 4PP
Further information: William Morris Gallery website


On Sunday, I’d recommend a trip to the Southbank for one of the OAE’s brilliant music concerts for under-6s. So far we’ve been to two and our almost 3 year old loves them as he really enjoys music and loves seeing a love orchestra. The concerts are geared up for kids and we’ve always had a great time. The music performance is 45 minutes long and is very interactive. These concerts usually sell out so there are currently only tickets left for the choir seats.

You can read my review of a previous OAE concert here on the blog.

Dates: Sunday 1st May
Times: 10.30am & 12 noon
Tickets: Returns or choir seats only, under 16 £1, adults £9
Address: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Further information: Southbank Centre website


This Japanese Festival for Children at the V&A museum is suitable for the whole family and features lots of free activities throughout the day. You can listen to traditional storytelling and music, make mini banners and origami shapes, watch traditional puppets, try your hand at manga drawing and digital creations.


Dates: Sunday 1st May
Times: 11am – 5pm
Tickets: Free, drop in sessions
Address: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
Further information: Victoria & Albert Museum website


This fun day for the whole family has a bouncy castle, face-painting, stalls, a coconut shy, cake stalls and more. Arena displays will include a dog show, Tai Chi display and kids races amongst other things. There’ll be refreshments in the form of a BBQ, Cake stall, beer , tea and Pimms tents.

Dates: Monday 2nd May
Times: From midday onwards
Tickets: Free entry
Address: Chigwell Village Green, opposite Brook Parade, High Road, Chigwell



On Bank Holiday Monday, join Shlomo a world record-breaking beatboxer who makes all kinds of music using just his mouth and a mic.

Join this sonic superhero and become one of his sidekicks in a world of funny sounds, brilliant noises and cool music, whether you’re aged one or 101.

Suitable for all ages.

Dates: Monday 2nd May
Times: 12.30pm & 3.30pm
Tickets: £10, Sirloin seats £15, family ticket (for four people) £32
Address: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Further information: Southbank Centre website





Wanstead Park bluebells in full bloom

Today was one of those perfect Spring days, a bit of a nip in the air but warm and full of the promise of summer when the sun is on your face. I’ve been meaning to visit Wanstead Park in the last few weeks as I knew it was coming up to bluebell season and I didn’t want to miss the flowers at their best. Wanstead Park has a reputation for having one of the best displays in the area. The ones in our garden and by the roadside seemed to be doing well so I was hopeful the ones in Wanstead Park would all be out too.

bluebells in bloom Wanstead park

And they didn’t disappoint. The bluebell woods are in full bloom at the moment, which I think is slightly earlier than usual, so I’d recommend getting down there as soon as possible while they are looking and smelling amazing. In a week or so they are usually not just starting to fade, but the hordes of people trampling through the woods often means that lots are flattened as well.

The bluebells are in Chalet Wood, near The Temple, and easily accessible from Warren Road on the Wanstead side of the park. You can park for free along Warren Road and there are usually lots of spaces, we managed to get a spot even though it was super busy. Then if you follow Warren Road down to the end where it meets the edge of the park and take the main path, you’ll see the entrance to the bluebell woods on your right. The paths are a bit bumpy and muddy but you should be able to get a buggy down there at the moment.

And if it’s your first visit to Wanstead Park, I’d thoroughly recommend stopping off at the little tea hut called Wanstead Park Kiosk that is next to Heronry and Perch ponds. They do one of the best Mr Whippy style ice creams around in a variety of sizes. And they have home made cakes and sandwiches as well as tea and coffee in proper mugs which are all pretty reasonable. And you can sit on one of the benches watching the ducks while you eat.

boy looking at bluebells in bloom Wanstead park

For more information and a map visit the Wanstead Park website.