Article: LolliBop Festival 2011

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The annual LolliBop 'Big Bash for Little People', this year held in Regent's ParkLolliBop 2011 London, has just finished and we were lucky enough to have gone! Stretching across three days, LolliBop is one of the few, if not the only, event that is entirely centred around children, with wall-to-wall (or rather tent-to-tent) entertainment for all the family. The programme is mostly the same throughout all three days, so you can choose the day most convenient for you, and enjoy the experience of a mini 8-hour festival without the hassle of camping!

The festival started at 11 o'clock, a reasonable time for people to get there from within London or surrounding areas. The ticket prices for a family of four compared favourably to other family events (for example Legoland or Chessington), and the great thing about it was that once inside, the vast majority of the entertainment and activities were free (excluding food, drink and market stalls).

The entrance to the event was busy, with everyone arriving at the same time (obviously to make the most of their day out), however the box office (for ticket holders and ticket purchases and collections) as well as surrounding press/guestlist entry was well organised and steady flowing. We were also impressed by the efforts of the event organisers to ensure parents wrote their phone numbers on their children's wristbands in the event of being separated.

It's fair to say that the weather on the day we went could have been better - in fact by lunchtime the rain was so torrential we feared it might turn Icarus Kangaroosinto a mini Glastonbury! However, the event was well laid out, with small and large marquees, not only useful for keeping dry, but also offering a host of activities and shows to entertain children up to around 7 or 8 years. Queues were dependent on the activity, many with no queues at all (except for facepainting which seems to have a constant flow), and any queues which did form as a result of timed performances flowed quickly and easily once the 'doors' opened.

For those 3ft and under, there were plenty of separate tents to stimulate young minds, including sensory areas, soft play, Babyoke, Gymboree and a dedicated WOW Toys play area! Designated 'meet and greet' areas enables children to interact with some of their favourite TV characters, including Peppa & George, Ben & Holly and Bob the Builder, and there were plenty of weird and wonderfully fun and interactive costumed acts rooming the festival site, including the giant Icarus Kangaroos, Artizani Lobster and Alien Babies!

In addition, a variety of arts and crafts tents encouraged children of all ages to get creative with a range of paintings, pictures, and puppet, mask and badge makingArts and Crafts etc. Here, children could sit at tables (generally quite easy to find a free seat somewhere) and get 'stuck in' at will, with helpers on hand to provide assistance, and plenty of materials available to ensure that supplies never ran short! Kids could also get involved in the fantastic array of science museum, pizza making, clay and customised fashion workshops that ran throughout the day, as well as studying bugs close up or simply listening to their favourite stories being read by a number of wonderfully engaging storytellers.

To get kids up and active, there were many organised 'LolliSports' areas such as Go Karting, hoola-hooping and wacky races, as well as an opportunity to watch the Tottenham Hotspur young football school perform some of their footballing skills; in addition, an 'Itsy Bitsy Strictly' dancefloor arena for kids of all ages to practise a Dancefloorvariety of dance moves, such as cheerleading, street dance, Bollywood and Zumba to name a few!

The LolliBop live stage was one of the principal attractions for younger children, compered by well known CBeebies presenters and showing some popular acts such as Zingzillas, Rastamouse, The Bopps, and even Shrek and Princess Fiona. Unfortunately this was open air so when the rain came, this was the first of the crowds to disperse! For older children, alternative live performances of Charlie & Lola and Horrible Histories (repeated throughout the day) were a big draw in the large LolliPalladium sit-down theatre tent, and well worth waiting for! In particular, the Horrible Histories show (about 40 mins long) wasRastamouse brilliantly done, funny and educational (with BSL signer too), and although aimed at children aged 6 years and over, our youngest son aged 3 thoroughly enjoyed it too!

The event facilities were great, with lots of nicely maintained portaloos (you never had to wait very long which is a blessing with young children who always need to go 'now'), as well as accessible toilets for the disabled, baby changing and baby feeding facilities (aptly names the 'Boob and Botty Boudoir'), multiple buggy parks, first aid station, and an abundance of varied food and drink vendors to suit all tastes (including a very nice Pimms tent for the adults as well as the obligatory scattering of ice-cream vans!).

A large number of straw bails and picnic tables provided plenty of seating Horrible Historiesfor lunching and snacking, many situated by the Alfresco Bandstand, a small stage with a variety of acts providing lots of entertainment for kids and adults alike, one of our family favourites being Bass6, the human beatbox compere! What was also evident was the huge number of friendly and efficient stewards wandering around, so you were never too far from help if required.

In all, we had a safe and very relaxed family day out, if somewhat dampened by the terrible weather, although obviously this is outside of the organiser's control. We were particularly impressed by the large number of varied activities available, as well as the fantastic amount of effort which had obviously gone into the whole event. Well done LolliBop!

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

 
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