The biggest children’s festival in the UK has once again stormed through three days of kids entertainment and attractions, this time helping to baptize the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and establish it as a venue in it’s post-Hellenic legacy.
I have to admit, even for a hardened cynic like me, it is quite a spectacle. Between Peter Pan, stilt-walking pirates and live transformers, there was plenty to delight and overwhelm the senses.
And if you’re a fan of CBeebies, this is a day tailor-made for you and your little ‘uns. On the main stage in ‘Lolli Arena’, children’s television presenters Dick & Dom were fireballs of energy with great comic timing and a deft ability to whip the crowd into a gleeful frenzy, while including just enough quips and double entendres tossed over the heads of the kiddies for adults to chew on and titter over.
Justine Fletcher was the highlight of the day for many young festival goers as was evident from the sheer eardrum bursting decibel level of cheering from the crowd from the beginning of his performance to the last moments as the ‘Justin’s House’ star exited the stage.
Alas, my son’s not a very big TV watcher and a lot of what was happening on stage, and to an extent throughout the festival, though vibrantly colourful and interactive, was aimed a bit young. I couldn’t help wondering what all the precocious, sensitive, thoughtful 7-10 year olds were doing to keep themselves amused when even the marketing seemed so young and cutesy. That and the other problem I had with the day was that I couldn’t help feeling like I was walking through one big branding exercise. Admittedly there was loads of free stuff, but when you’ve Top Trumps, Hello Kitty, and Little Tikes Toys all hocking their gear, you begin to feel as a parent that you and your wallet are being a bit hemmed in. Add to that the fact that admission prices aren’t cheap (£110 for a family of 4) and you feel downright anxious.
Having said that, my son was kept happily entertained for the majority of the day in hands on good fun, first designing a T-Shirt in the River Island Design Tent, then, amusing himself partaking in different science activities in the Science Museum Tent and finally with the excellent and sometimes side-splitting but always fascinating Animal Man show done by Nick Spellman in the National Geographic Tent, in which he educated while cracking jokes about animals ranging from tarantulas to bearded Australian Dragon Lizards to Giant African Snails.
Indubitably, a fun day out for the whole family, but you do have to have a good hunt around to suit all tastes.