I’ll always have a soft spot for LolliBop Festival.
We were there from the very beginning, attending the first ever LolliBop in Clissold Park, and the next two events at Regent’s Park. We only missed its Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park outing last year because we were covering Just So Festival that weekend.
So we were excited to get on the train from King’s Cross to Hatfield (40 minutes slow train, only 20 minutes fast train) and arrive for LolliBop Festival 2014 at Hatfield House.
These are truly spectacular surroundings for the ‘big bash for little people’ that, for the first time in my experience, gave LolliBop Festival a feeling of space. Perhaps a little too much space on the actual festival site, for despite our guides and the huge map at the entrance, we spent more time than we felt was necessary trudging between zones trying to work out which activity was where.
We went with my friend Jo, her son Phoenix (Ezra’s best friend since nursery) and her baby Max. The boys made a beeline for the Nintendo area where Jed got to meet his heroes Mario and Luigi.
We spent our first hour here, on a mini treasure hunt for Nintendo characters that kept the babes (and me!) very busy.
Of course they also wanted to visit the Skylanders Trap Team tent, a huge hit at Camp Bestival and also popular at LolliBop despite being at the far end of the festival site. After half an hour there, we were free to explore.
As always there was loads happening, from pirate school and wizard training to Horrible Histories and drumming workshops from the musical Stomp. If you want to make the most of LolliBop, you have to get there early. We arrived just after lunchtime and didn’t leave enough time to catch fun-sounding activities like Bear Grylls Survival Academy that had a great response from festival-goers.
However the boys were happy to get stuck into the more random stuff e.g. pillow fighting outside the Disco Shed.
And tossing coconuts in the Vita Coco Kids play area, where the sandpit ‘beach’ proved a hit with the toddler crowd.
We had a delicious lunch from one of our London street food faves The Bowler, who dish out chunky meatballs in rich tomato sauce dressed with coleslaw and coriander, to eat with pasta or chips. Lush! (Do look out for The Bowler around London street food markets, they’re so worth it).
And we had a great time in the Science Museum tent that served up an explosive stage show as well as an opportunity to try out some really engaging and entertaining challenges.
I also think the Join in with Southbank Centre zone was a brilliant addition to the festival, as you get a taste of what the Southbank Centre (our favourite playspot in London) offers for families.
One issue I’m starting to have with LolliBop Festival is that they rely too heavily on generic, brand-name acts and there’s less of that folksy, magical element that we loved so much in the beginning. I missed the Enchanted Forest this year, strange people in costume and fairies walking around on stilts.
But of course big names like CBeebies pull in the crowds and help justify the ticket costs. And let’s face it, Justin Fletcher is a rock star for the preschooler set and it’s sweet to see the tiny ones going crazy for him!
The boys are now a bit too ‘big school’ for CBeebies but we stopped to watch Sam and Mark from CBBC on the main stage.
And actually one LolliBop highlight came at the end with CBeebies presenter Alex Winters tossing free packets of Haribo at the audience as the DJ cranked up the bass. It felt like a proper ‘mini rave’ and was a high-octane way to end our day.
As we made our way back to the train station through the gorgeous Hatfield House grounds, the boys were still bounding about full of energy while Jo and I felt calm and happy. LolliBop Festival at Hatfield House was a lovely day out with friends and family. I hope it stays here for the foreseeable future.