Some of the events we go to seem very aptly named for my kids and “Wild Child” is certainly one of them. For those who have missed my Wild Child previews, it’s a folksy kinda family festival in leafy Dulwich and it’s where we spent the day today so don’t worry, I’m gonna tell you all about it. At length.
I wasn’t the best prepared for this day, mainly cause we’ve been to the moon and back this week (well, to the ‘pool and back) and my head is spinning a little. So I’d planned a route but hadn’t factored in things like the kids needing a ticket to travel from Victoria to West Dulwich because it’s not run by TfL…or there being nowhere near West Dulwich to either buy a picnic or get cash out. There’s pretty much nothing on the walk from the station except the very scenic Dulwich College and a lot of trees. Be warned, if you’re planning the same route.
So we arrived at Wild Child with food and snacks for the kids but nothing for us and a tenner in cash. The first thing I clocked when we walked in was that the Toasty Badger took card payments so at least I knew we’d be able to afford lunch and it would come with a dobble of tasty chutney. The second thing I clocked was how long the coffee queue was so we decided to skip that and run on natural adrenaline for a bit.
I’ve unfairly skipped over the entrance to the festival, which was as pleasant as any I’ve ever experienced. No queues and a double-bass and guitar duo playing Disney classics while you sign in. The site is open and grassy and inviting, with different areas spread out through the field. Eva looked at the map and straightaway wanted to go to the Unicorn Meadow, where a show was just about to start.
Reuben was a bit reluctant at first as I think he classes unicorns along with fairies and mermaids and other “Eva things” but he was soon drawn into the mission to find colours of the rainbow which would then summon a unicorn. The two “unicornologists” from Skewbald Theatre had the kids running from one corner of the meadow to the other, collecting the colours and eventually creating this rainbow:
Eva was, of course, taking the whole thing very seriously in the hope of seeing a real live unicorn. Obviously it was a “travel size for your convenience” substitute but she wasn’t too disappointed.
There was also a brief spurt of rain at this point but luckily it didn’t last long. Long enough though that we took shelter at the Harmony Hideaway, which was a live music stage with a bit of a roof on it. Groove Baby were midway through their “Groove Into the Woods” set and we arrived just in time for a bit of audience participation. We were wizards (zap!) and it gave the kids time to sit down for a bit, hop around for a bit and have a restorative snack.
Next stop was the Okido stall, which promised science and art. The science was bubble mixture making – each kid had a giant test tube and had to add fairy liquid, glycerine and food colouring to water to make their mix before decorating an espresso cup to hold it in and fashioning a bubble wand out of a pipe cleaner.
Doing this activity early was a bit short sighted because it then meant toting two cups of bubble mix round for the rest of the day, but it was a good fill in before the El Baldinho Magic workshop at 12, which is something Reuben had been keen to do from the start.
I missed most of the workshop because it seemed a good opportunity to go and get those toasties, while the kids (and Nathan!) were occupied and the queues weren’t too long. It still took a while, as getting lunch at these kind of events always does, so if there’s any improvement I’d suggest for next year it’d be to have a few more food vans. It was really only one of two options, the other being pizza, so there wasn’t much for people who don’t like cheese. The badgers did offer a vegan cheddar, although I just indulged myself was a full-cow version and TWO types of chutney. It was a gooooood toastie.
Nathan and the kids came back, full of magic tricks they wanted to show me from their paper bags full of props . Who knew such illusions could be drawn from a balloon, a paper cup and three crayons? Then Eva arsed about for a bit and refused to eat her roll. Let’s skip on.
Most of the activities stopped between 1 and 2 for lunch but there was a Poppy’s Parties storytelling and drama workshop starting at 1:30 so we went for that. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be everyone going on an adventure story with games along the way to help them solve problems. The Enchanted Fox had one of those great drama teachers voices – energetic and dramatic to the point of parent-terrifying shoutiness at times. The kids loved it, obviously. Eva especially was very taken with the Fox’s yuvyee red hair and Roo was mainly in it for the bum jokes. And messing with the other kids’ minds by giggling guiltily in the “who took the bear?” game even when it wasn’t him. Psych! At some point, it all became a Bit Too Much for Nathan and he went off to get us coffee….Now that noon had past, the queue had died down. I imagine they were all at the bar instead.
Coffee was both a good idea and a bad idea. I think the advantages are obvious but the disadvantages became apparent when we moved to the circus tent (“Little Top”) and both kids launched themselves into doing stuff that seemed to always involve grabbing us by the coffee-arm. You know the stuff – stilts and tightropes and that kind of thing. Eva combined the two, propelling herself along the tightrope by using the stilts like ski poles, which was a lot better than the nightmarish vision I’d had when she first proposed it. I thought she was talking about being on stilts, on the tightrope. She still managed to fall off and clonk her head on the wooden stilt though.
Time for something calmer. And that something was one she’d circled early on as “Not to be missed” – a ballet version of the Princess and the Frog, by Let’s All Dance in the Bop-Along Ballroom. It was definitely a highlight of the day for her. She’s very into the idea of ballet at the moment, even though I refuse to get her lessons because she’s already highly strung enough without becoming a ballerina. I’m turning into an Aunt June type from Sadlers Wells, aren’t I? I didn’t see that coming. So she’s interested in ballet but has never seen any up close before and this was up very close – she even got to stroke the Princess’ tutu at one point. Needless to say, she YUVED it.
I enjoyed it too. The dancing was flawless and the playful chemistry between the two leads was delightful. Once the frog head came off, the handsome prince looked a tad flushed but who wouldn’t after you’ve been leaping around in a giant animal head? At the end there was a photo opportunity and my phone was flashing 1% battery as we lined up for it. Miraculously though, I managed to get the shot before it died:
Luckily because Wild Child is a fairly small festival, we were able to find Nathan and Roo again even without the aid of a phone. We gathered back in the Playhouse for our final show of the day – Sam Quinn in “Mr Danger’s Really Safe Show”.
The tale of a traumatised daredevil who has decided to play it safe, it combined “daring” stunts with time travel and a variety of characters including a cleaner and Mr Danger’s sinister trainer. It was a lot of fun and Reuben got up on the stage at least three times and was left holding a ticking bomb at least once. Eva wussed out of taking part at least once. I got in a good heckle about self-tying shoelaces and, all in all, it was a good way to end the day.
We left the tent at 4:30 and just had enough time to play with some giant bubbles and for Eva to colour in a pair of lungs back at the Okido stand before leaving at 5. The journey home was somewhat fraught, with a slow P4 journey back to Brixton starting off with a screaming tantrum from Eva (we had to throw her bubble mix away as it was leaking). A pack of haribo that I’d stashed in my handbag created a fragile peace though, at least enough to get us as far as the tube station where we could load up on milkshake and crisps for the long journey back to Walthamstow.
So our verdict on Wild Child? A great day out! It’s got a few teething problems like the food queues and the lack of running water in the loos but the idea and the execution are both superb. The setting is lovely – you totally forget that you’re in London – and the spacing works well so it never feels rushed or too crowded even though plenty of people attended. The quality of the entertainment was tip notch and there was plenty that we could do if we went for a second day. We never even got round to doing the craft or exploring Dino Land (tho we did spot the dinos having a wander about and Eva tickled one of them) and the day just flew by. Obviously a bit of a trek for us North-East Londoners but that’s our fault for leaving South London.
I can only hope the organisers feel similarly positive and decide to go for a second year in 2019. If they do, we are there.
Disclaimer: I recieved free tickets and a small fee in exchange for a preview, review and social media interaction. All opinions remain honest and my own. More information here (Wild Child website).