LolliBop may be your idea of heaven or hell. Or somewhere in between. Or both at once. For Roo, it was heaven. So much to see, so much to do, so much stimulation. Think he’s hyper normally? Let him loose here and he goes to a whole other level.
For people who have no idea what LolliBop is, let me explain. It’s like Glasto for preschoolers. Three days of brightly coloured mayhem, with some top names on the bill (thankfully not Justin). Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Let me talk you through it, bit by bit.
We went on the Sunday. All three days are the same, so no-one would really go for more than one day. Though there is enough to keep a three-year-old busy for that long. The first thing we saw when we got there were the ZingZillas on the main stage. I don’t know what Roo thought, but by gum was I excited! ZingZillas was really the first program I enjoyed, rather than endured on CBeebies. Nathan and I were quite the music fans in our youth, so a show promoting different types of music can’t be bad. And the defining quality of ZingZillas was that the songs were melodic, well crafted and not instantly irritating. I rarely felt the urge to punch the television, and so put up with the annoying Panzee and the tenuously-linked storylines. There were some subtle rock n roll references, and I always loved the Beach Byrds who only spoke in three-part harmony. Turns out that the musical brains behind it was a gentleman known as Wag – bassist of the Infadels, friend of Danny Wallace and (according to my cousin) quite the hottie. So, me and Roo used to eagerly gather round the TV to watch it. We played the album in the car. We bought him a Drum doll, and even coped with the ZingZilla microphone, which had no off switch.
Then they changed the format and turned it into monkeytrollop. With small children.
But never mind that, because “live” they were still thoroughly enjoyable. Even if all they did was dance around, with Alex and Katy from Beebies. We’ve seen most of the great bands of the 90s and 2000s – Radiohead, Blur, Oasis, Pulp etc etc etc – and it feels somewhat sad that nowadays we get excited about some people dressed up as anthropomorphic primates. But we are parents. Nice to see that Roo barged his way right to the front, just like Mummy and Daddy used to do. And hey, there aren’t many bands I can see where I know all the words….
Then we met Zak and Drum. One to add to the family album, along with Captain Barnacles and Rastamouse. Though ever since viewing the Barnacles shot a few weeks back, Roo has been whinging about “wanna meet Captain Barnacles” and we’ve had to tell him that he’s off on mission at the North Pole. Hopefully some ZingZillas will shut him up for a while.
But LolliBop was not all about those cheeky monkeys. No no. There was a LOT more to it. First off – the other acts. There was the Gruffalo stage show, which Roo enjoyed until the eponymous star came on (“too scary!”) and I was amazed at how much they managed to spin out a short and repetitive story. There was Shrek the Musical, which we annoyingly missed (unlike most things, it was only on once) and there was Dick ‘n’ Dom, who are a bit old for Roo yet. And there was Mister Maker. Oh yes, that was fun.
Reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ planned appearance on the second stage at Reading in 2005, Mister Maker was in a tent that was just disproportionately small compared to his fame. The result was a very crowded and sticky tent (it was 30c by the afternoon). It was too hot for Eva, even just outside (and she was right in the sun there), so we sloped off to a shade spot and left the boys to it. Next thing I saw, Nathan was bobbing around, doing the “I’ve lost Roo” dance. Then I saw Roo nipping out behind his father’s back and darting in the other side ofthe tent. I dropped what I was doing (feeding Eva) and gave chase, losing Eva’s sunhat on the way (sorry if I was rude to the person who gave it back to me) and spotted our boy picking his way through the middle of the crowd. Don’t worry, we got him back eventually. But Reuben+crowds is not a good combination, especially as he can fit through gaps I can’t. He enjoyed the show though. Directly afterwards, he had a mini-breakdown and wailed “I wanna go home!”. When I asked him why, he said “I wanna watch Mister Maker on the telly”. Listen up, kids presenters…. personal appearances work. It’s worth the sweat and toil of entertaining screaming kids.
Luckily, there was lots still to distract him. I’ve taken up a lot of your time already, and Eva is screeching so I’ll be brief. But here’s what I remember: a bike track with balance bikes, swingball, toddler spacehoppers (see above), soft play blocks, wendy houses, slides, fencing and LOTS of craft stalls. All for free! A special mention must go to the lovely folks at the WOW! toy stall, where Roo was busy playing with the table-top figures and cars when the clouds broke for a brief but spectacular thunderstorm. They kindly let all four of us shelter in the tent, while Roo played and we fed him a bacon roll. Then I fed Eva in there as well, relaxing on a bean bag. They did have feeding facilities but they were in the same tent as the changing stations, and the smell of nappies would put even a baby off their food.
So, a day well spent then. Nathan particularly loved the robot dragon which breathed real fire (later accompanied by a robot horse) and there were various other strange and wondrous things around the site. We got in free (long story), but even if we’d paid the exorbitant ticket prices, I would have felt like we’d got our money’s worth. Food was also exorbitant, but hey that’s festivals for you.
VERDICT: A great day out. Wonder if they’ll give me free tickets again next year on the strength of this review?! (nb, we were NOT Press this year…but I can dream!)