We were given our Lollibop tickets with no obligation to write a review. Because a whole blog post about queuing is pretty boring, and we didn’t experience much else at the festival, I was ready to be done with the whole thing and not write a post at all.
But then I figured that if I were to brush every negative experience under the carpet (and bear with me, because it’s not ALL negative), I wouldn’t be doing a proper service for anyone looking to go in future years – family days out set you back a decent amount of money, and I know the importance in weighing up the positives and negatives and doing your research to make sure an event is a good fit for your family.
I have written many reviews for this blog, and as far as I can recall, not one has been majoratively negative – which goes to show just how much fun and value we get out of all the experiences that come out of this blog.
After having done three consecutive Lollibop’s, I am of the firm opinion that the festival is what you make of it.
2012 was probably our most enjoyable experience – The upside of Arlo being just short of two was that we were able to amble around, stumbling upon entertainment as we found it, with no particular agenda (disclosure: my view MAY be slightly clouded by the fact that we had access to the VIP area and the free booze that year). The downside was that he was a bit too young to appreciate it, and had we been paying for our tickets, I would have said it wasn’t worth it, wait a year. We were guests of someone else, and so we weren’t obliged to write about or review our experiences.
We weren’t really in the mood to make the most of it in 2013. Sam had gone straight from a long haul overnight flight to the festival, and I had just spent a sleep-deprived 10 days alone with a toddler and an 8 week old baby. The festival had also moved sites to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, there was a confusing new layout which made it hard to see where to go and what there actually was to DO at Lollibop.
This year, THIS YEAR, we were primed for Lollibop Festival. The new, leafy location of Hatfield House sounded promisingly similar to our enjoyable experience at Regent’s Park in 2012. We knew the Lollibop organisers had listened carefully to the calls for more activities and a better space for the festival. Arlo was almost 4, and at a good age to get REALLY stuck in with most of the activities and entertainment on offer. He had spotted the posters for Lollibop every time we travelled on the underground, and was seriously excited about going to a place where all his most-watched characters and presenters from Cbeebies would be.
A little back story: Arlo is a serious Cbeebies fanboy. Yes, he probably watches far too much of it. In fact, we don’t really watch any other channel or programs, aside from a brief dalliance with channel 5′s ‘Milkshake’ during his die-hard Thomas phase.
In case you hadn’t already gathered from the heavy mentions in pretty much ALL of my recent YouTube videos, Arlo’s absolute favourite is Andy Day. He watches Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures EVERY DAY. He can recount every single scene from every single episode. He knows all of Andy’s phrases. He re-enacts the adventures at home. We listen to the dinosaur raps EVERY MORNING. I know all the words. (I actually really quite like the raps, there are some great puns in there. Kudos to whoever wrote them, Sam and I both agree that you are a bit awesome).
So, if there was one main goal for our time at Lollibop, it was to see Andy’s show in the Lollipalladium. What we didn’t count on was that it actually would be the ONE (and only) thing that we got to do at Lollibop.
Now, everyone knows that the number one rule of parenting is to never tell your young child that you are doing something, until you can 100% guarantee that you ARE doing it. And so the first thing we did when we arrived on site at 12pm was to suss out where the Lollipalladium was in good time for Andy’s show at 1.55pm.
And that was when we saw the queue – snaking up and down and round and round and round the main concourse of the Lollibop site. At this point we faced a decision: Not mention anything to Arlo and forget about seeing Andy entirely, or start queuing.
Sam and I both wanted Arlo to see Andy. We knew it was the thing that HE would get the most from, out of everything at Lollibop. Plus, we are British, and we feel compelled to join a large queue when we see one.
So that’s what we did. We also figured it wouldn’t be too much of a bad thing if the queue did move quickly, as Arlo would most likely be interested in seeing Show Me Show Me and Mr Bloom too (who were on before Andy).
We ate our lunch in the queue and watched as it grew to what must have been over a mile in length. During this time, we saw no one doing crowd management (the queue was starting to get in the way of the through traffic of people and buggies, this was resolved about an hour later by chopping the queue into two sections), and no one coming over to apologise for the long wait, or to explain how the queue system worked – which was all we wanted, really.
This queue was entirely unmanageable for one adult to tackle alone – Sam and I could tag team taking children to the toilet and going on a snack-run, but what happens if you are the only adult and your child needs the toilet?
A lack of research was probably my downfall. Had I been keeping an eye on the tweets of Lollibop attendees from the Friday, I would have known in advance about the queue, and the fact it was a seated tent. I had assumed the tent was standing, like it had been the two years previous, when we had been able to wander by at any point and catch parts of any show without queuing.
I could see that the tent this year didn’t have the open sides like in previous years, but in all honestly, I was baffled by the huge queue. And it wasn’t until we reached the front (after one hour of queuing), that the staff there told us it was a seated tent, and that we would only be allowed in for one show, and then everyone was booted out again.
Once we’d reached the front of the queue, we then faced a further hour waiting right outside the tent, in order to see our chosen show. Arlo had been amazingly patient with queuing up until this point, but it was a step too far for a three year old sitting two feet away from a tent where he could hear Mr Bloom but didn’t understand why he’d reached the front and wasn’t allowed to go in and watch.
There was no way to time the queue accurately for your preferred show. The only option was to join the queue and hope for the best. However, I do feel that we wasted that second hour waiting right outside the tent, had there been someone to explain the queue system and the fact that it was seated and you could only stay for one show, we wouldn’t have joined the queue as early as we did, and we could have had 45 minutes or so exploring the other areas of the festival.
It was 2.45pm by the time Andy’s Show finished. We had been at Lollibop for almost 3 hours, and had only done one thing. We watched the start of Mr Tumble on the main stage, took sight of the crowds for Andy’s Meet and Greet and decided we couldn’t face another queue, spent an enjoyable 4 minute slot at the Little Tikes zone, and by then we were all well and truly spent.
How cute is Rory in this massively oversized Little Tikes vest??
As I said before, Lollibop IS what you make of it. I have heard reports from fellow bloggers who had a great time doing lots of different things. We chose to play our day the way we did, but for me, it felt like a big shame that we didn’t have the time or energy to explore the rest of the festival – there were loads of activities that I think Arlo would have loved.
In the interest of being fair, I emailed all of this to Lollibop one week ago (awaiting response), so they know my opinion and what I was going to write. I think Lollibop did a really good job of addressing the comments received about last year’s venue choice, and the criticism that there wasn’t much to DO – there was loads of stuff to get involved with this year, and it was all clearly laid out and easy to access.
The problem was, that I think Lollibop seriously misunderstood their target customer. You can’t ask any Cbeebies-loving preschooler to queue for such long periods or to choose between their favourites. Three year olds form rather obsessive attachments, and nothing else will do. The Cbeebies acts are one of the main draws of Lollibop Festival, and anything generating queues of that size should be on the main outdoor stage, rather than in an exclusive tent with a capacity that can only house a tiny fraction of the overall visitors to the festival.
We received press tickets for Lollibop 2014.