IT’S back. Yes, the purple upside down cow that has become a fixture of the South Bank for the past six years is about to be re-inflated once again.
Its arrival in its pasture next to the Southbank Centre on April 9 heralds the start of a seventh season of the Udderbelly Festival and three months full of an eclectic mix of circus, comedy and family shows.
Since its inception at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Udderbelly has grown into one of London's most popular events on the cultural calendar and it has cemented its reputation for top class live entertainment at ticket prices that won’t break the bank.
"The original intention was to create a festival right in the heart of London with a laid back and accessible feel to it, something for all the family," says festival director Fi McCurdy.
"It has grown over the years, and developed each time but the essence remains the same and we try and make sure that the shows we offer are varied enough to appeal to all ages.
“This year is no different and in fact we have more family shows this season which is really exciting.
"We are also so pleased to be back as we love the South Bank. It's a the perfect place for us to be - right on the river, next to some amazing cultural attractions and it's really vibrant and buzzy which is exactly the atmosphere we want to create with Udderbelly."
This year's line up promises something for everyone with circus shows for grown ups as well as for the younger members of the family, plus comedy for all ages and plenty to eat, drink and do in the pasture.
This year's headline circus shows are Circus Geeks, which will be in residence between May 26 and June 21 and Bromance which will set up camp between June 24 and July 19.
“We are incredibly excited about being able to bring these two shows to Udderbelly,” says Fi.
“Bromance is a British group who are amazing. Frenetic, friendly, captivating and casual – it’s an incredible show and they are going to wow the crowd.
“Circus Maximus is also back again with a beautiful show which I'm sure will be a hit with audiences as it has been before."
To complement the circus will be comedy shows by both established comedians and those who are just making their mark.
Amongst the highlights will be star turns from the likes of rising stars Katherine Ryan and Max & Ivan not to mention Nina Conti, Jason Byrne, Sara Pascoe and Andrew Maxwell as well as Comedy Club 4 Kids - a chance for youngsters to try out their own jokes with help from top class comedians.
As well as the new there are some familiar faces back for another outing.
These include the ever popular Horne Section, Richard Herring, comedic conjurer Pete Firman and science comedy phenomenon Festival of the Spoken Nerd.
For the younger members of the family there are plenty of treats in store.
“The cow is an attraction in its own right and quite a draw," says Fi. "But it's really important we have a comprehensive programme of shows for kids because it's great for families to do stuff together.
"This year we have some really cool acts including the Amazing Bubble Man which is beautiful. He’s one man in a giant bubble who creates amazing shapes. It’s captivating, colourful and gorgeous to see and we are so pleased he's going to be with us.
“Morgan & West is a time travelling Victorian magic duo who will present a show where magic and silliness know no bounds – it’s absolutely brilliant and suitable for everyone,” she adds.
And if all that wasn't enough, a month after the start of Udderbelly, its neighbour the London Wondergound pitches its glorious spiegeltent once again to bring a spectacular slice of circus and cabaret to the centre of the capital.
“The Wonderground seems to go from strength to strength and we are delighted that it too is back,” says Fi.
“Our two headline shows are Scotch & Soda – which runs from May to August – and Briefs which runs from August to the end of September.
“Both are great, really exciting, full of daredevil and stunning acrobatics but both very different stylistically and in content!"
Among the other acts appearing are Al Murray, Tiger Lillies, Black Cat Cabaret, House of Burlesque and for the littlies, the brilliant Monski Mouse and her baby disco.
That the festivals have been such a success over the years is not just down to the programme of acts that the team bring in.
It is also down to the ticket prices which aim to be as competitive as possible.
"I think Udderbelly's success - and more recently Wonderground - has been due in part to the fact the ticket prices are good," says Fi.
“London is an expensive city. There are so many demands on the cash in our pockets – particularly for families – and we don't want people to feel as though they have spent the earth to see something. So it’s always been our intention, and still is, that we keep prices as low and as competitive as possible.
“Tickets start from about £10 – which also is keen enough for people to take a punt on seeing a show they might not otherwise have done.
"The festival has developed a lot since we first started and grown too – in fact it’s a huge site and this year we have more things to do in the pasture – you can eat and drink, chat and take in the atmosphere but there will also be more things for the kids to do which will be great - so it's very family friendly. All we need now is some spring and summer sunshine!"
Udderbelly is on at the South Bank between April 9 and July 19. London Wondergound is on from May 7 until September 27. Visit www.udderbelly.co.uk for full listings.