This year marked the inaugural year of the Shropshire Kids’ Festival. As regular visitors to the annual Shrewsbury Food Festival (review to follow!) we were really keen to find out what the same organisers had planned for this child focused event.
The event is based in the Quarry Park in Shrewsbury and for those who have been to the Food Festival, the same approach of fencing off an area of the quarry is used. It ran over a whole weekend with activities running for all ages across both Saturday and Sunday. Ticket purchases were encouraged in advance but although we did do this, the queues at the door weren’t too bad at all, in fact we had to queue longer for the advanced purchase ticket entry than those who were buying on the day!
Having looked at the brochure in the days before the festival, we had decided that there was so much on offer we would book to go for both days, this also allowed us the option of scoping out what was going on during our visit on Saturday for our return the next day, or leaving early if the children had reached their limit on the Saturday, with the promise we were coming back! The tickets were excellent value, £6 per child and £1 per adult with under 1s entering for free. One of the advantages of buying the tickets online was that we were able to book into the Kate’s Kitchen workshop – something we had seen at previous festivals and never before been able to get booked into…
On arrival at the venue we were given a wrist band for our 6 year old and encouraged to write our phone number on it in case she got lost. I saw most young children with these wrist bands and over the weekend there were a few children lost who were re-united fairly quickly so the bands seemed to work well. It was interesting to note that when a child became lost, their policy was to immediately close the gates so that no one could go in or out of the venue, as a parent, this was enormously reassuring…it was also really easy to spot a volunteer at the festival; they were all in bright orange t-shirts, so easy to point out to our daughter when we were explaining about who to go to if she became lost…
As we had arrived at around lunchtime on the Saturday, we quickly found somewhere to have a bite to eat before the cooking workshop at 1pm. We took food for the children, I always find food at festivals a little pricey so make sure I pack a lunch that can be quickly accessed for the children without searching for something they will eat or having to queue. Having said that, as adults, we did treat ourselves to the food at the festival – there was a good variety on offer! It is also interesting to note there is an ‘Adult’s Creche’ where you can enjoy some peace and quiet and a glass of wine after making a small donation.
The cooking workshop was organised by Kate’s Kitchen and during the 45min session allowed our daughter to work through the stages of making a shortbread finger biscuit. The session was well organised and well run and at £5 per child good value for money for the 45mins. However, our daughter did comment that she was disappointed that she had to share the bowl with a partner and take it in turns, she was also a bit concerned that she didn’t have something to share with us at the end as all the children go home with just one item from the collective cook at the end. That being said, she was very quick to polish off the biscuit herself!
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the site. There were lots of exciting activities on offer, from climbing to zorbing, donkey rides and various inflatables. I did overhear lots of moans about having to pay extra for the activities once inside the venue and that was very true, however, we were quite selective about what we encouraged our daughter to do and there were lots of free activities on offer too. If you take the time to read up on the activities before hand, it is very clearly stated what is free and what has a charge.
Before we left we headed over to the foam party. Yes, this was exactly as it sounds, a foam party for children. I have to say, it looked enormous fun if a little muddy and sludgy once the fresh white foam had been attacked by all the children! It took our daughter no time at all to get stuck in and very quickly she was absolutely covered! On all the festival advertising you were pre-warned to bring a change of clothes and it seemed that the message had got through. I saw lots of totally covered, foamy children being quickly whipped into towels and changed into clean clothes so obviously there were lots of well-prepared parents!
One huge advantage of going on the first day and returning on the second was that we were able to pinpoint exactly what we wanted to go to the next day and plan our strategy to avoid the queues, this worked really well!
When we returned on Sunday we made a point of heading straight for the giant 75m waterslide! This activity, along with several others, was charged at £2 to raise money for the main charity that the festival supported. Despite the weather (having had blazing sun on the Saturday, the Sunday was overcast and drizzly), our daughter was adamant she was taking part and it seemed like too good an experience to miss out on, we quickly adopted the strategy of one parent in the queue and the other entertaining the children and even managed to squeeze in a donkey ride while there wasn’t a queue for that! The slide was all it had promised to be and after a very quick and slippery ride there was the inevitable plunge into yet more foam at the bottom!
Once clean and dry, we headed off to the baby area to allow the little one some time to play. There were lots of little tents set up with companies such as Baby Sensory and Pyjama Drama and our 11 month old happily spent a good hour crawling round and exploring what was on offer. It’s also worth noting that there was an NCT baby changing and feeding tent on site so it was good to know there was a guaranteed quiet venue for changing nappies and breast / bottle feeding if needed…
For the rest of the afternoon, we split up and the older children (we met up with friends) explored the bubble football (basically being covered with a large inflatable ball and charging into each other!) and the circus (this was great fun and the children loved trying the circus activities out afterwards) while we watched Belly Fusion, a dance company with fabulous outfits that literally mesmerised the little ones for a good hour while they ate their lunch!
Overall, this was an excellent event which will certainly be in my diary for next year (13th and 14th May 2017). I would recommend looking in advance to see what’s on as there is so much on offer you do need to prepare so you know what to head for. We certainly didn’t do everything on offer in the two days and next time would probably try and head to the free activities in the tents before being distracted by the large, chargeable, inflatable outdoor activities. Yes, it could cost you quite a bit if you are a large family and the children want to do lots of the activities but I would suggest that you set older children a budget and show them the programme before hand and get them to decide what they do while directing the younger ones to the multitude of free activities on offer.
There is a lovely video of the event here:
NB: Rachel and her family did not receive any incentive to write this review and paid for their own tickets to attend the festival.
Photo Credit to Katy of What Katy Said