This review might be coming a little too late to be of any use to anyone, but we’ve all had a bit of post-LolliBop fatigue. LolliBopped out indeed. Of course, the wild Saturday preceeding it didn’t help – Nathan and I had been boogying till the late evening at Disco 2000 and the kids were exhausted from dressing like pirates and eating lots of meat at Gravel’s house. All of that might explain the look of us in the photo above, when we arrived in the leafy surrounds of Hatfield House – a bit of a change from Stratford last year. Reuben briefly thought that he’d been conned and that LolliBop was just a big field of cut wheat, but he was reassured by the rainbow arch that led us to the giant inflatable teddy bear.
He was even more reassured by the over-excitable noises coming from the main stage. Children everywhere were being incited to eat sports candy and get fit – yes, LazyTown were in the house and gosh, they had a lot of energy. I guess 8-year-old girls always do have a lot of energy. Eva and Roo did too and joined in all the songs and dances, waving their free Heart FM flags. I’m not entirely sure the Sportacus was the same one as we met last year but he certainly did a good Sportacus impression. With the last ding-a-ding-a-ding we skipped off to one of the Southbank tents, where there was instrument making and storytelling going on. Reuben chose the biggest tube possible and made a drum which I wasn’t too keen on carrying around all day. He joined in the with the storytelling, tapping on his drum when requested, while Eva made a ribbon-decked shaker. Well, I made it under her instruction.
While Reuben wasn’t looking, I decided to jettison his drum. Or maybe just leave it on the buggy. Last year, we never found the buggy park. This year, it was relatively easy. But the strange thing was, ours was the only buggy parked there. All day. Any time I looked over, there was our overladen, clapped out car-buggy under the orange gazebo all by its lonesome. I have no idea why no-one else chose to dump the buggy and let the toddlers roam free, but it certainly was handy as a lace to leave our non-valubles. And the gazebo came in very handy when it started to rain. Which it did, biblically, not long after we’d left the Southbank Tent. We were in the Nintendo area at the time, with Reuben stubbornly refusing to go until he’d had his turn in the one-child ballpit (it was part of a Nintendo challenge). There was some cover but the rain was coming at us horizontally, and Eva probably got the worst of it as her raincoat is sadly lacking a hood…it’s a bit of a design flaw. As soon as Roo had taken his turn, we ran back to the buggy to get the umbrellas, which successfully warded off the rain for the rest of the day, pretty much. You can thank us later.
Slightly soggy and more than a little hungry, what better time to join a queue? When I was planning the day, I’d imagined we’d spend most of the time in the LolliPalladium, which had a mid-day run of pure quality Beebies acts – from Postman Pat straight through to Andy Day. But it wasn’t to be. This year, the tent was cleared between each act, so there was no lingering in the dry and waiting for the next act. Instead, you had to join a queue around 30 minutes before the start of each show, to be guaranteed a seat.
Now, the whole system has generated some controversy and I can see why. Kids aren’t the best of queuing. But it’s a fairer way than letting the same people sit in the best seats for every show (and yes, the LolliPalladium had stadium seating this year, which was a big improvement). It might have been better to have a ticketing system, but really you just had to accept the queuing and be prepared for it. We had our picnic in the queue for Chris and Pui, which Nathan thought was a particularly British thing to do – what could be more British than eating a sausage roll, in a queue in the rain? Well, it was only a light drizzle by this point and we had umbrellas…no need to complain really.
And we got to see Chris and Pui! We’d seen their roadshow before, but there were some subtle differences this year. Pui donned her old Teletubby garb at one point, a gag that was totally lost on the kids, and there were some new songs and sketches. We sat at the side, which meant we couldn’t see one part of the show (Humpty Dumpty) but other than that we had a good view. Eva enjoyed singing “Old MacDonald” and Reuben liked the bit with the monkey. Just as I’d expect him to.
Post Chris and Pui, Reuben threw a small strop. I forget why now, but it was something to do with “wanting some fun”. Apparently, that fun was to be found in the Skylanders tent so he and Nathan went off to investigate that, while Eva and I went to the toddler girl-aimed Baby Annabel tent. I didn’t deliberately gender-stereotype my children, OK? They just came out like this. Anyway, it seemed that Eva had found her spiritual home:
They’d scored some free PomBears as well, by this point which made everything even better. So the boys played video games, while Eva changed her “bebbies”…until she screamed at another girl for touching “mine baby”. We went to find our menfolk, eat some free yoghurt and find some fresh distractions.
We’d hoped to see the Andy Day show at 1:55 but going there 15 minutes early was far too late, as the queue was snaking across the whole field. So, we decided to catch the 5 o’clock show and in the meantime, the Thomas area beckoned and with it another queue. For Eva and Nathan at least. Me and Roo ran off to play in the Little Tikes area and came back when they’d reached the front of the queue for the Thomas photo opportunity. That wasn’t planned, honest.
There were other Thomas-themed activities to do as well – Reuben entered a prize draw by filling in an answer card. He didn’t bother to go and find out what the question was, just wrote “I’m very happy” in the “My answer is…” gap, and signed it Reuben. I don’t think he’ll win.
Having missed out on a play, we thought Eva should have ago in Little Tikes too, so we went back for a second round. There were 4-minute time allocations, which went quite quickly but meant there was never a queue…and sometimes that’s important. I suggested to Reuben that he spend less time fighting with other small boys over who got to be King of the Castle this time, which definitely helped to optimise the play-time.
Time for somewhere without time limits – the ever popular Duplo tent. We spent about half an hour in there, in a bid to a) keep the kids entertained, b) have a sit down on a beanbag and c) avoid Justin’s set. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad…The Duplo tent had a new feature this year, where you could put your Duplo models in front of a screen and it would bring them to life! Of course, it was all done with preset animations but the kids thought it was genuine magic. Roo spent ages in there, just watching the other kids’ models being animated, before running back to the tent and making more models. He seemed happy.
Then we denied him a £3.50 ice cream. He wasn’t happy. Justin was on stage and we were within earshot. We weren’t happy. Drastic action was needed.
Bollywood with a gay cabaret icon? Does that seem drastic enough? Oh yes.
We’d previously encountered Boogaloo Stu in a seedy basement in Soho, playing rude party games. It may have been around 10 years ago. He may even have DJed at our charity clubnight “Dead Man’s Boots”, in a different seedy basement in Soho but where Stu went, decadence and high leg-kicking tended to follow. And here he was, playing Bollywood records for a kids’ dance class while wearing a knitted leotard, which was nicely co-ordinated with his trademark blue quiff. There was still some high leg-kicking but significantly less decadence. Although Reuben made a rocket out of cardboard, which is about as wild as we get nowadays.
Having had a nice dance and rocket-make (both under the same roof, conveniently) we sat down to kill some time before Andy and have some more food. It wasn’t long before Roo and Nathan were lured away by another distraction though – this time a wise-cracking robot by the name of Titan.
He’s awesome. I particularly enjoyed his 4D rendition of “Cry Me a River”. With some robot antics, food and hula-hooping it was pretty much time to queue for Andy’s show. And by that I mean, half an hour before the show started. The copious amounts of free Haribo helped the queuing experience along and when Roo started to get bored, we did a dinosaur quiz. Because Reuben likes dinosaurs. And so does Andy…
The Andy Day Live Show is – I suspect – cut down from a longer show, because it seemed a bit confused, narrative-wise. Andy was clearing out his old room but didn’t spend much time doing that, and spent a lot of time talking about how amazing mums are. I mean, that’s true but I think Reuben would have appreciated more dinosaurs. Eva fell asleep in her seat just before it started, but woke up by the giant cheer as Andy bounded onto the stage in his ever-so-cute T Rex t-shirt (“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your…oh”). We’re big Andy fans (and big fans of Andy’s Dad too) so he can’t do much wrong in our eyes, and it was amazing how much energy he still had at the end of the weekend. He encouraged all the kids to stand up and dance, then we had a “blow your cobwebs away” game, involving balloons. Then there was an inflatable T-Rex to wake up, and lots of audience participation, accompanied by the now-customary Reuben strop because he wasn’t invited on to the stage. Ah well. He managed to save his strop till the very end, and there was much cheering and roaring before that happened. And, actually he didn’t get that hung up on the lack of narrative. Apparently it’s not that important to a 5-year-old.
Oh, and he made a cardboard hat earlier. Tres chic, non?
It was definitely time to go home. LolliBop as ever was a whirligig of fun and excitement, along with the inevitable crashes that happen when small children get over-excited. Eva said she had fun “dancing with Daddy” and Reuben managed to squeeze out a sleepy expression of happiness when we got home. It was definitely a fun day – true, we could have done with less queuing and a bit less rain but the queues were over soon and the sun came out and with any luck we’ve made one of those childhood memories that seem so important. We’ll be back next year.
Disclaimer: I received press tickets to attend and review the event. All opinions remain honest and my own.