Saturday, 16 August 2014

#Lollibop2014 The Fab Family Festival!

I feel like I ought to write this post in two halves - part a) where we go to the fabulous Lollibop 2014 festival and have oodles of family fun and part b) the trials of being there with a child with PDA. Both would be true, so actually I'm just going to dive in and tell you about our day as it happened.

Last year we attended the Lollibop 2013 festival at the Queen Elizabeth Park, and we had a great family day out. So this year, when I heard it was going to be held at a new venue close to us, I couldn't resist visiting again to see what was new.

Hatfield House is the great venue for Lollibop 2014; a huge expanse of grass and a few trees meant there were several different areas to explore, and access to everything was easy. The main stage had plenty of space around it and several benches laid out in front of it - although right in front of the stage there was also plenty of standing room. During the time we were there (Friday morning) it wasn't overly busy and so it was easy to find your own spot with a good view of the stage. Very well organised parking with masses of spaces added to the good experience overall.

We headed through the rainbow entrance arches (nice touch, rainbows make everything seem fun) and the girls were greeted with big smiles and a Peppa Pig sticker, always a bonus. We were also handed some free Bear snacks as the girls posed for a picture with a Bear which they would have liked to bring home. 
Happy memories of our fab 'day' (2 hours or so!) out at Lollibop 2014
We knew that Sam and Mark were due on the main stage shortly after we arrived, so we didn't stop at much on the way in and made our way there fairly quickly. It wasn't a long walk, but by the time we got there Sasha was already dragging her heels, and almost as soon as Sam and Mark appeared she was saying she wanted to go home (sorry guys, nothing personal!). I think it was more to do with the sound than anything - big speakers or music she is not familiar with always seem to unsettle her.
The very funny Sam and Mark
So I left the bigger girls to sit where they were and watch the show (with strict instructions not to move a muscle, which of course they followed, ahem..) and I wandered off with Sasha to try and find something to recover her mood. She had been excited about going in whilst we queued in the car to park, and we'd spotted someone blowing giant bubbles. Sadly not even the thought of this could persuade her we were going to have fun, so I had to think hard to keep egging her along as we walked to the far end of the site in search of something, anything, to make her happy. Personally I was hoping to sneak into the meet and greet with Mr Bloom, but the queue was snaking around and Sasha sadly wouldn't indulge me. I had to make do with sneaking a peak through the tent 'window', but it was too blurry to be of any use as a window.

A free pack of haribos helped Sasha's mood, but only marginally, and then we visited the Skylanders area (but Sasha was still not impressed). Next to that though was the Heart radio stand, and praise the Lord they had balloons! On sticks! So one of those did the trick and I managed to persuade Sasha to climb into their giant deckchair for what turned out to be one of the best shots of our day. Sasha followed that up with some colouring-in before we headed back to find the others and see what food there was for lunch. Seemed to be lots available but mine settled on chunky chips, of course.

Sasha was finished quickly and still asking to go home, but she then remembered that we had seen a 'Sports Day' set up right by the entrance and she decided she fancied a go on that. I sneakily distracted her as I took them all in the opposite direction to explore a different corner of the site, and we spent some time on the Kia stand playing outdoors Jenga, noughts and crosses, and a bit more painting and colouring-in. There was a great River Island stand where the older girls would have loved designing their own T-shirts I'm sure, but there was a small queue; sadly Sasha is not a fan of queues. Instead the girls chose to clamber all over the Beano sign (which made for great photos) and we then moved on to the Nintendo stand. My girls are huge Nintendo fans and I was pleased that the team had thought up a fun character hide and seek for visitors to do rather than just having the electronic games to play on. Of course Mario Kart, Golf, Kirby and Pullblox were all played on too, and Sasha enjoyed hunting for the special ball in their ball pool! 

It was at this point that the first teeny tiny raindrops fell, and although there were only a handful, it was enough to start stressing Sasha again. So with the promise of now heading straight to the 'Sports Day' attraction she wanted on our way home, we set off (with just a quick detour through the Thomas Sodor set-up). 
You can see how happy she was as the rain began to spot
I'm not sure what Sasha was expecting from the Sports Day, but the idea was that it was organised games at certain times of the day. The lovely people manning the stand were a little taken aback when we said we were on our way home but would like a quick go - most people stay at the Lollibop festival all day and there's certainly plenty to do there! They were very understanding and agreed the girls could have a go - on seeing the Space Hoppers though, Sasha did another about turn and marched off saying the rain was coming back (it wasn't!) and she didn't want to get a wet bottom. So she watched in a grump from afar as the big girls enjoyed their own mini races up and down the course. 

For me, the end of our Lollibop time was just another indication of how Sasha's avoidance stops her from enjoying herself. No amount of trying to point that out to her is going to change things sadly. As she was safe this time, and for a change she didn't carry on walking out, I let her be, half hoping she'd come back and join in, but knowing it was unlikely. It's generally difficult for us to enjoy family days out like this as Sasha can be so unpredictable and has a very short attention span, but it's nice to be able to go somewhere new if only for a short time. For four people Lollibop would have cost us £82.50, which I think is actually good value when you get to meet and see TV characters on stage, collect a few freebies along the way, have faces painted, get to take part in fun activities and stay and play all day. For us though, having to leave places like this early is a regular affair and we just wouldn't get the value out of the tickets that other people do. I remember only too well spending an hour in the foyer of Wembley as Tamsin sat and watched Disney on Ice with Daddy - and that time we had spent a lot of money on front row seats in the hope that Sasha would be enthralled.

Enough about us though; Lollibop 2014 is on again for one more day tomorrow (with Justin Fletcher as the star guest, along with many other great names) and I'd thoroughly recommend getting yourselves down there if you can! I hope we can enjoy a little bit of this experience again next year.

Disclaimer: we were very gratefully given these tickets for free, but all the views expressed here are our own!