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Article: LolliBop Festival 2014

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The ever popular 'Big Bash for Little People' was this year held at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and, like years gone by, did not disappoint!lollibop 2014

The new location for LolliBop 2014 was well positioned between London and Cambridge, and very convenient to get to by either car/coach or train, with the train station directly opposite the main Hatfield House entrance. Traffic into the site did build up quite quickly which meant a bit of a wait to get in if you arrived by car at start time, but this is to be expected given the volume of festival goers and the fact it was a weekend! Also if arriving by foot the (very picturesque) walk once inside the grounds to reach the event location was longer than might have been expected, although easily accessible for people with pushchairs or wheelchairs.

As usual the programme of events was action-packed, with a versatile lineup aimed at all ages of kids up to around 9 or 10 years old. Spread across three whole days, the programme was largely the same each day. The great thing about this was that you could pick the day most convenient for you, although there were a couple of variations in the 'LolliPalladium' and 'Lollibop Live' stage acts across the days.

The ticket prices were a fraction more expensive this year, but still compared favourably to other family attractions up and down the country, and there was the usual chance to get your hands on early bird tickets in the months leading up to the event. Another plus for the event was that there was virtually no extra cost for the large majority of the entertainment and activities once inside, with of course the exception of food, drink and market stalls (although there was a free water station we found where we could refill our water bottles).

lollibop 2014The entry stations were well organised with little wait time (compared to the long queues experienced last year) despite the steady flow of arrivals, and detailed programme-site maps giving the location and times of all the different tents and acts were freely available, as were security wristbands for young child to wear in case they got lost.

The festival layout was a definite improvement on previous years, with (what seemed like) a more spacious setup and a good flow between stages, tents and stalls.

For young children, there were plenty of activities to provide all-day stimulation for young minds, including soft play, yoga, messy play, singalongs, and dedicated Duplo and Little Tikes play areas, as well as areas offering a variety of scheduled sessions (e.g. Baby Ballet, Itsy Bitsy Strictly, Tottenham Hotspur Football Skills), and also a fun disco shed and a farm!

Another great draw for young children was the chance to have their photo taken while sitting inside Thomas the Tank Engine, although the queues for this were continuous all day so the wait time was fairly long.

Dedicated face painting points were dotted around the event grounds and as always proved popular, with steady flowing queues all day.

The usual great selection of arts and crafts activities encouraged children of all ages to get creative with a range of painting, colouring and Face paintingmaking activities (e.g. den making, wool crafts, robot making), with plenty of helpers on hand to provide assistance if needed and plenty of available materials.

In addition, a brilliant 'Charity Shop DJ Party' tent provided not only party entertainment but also the chance to make musical instruments and fashion items to join in the 'Big Party' at the end of the day.

For those wanting to be more vocal, the 'Learn & Enjoy' schedule offered excellent singing, beatboxing and story making workshops, and the Stomp Drumming workshops were a real hit!

The incredible and very entertaining Titan the Robot was there again this year, and not to be missed, and a dedicated 'Meet and Greet' tent offered a fantastic lineup of famous television characters and presenters for your child to have their photo taken with - although the queues for this were inevitably long, and limited time for each meet and greet meant some disappointed fans.

This year however, the VIP area was opened up to anyone who wanted to pay a little extra, and offered its own 'Meet and Greet' area (minus the long queues) as well as face painting, an all-day disco tent complete with foam spray, and plenty of food, drink and seating.

The LolliBop live stage and LolliPalladium were the two main attractions for children; the open air live stage was compered by well known CBeebies presenter Alex Winters and featured many popular children's acts such as Lazy Town, Steffi Love, Mister Maker, Horrible Histories, Poppy Cat, and CBBC's Sam and Mark, not forgetting the very talented Justin Fletcher (although no Dick & Dom this year which was a little disappointing!!).

JustinFletcherThe LolliPalladium was a covered tent area, showing among others performances by the equally popular Chris and Pui, Postman Pat, Mr Bloom, Andy Day and Scooby-Doo. Unfortunately the queues for this tent were extremely long with equally long wait times and a good chance you wouldn't get in to see anything (many people stayed in there once inside!). In addition there was only one showing per day of Scooby-Doo which was disappointing for older kids (where activities were more limited).

In the 'Discovery Zone' kids could get involved in a fantastic array of Science Museum and National Geographic activities and customised fashion workshops that ran throughout the day. For example, the River Island Kids tent allowed kids to design their own garments, although again this was totally booked out within a very short time; also some superb Bear Grylls Survival Skills workshops (without Bear Grylls mind you!), a fun Nintendo gaming area, and also interactive cookery workshops throughout the day in the 'Lollikitchen'.

For a little relaxation, the 'LolliBooks' line-up of wonderfully engaging Roald Dahl storytelling and scheduled book sessions presented by Labybird and Puffin offered some essential down-time for little ones, as well as a chance to see Micheala Strachen!

The event facilities were of the usual high standard, catering faultlessly for families: masses of well maintained portaloos (never a queue),
LolliBop 2014accessible toilets for the disabled, cash points, lockers, baby changing and baby feeding facilities, covered buggy parks, a first aid station, a lost child tent in case you became separated from your child, a huge number of very approachable stewards, a large 'Pom Bear' family picnic area, and a really good assortment of food and drink vendors, with the obligatory Pimms bar area for the adults (disguised under the name 'Adult creche'!) and multiple ice-cream vans for the kids!

Well done LolliBop - another fantastically organised event and a brilliant lineup which just gets better and better. All in all a really fun and affordable family event which is great value for money...can't wait for the next one!

For more information about the event, please go to www.lollibopfestival.co.uk

Several of the images taken by Simon Jacobs © under licence to simonjacobs.com

 

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