Southwark Park is transforming into Wonderland this winter with a rabbit hole, flamingo croquet, and a Mad Hatter’s tea party to boot. After dark, the park is being lit up with twinkle lights as 35 handmade lanterns of Lewis Carrol’s famous characters bring the quintessentially British tale to life, writes Laura Burgoine…

Organiser Marcus Van Der Gaag described the experience as “immersive.” “There’s a giant chess board, there’s 162 lanterns, between one and seven metres high, and 35 of them are animatronics; their arms and eyes move.”
Alice fans can spy a jabberwocky in the tree, chat to the Cheshire cat, and follow Alice down the rabbit hole.

“Everyone else has always put a Chinese theme on lantern events but Alice in Wonderland is a very English brand, which everyone loves and relates to,” Marcus said.

The organisers worked with local school children who recorded their voices to be played throughout the trail. You can hear students from the Harris Academy, Sacred Heart and Bosco Centre narrating stories along the way. Local school children are also performing Christmas songs on the bandstand.

The event is setting up in the northern section while east and west parts of the park are open during the day, and there’s a path with barriers around it through the middle of Wonderland where people can walk throughout the day.

The entire walk is 900 metres long with a food and drink stop halfway. The first half is themed around Alice through the Looking Glass and the second half is Alice in Wonderland. The lantern trail finishes at the bandstand, opening out to a Santa’s Grotto, a sleigh ride and 20 stalls with one bar, six food stands, Christmas shops, and a teacup ride.

All lights are switched off at 11pm with the event running from 3pm-10pm each day. “Under 3s are free so parents with young children can come early before the main rush of school-aged children,” Marcus said.

The organisers are offering a 40 percent discount to locals while people who live in the borough of Southwark are entitled to 25 percent off tickets. “We sent out 700 letters to residents to inform them of the discounts. We’re trying to keep the event low cost,” Marcus said. “We’ve got local traders involved, and schools who perform get free tickets.”

Alice in Winterland Lantern and Light Festival is at Southwark Park, SE16 2TX,
from November 21-January 5.
Admission: £15 adult, £9 child, £12 concession and disabled,
£5 carer.