For anyone who has had their eyes and ears closed over the past few weeks, Lollibop Festival is a children’s festival designed specifically for under 10s (although over 10s are still welcome). We were really looking forward to our visit on Sunday 18th August as this was R’s (now two and a half years old) first festival. It was also Baby L’s but given he’s not quite 5 months old yet we weren’t really going along for his benefit. Prior to the day we downloaded the Parent Superhero Pack, (available free from the website). This was a really good idea and allows you to easily print off the festival map and a list of the different activities, areas and timetables.
There is no parking at Lollibop (although I think there may be for disabled badge holders) & the festival encourages the use of public transport. Stratford is well connected so it’s easy to reach by overland, tube or bus. As we had the Bumbleride double buggy we wanted to drive as public transport would have proven tricky, so we drove to Westfield Shopping Centre and parked there (£5 all day), which was about a 15 minute walk from the park. The event was being held at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford (E.London). You could tell even from the queue barriers in place and segregated entrances (for different types of ticket holders) that it was very well organised with plenty of marshalls on standby. The day ran from 10am until 6pm, although there was quite a queue at the entrance by 9.45am!
Upon entering we encountered a host of different characters. I’m not sure if they were TV characters or just there to be whimsical. Perhaps if the children were older I might have known the answer but they were very entertaining nevertheless and got more than a few smiles from the children.
We also passed by one of the highlights of R’s day, a stall specialising in bubbles; machines, wands and a man with a giant net that made hundreds of HUGE bubbles that covered the entire walkway! We then stopped at an Imagination Station, where children can take part in different craft activities were free and a great idea. The turnaround was very fast so there was no queuing and R got to decorate his own rubber duck with glittery pipe cleaners, marker pens and stickers. Later in the day he also enjoyed printing cars with ink onto a piece of coloured muslin cloth.
We stopped by the River Island tent where the children could design their own t-shirts but it wasn’t open on time as there had been a problem with the tent leaking from the rain. As soon as it opened the queue looked too long for us to bother, also given that R was probably a little too young for this.
There were also a number of Meet & Greet‘s of famous characters throughout the day (the popular characters were repeated at several intervals). The highlight of my day was meeting Postman Pat as R got stage fright! He did enjoy meeting Peppa Pig & The Cloudbabies. Although there wasn’t a formal queue for each so it was a bit of a free for all and perhaps this could have been better organised. Each character had an attendant and Peppa’s said she was there to prevent people from punching Peppa in the face..it’s “mainly the Dads” apparently!!
We saw part of Katy Ashworth‘s 11am show but couldn’t get very close due to the massive crowd that had gathered. Pregnancy certainly doesn’t seem to have dampened her enthusiasm for entertaining children and she did a great job. The most popular acts on the main stage i.e. Justin Fletcher, attract virtually all the daily visitors so it’s not possible to get anywhere near the front and it’s awkward to see any performances well from the back, although R enjoyed listening to Dick & Dom’s song about bogeys! For disabled guests there is a raised viewing platform.
R was a little too tired to fully participate in the Itsy Bitsy Strictly which was fun but really just a tent with someone dancing in different dance styles and the children trying to imitate them (read “randomly prancing about”). Many of the things that R enjoyed the most were organised by the different third party stalls; Lego/Duplo, Happy Hopperz and Little Tikes were among the best. I didn’t feel there was a huge amount that was laid on by Lollibop directly that R was able to really enjoy; mainly due to the fact the large crowds restricted visibility.
All the staff on every stall and activity were very friendly and helpful & I think they’d done a great job recruiting. One thing I found disappointing is that there were absolutely no rides for the kids. I can understand that Lollibop is distinguishing itself as a festival and not a fairground but I’ve been reliably informed by my festival-going friends that even Glastonbury has some fairground rides. R’s of the age where he adores rides so he would have loved a little train ride or a carousel. There were also no bouncy castles or anything similar.
In terms of facilities, although there were an abundance of portaloos I was very surprised, given that it’s a children’s festival, that the loos weren’t suitable for children needing to be assisted by an adult as there simply wasn’t enough room for two people. There also wasn’t a hand basin nor any water for hand washing. I think possibly the soap dispenser was supposed to contain some sort of soap/anti-bacterial foam however mine was empty despite being one of the first people to use it that morning. Luckily we packed our own sanitising hand gel after a tip from a fellow blogger who attended the day before. As everything is quite spaced out and with the crowds it took quite a while to walk from one end of the site to the other. It’s not particularly buggy-friendly either as the walkways were really quite narrow given the number of people.
Although there were quite a lot of food stalls and one that sold fresh fruit, most of the food was fast food. Again I found this odd for a festival specifically for Under 10s. It was also expensive; with 2 toasted sandwiches and 2 soft drinks costing £11. We were advised by the staff in the blogger tent to avoid trying to eat between 12-2pm due to the queues. This would suggest to me that they either need more stalls or more staff next year as it’s not really reasonable to be advising people to avoid lunchtime for buying lunch. It’s not against the rules to take a picnic although the website encourages purchasing from the vendors (not exactly unusual though).
Babies under 12 months of age are free. Pricing is staggered and a ticket for a family of 4 ranges from £62 (Super Early Bird) to £110 (Standard ticket). I think this is pricey given what was on offer. I would also rethink the pricing structure, as single tickets are the same price for adults as they are for children (£28 if not early purchase) but the adults obviously aren’t using any of attractions so it would make sense to me to encourage more adults per party by making adult entry cheaper as they also tend to spend more on food and drink than the kids do.
Overall R had a good day but didn’t enjoy it as much as he enjoyed visiting Hobbledown or Chessington. He didn’t mention it after we left & I had to hear about our other days out on a daily basis for weeks afterwards! I thought it was okay considering we had complimentary tickets and it only took an hour to get there but I would have been less impressed if we’d have paid £84 for the 3 of us. If you live in London it would be worthwhile visiting. I think slightly older children would get more out of the day as they’d actually get excited about seeing the CBeebies presenters performing, whereas R was more interested in the bubble stall!
Little Rascal Reviews was provided complimentary tickets for the purpose of an honest review.