By Jodi Bartle

For London families, the South Bank is a place that keeps on giving - and mostly for free - just like the River Stage Festival which joyfully returns for summer 2018.

It’s a perfect weekend spot whatever the time of year; with the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall for spot of indoor action or outdoors for its Appearing Rooms fountain, sandpit, skateboard park, second hand bookstalls, enormous playground at Jubilee Park, the sandy Thames-side bit which is perfect for a spot of impromptu mudlarking, Thames Clippers boats and the excellent weekend food market around the back where you’ll find choosing your lunch an exquisite, impossible task because it all looks beyond delicious.

Remember: it’s no fun suffering from a greedy food coma just because you went for a bit of everything, especially in London’s unpredictable but glorious sunshine, right?  

Well, there’s even more in store for all you members of the (unofficial) South Bank lovin’ crew - over July and August the good, kind and cultural folks at the National Theatre have curated a massive outdoor arts festival for a fourth year, and all entirely for free.

Yes, that’s right - all the wonderful, eclectic, edgy, funny, camp, melodic River Stage Festival talent is yours to enjoy for gratis, which is a most welcome concept for anyone, and especially those who have a small tribe to entertain for weeks and weeks in tow.

There will be five glorious weekends in all of live music, DJs, family workshops, club nights, theatre, a good dose of drag, contemporary dance, and outdoor cinema, as well as a selection of London’s most excellent street food and drink stalls to make it worth your culinary time when you fancy a little more than a Tesco meal deal.

Kicking off the festival with a family-friendly, riotous spot on Friday 13th July will be The Glory, a night spot and leading queer performance venue which brings together its most sequinned, dazzling drag queens, club kids, comedian and underground performers for the Festival.

HOME Manchester returns to the River Stage from Friday 20th July, bringing Northern performers and musicians to the capital, and Sadler’s Wells presents dance styles from 27th July, including hip hop, Indian kathak dance, contemporary and flamenco.

For burgeoning youthful musicians, nonclassical takes the stage from Friday 3rd August, showcasing new classical, electronic and experimental music (look out for extraordinary cellist Cecilia Bignall).

The National Theatre headlines the final Festival weekend of 10th August, bringing family-focused workshops, sing along bands, a circus show, tea dance, live music and DJs to its lineup. Finally, the River Stage Festival 2018 will end with a screening of the National Theatre Live recording of the NT’s recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical Follies.

 c) Johan Persson

c) Johan Persson

Free, inclusive, fun, and family-friendly - get your tribe there this summer. River Stage runs from Friday 13 July to Sunday 12 August and all events are free. For more details go to the NT website.