Apologies for jumping around in my record of our summer, but three hours after leaving Lollibop today and my head is still buzzing with everything, so it seemed the appropriate time to write about it all.
Now, What exactly is Lollibop for those of you who haven’t been before? They describe themselves as The big bash for little people and that’s pretty much what they do. It’s a daytime festival (over three days) aimed at children and featuring some of the stars and brands that our little ones know and love. They’ve been running for a few years now and after a successful start had a bit of a shaky year last year at the Olympic Park. The promise was that lots of lessons had been learnt and this year they moved to a new venue – Hatfield House, just down the road from us in St Albans – so we were invited along to experience our first Lollibop and see what all the fuss was about.
First thing’s first – the price. It’s not a cheap day out. Then again no where seems to be these days, but a family ticket for four will set you back £82.50 (if bought in advance) and then it costs an additional £10 to park at the venue. But, once you’re inside pretty much everything is free. You need to pay for food and drink and merchandise, but if you take a picnic and don’t buy anything it’s possible not to spend anything else once inside.
Getting there was relatively painless. Hatfield House is very close to us, but it’s also easily accessible from the A1 and it was well signed. There was a queue to get in to the site though and the people sorting the parking didn’t exactly seem enthusiastic about their job. At one point we were cars 4 abreast driving towards a large field! Before someone directed us to the press parking area we were also directed towards a field of long grass and nettles in which to park. Far from ideal for little legs and pushchairs.
Once inside the site it was lovely and spacious and easy to find your way around using the signs and the maps that you were handed on your way in. It really is a fantastic venue with everything spaced out enough that it didn’t feel cramped, yet it also wasn’t too far to walk all the way around. Four year old Little Miss C had no problems at all and Master C enjoyed running around, but he also enjoyed being pushed in his buggy and I think many other kids with tired little legs felt the same.
There seemed to be loads and loads of different places to buy food. It wasn’t the cheapest, but not far off normal event or festival prices. Some places had huge queues, but there were always places you could get to with hardly any queue. The other thing I liked was the amount of picnic space there was around the site – loads of benches (both adult and child sized) and also grass to just put a picnic rug down on.
The other things that people always wonder about at festivals is the toilets and I’m pleased to report that these were plentiful, clean, always stocked with loo roll and also slightly bigger than your usual portaloo, so that a parent and child could easy fit in one.
Scoring a goal with Spurs and enjoying Duplo
As for the entertainment – well it’s hard to know exactly where to start as there was so much of it! Our two enjoyed playing in the Lego Duplo section and they had a complete ball in the Little Tikes Town, where they would have happily stayed for much longer. Master C enjoyed watching some House Dancing that we stumbled across and LMC thought the Baby Ballet was amazing. Both enjoyed kicking footballs with the people from Tottenham Hotspurs and a car dealership’s Bouncy Castle was also a big hit.
Having fun in the Little Tikes Town
Little Miss C seemed to most enjoy the Bear Grylls Survival Academy where she did an assault course, learnt how to start a fire without matches and walked along a rope slung between two trees. The staff there were particularly brilliant and deserve a mention.
Learning to make fire
The other staff that blew me away were at the Disco Shed. This was pretty much as bizarre as the name suggests – a wooden shed with a DJ in it (dressed in a monkey costume to add to the weirdness!) and the side windows open for him to look out from, whilst three members of staff danced with all the kids to classics like Black Lace’s SuperMan. The staff had a crazy level of enthusiasm and made sure they did all the actions for everything, all with huge smiles on their faces. Just as we were leaving they were setting up for a pillow fight. Again random, but huge amounts of fun.
Right at the end of the day we also spent quite a bit of time in the Join in with Southbank section. There was loads to see and do there from wool crafts and den making to a yoga class which Mr C did with the children whilst I caught up with Joy from Pinkoddy. It could have quite easily been possible to spend the whole day entertained just there.
A family yoga session
Sadly there was one part of the day that didn’t live up to the hype and for us that was the live acts. Or to be more accurate the organisation around the acts, as the ones we actually got to see were very good. As well as a main outdoor stage (set up very much like at other festivals with space for loads of people to crowd around) there was also the Lollipaladium, a circus tent like venue with seating inside. Now this venue only had space for about 500 people, so it obviously meant that you might not be able to go to what you wanted to see. People queued up outside, went in when there was space and then were asked to leave when each act was over. The problem was the queue.
LMC and I ended up standing in that queue for an hour. Ideally she wanted to see Chris and Pui, but there wasn’t a chance of getting in to that, so instead we carried on waiting to see Mr Bloom who was up next. Finally, after I asked them to, staff did count along the line and told people whether they were going to be able to get in to the next act or not. In our case we were told we were approximately number 340 in the queue so should definitely get in to Mr Bloom. We saw people leave after Chris and Pui and slowly people started to go in for Mr Bloom. However, when the show start time arrived Mr Bloom came on stage with half of his audience still outside. So there we were with children who had been told they were going to get to see their idol and yet they were stood outside the tent able to hear him on stage inside. It goes without saying that there were tears. We finally got in about five minutes in to his act, but only after I’d been a bit of a forceful mother at the entrance. We got the last two seats in there. As for all the people behind us in the queue who had been told they too would get in? I didn’t stick around to find out I’m afraid.
Mr Bloom at last!
Mr Bloom himself was very good and LMC really enjoyed the show. About half way through though a sudden rush of new people arrived inside the tent. I’m not exactly sure where they came from, but it appeared to be the direction of the exit. They all rushed to sit on the floor in the aisle directly in front of us – pretty much blocking it. A member of security staff came and asked some of them to move as they were blocking an escape route. The parents refused to move (saying that they’d queued for long enough and their kids wanted to see the show) and security just shrugged their shoulders and left them there. I understood the parents’ frustrations, but am just thankful that there was no incident requiring the venue to be evacuated.
Being introduced to Mr Bloom’s bananas – obviously!
It was good to see that Lollibop management did seem to respond to this quickly as Mr Bloom’s second show of the day was moved to the main stage instead (and this was communicated very well around the site) and I hope this meant that some of the children who were disappointed before got to see him. It’s just a shame that the queuing system wasn’t better managed in the first place and that they didn’t think to put large crowd drawing shows (namely Mr Bloom, Chris and Pui and CBeebie’s Andy Day) in a venue with limited capacity. Much of the publicity for the event featured pictures of these performers and small children looked forward to seeing them. No four year old understands that they can’t see someone they’ve been looking forward to for days because of venue attendance limits.
If you look very carefully you might just spot Justin Fletcher on stage
The main stage area worked well and even when main act Justin Fletcher was on stage most people could see him – even if some towards the back where we were had to be lifted up for most of it. A second screen on the other side of the stage would have helped as it seemed a bit strange that they’d only put in one large screen.
It seems such a shame about the Lollipaladium shows, as everything else about Lollibop really was fantastic and we had a great day out. There was so much to see and do that we easily filled nearly 8 hours at the festival. I think it is quite possible to fill a whole day without seeing any of the shows, but getting that past your children might be the tricky part. If they could just sort out the Lollipaladium issues I think we’d be back next year. I just hope they keep it at Hatfield House as it was a superb venue.
Disclaimer: We were given a free family ticket and parking pass for Lollibop in exchange for a review and social media coverage of the event. All opinions are completely my own and not influenced by this.