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Article: LolliBop Festival 2013

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Well, another eagerly anticipated LolliBop festival has been and gone, and we were once again lucky enough to share the experience. This year Childrenthe festival was held in the developing Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - a great venue for those who wanted to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Stadium, and easily accessible from Stratford International railway station, regardless of where you were coming from!

With tickets similar in price to past years (with children under 1 going free and the chance to get your hands on early bird tickets), the layout and duration was as we had previously seen, that is, it stretched over three whole days, with the line-up largely the same each day, with the exception of a couple of variations across days for the various stages. 

In contrast to years gone by, the entry stations were not as well organised, and we were confronted with a huge number of people queuing, with very little communication from the stewards managing the queues. Once inside however, there were detailed programme-cum-site maps available to show you the location and times of all the different tents and acts.

Although the event was advertised as being suitable for children up to 10, it seemd to us that it was a little more restricted for the upper age group. Despite this, there was a constant supply of activities and shows to entertain all, with marquees of all shapes and sizes located around the site.

The site was split into several zones, aimed at different age groups. For those 3ft and under, there were many individual tents to provide plenty of stimulation including soft play, Little Tikes, LEGO Duplo, and a WOW Toys play area, as well as some dedicated tents offering a variety of scheduled interactive sessions (e.g. Baby Sensory sessions), and also a fun Baby Annabell's Picnic throughout the day for your child to get involved in.

GoGoGoThere were a good selection of arts and crafts activities to encourage children of all ages to get creative with a range of painting, colouring and making activities, where children could sit at tables and amuse themselves as they wished, with helpers on hand to provide assistance if needed and plenty of materials available to choose from.

There was also a separate AnimateIT! tent run by Aardman (creators of Wallace and Gromit) offering kids the chance to learn the basics of animation. In addition, kids could get involved in a fantastic array of 'Imagination Stations' Science Museum activities and customised fashion workshops that ran throughout the day (i.e. the River Island Design Den allowed kids to design their own garments, although this was totally booked out within a short time of arriving!), as well as a cupcake decorating stall, and also scheduled interactive cookery workshops in the 'Lolli Kitchen' to get those taste buds going - this was mainly hosted by Katy Ashworth from the popular 'I Can Cook' television series!

Worth mentioning is the Venture Photography stand, where you could get a free fun photo taken of the kids (despite the sales pitches there was no obligation other than to provide a few details for marketing purposes). These pictures, as promised, were available to download directly from their site within a few days.

A dedicated free face painting area again proved very popular this year, which was far bigger and more organised that previous years - although there was still a substantial queuing time, it was worth the wait and there was a variety of face designs to choose from. 

There were some brilliant 'Meet and Greet' opportunities around the festival site, with a variety of brilliantly interactive characters, including Peppa
JustinFletcher Pig, Cloudbabies, Postman Pat, Hello Kitty, and Shaun the Sheep, as well as costumed acts dotted around, including the brilliant cast of Peter Pan. Not to forget our favourite - the spectacular Titan the Robot who always draws the crowds without fail. 

The Lolli main stage and the Big Top tent were the two principal attractions for children; the open air live stage was compered by well known
CBeebies presenter Alex Winters and featured some decent length popular 
acts such as RastaMouse, Poppy Cat, the GoGoGo Show, and the Turbo Boost Show. It was also great to see some familiar faces, including the ever entertaining Dick and Dom. Although their act was almost identical to last year's, it was still highly amusing for all members of the family, and had the crowd in fits of laughter. 
Unfortunately for us, going on the Friday meant that we missed Justin Fletcher, who no doubt would have had great appeal for the vast majority of children attending the event. 

The Big Top was a large covered tent area showing among others Tickety Toc, Cloudbabies, and Diary of a Whimpy Kid (unfortunately the Horrible Histories shows which weren't present this year were very much missed!). There were also additional line-ups throughout the days at the Itsy Bitsy Strictly and Shaun the Sheep Championsheeps attractions.

To get kids on the move, there was plenty of opportunitiy for kids to get active, including various dance areas for little ones to practise their dance moves, and a series of workshops in the 'Tween Town' to get older kids involved in street dance and beatboxing among other things. The beatboxing was probably one of our favourite attractions, with some seriously talented hosts to keep the beats flowing! 

SidandAndyFor a little relaxation, there was a dedicated literary tent and reading hub, and lots of undercover areas to sit and take time out, as well as a designated picnic area. If you didn't bring your own food, there were numerous food stands (as well as a bar area) which offered a good variety of tasty refreshments at reasonable prices. As ever, the event facilities were faultless and well set up for families, with masses of well maintained portaloos (never a queue in sight), as well as accessible toilets for the disabled, baby changing and baby feeding facilities, covered buggy parks, a first aid station, and lost child tents in case you became separated from your child. Also worth a mention is the huge number of stewards wandering around who were very approachable and always ready to help.

While we had a great day out with the kids, we did note what seemed to be a more toned down affair than previous years, but maybe that was more to do with a new location and current economic climate affecting the overall grandeur of the day. Nonethless, there was more than enough there to keep us occupied for the whole day, and there was little to complain about!


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