Preview: Imagine Festival, South Bank Centre, London SE1

Show some respect for kids' verse!
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The Independent Culture

McGough will read from his recent collections The Bee's Knees and Bad Bad Cats to open the Imagine Children's Literature Festival, now in its fourth year. Poets, storytellers and illustrators will fire children's imaginations; guest authors include Jacqueline Wilson, Ian McMillan, Valerie Bloom, Michael Rosen and John Agard.

Running alongside the festival is the Imaginarium installation, where children from the surrounding borough of Lambeth retell traditional stories from Africa and Denmark as part of Africa Remix Festival and the bicentenary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth.

McGough was one of the three Liverpool poets, along with Brian Patten and the late Adrian Henri, featured in the influential The Mersey Sound collection of 1967. He contributed humorous dialogue to the The Beatles' film Yellow Submarine, and was a member of The Scaffold pop group, who had a No 1 in 1968 with "Lily the Pink".

He wrote his first children's poem, "Mr Noselighter", in 1976, but his first book of children's poems, Sky in the Pie, didn't appear until 1989. McGough has now published some 26 poetry books for children, including "the odd story book", such as the best-selling Moonthief.

McGough is passionate about his verse for youngsters. "Children's books are seen as a sideline, not as important as adult literature," he says.

"The line that divides children's poems from adults' is a blurred one. When one of my children's poems ends up in an adult collection, it is not because the poem has been upgraded.

"I have had a frighteningly long career now as a children's author," says McGough. "Maybe I feel like a child. It is an unconscious thing."

13 to 16 February (0870 401 8181; www.rfh.org.uk)

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