Our first time at LolliBop
Our LolliBop festival review.
Last year, I wrote about a host of annual family-friendly summer festivals taking place from July to September. Following that post my children and I were lucky enough to be invited along to one of them this year – LolliBop.
If you haven’t heard about LolliBop before, it’s a three-day festival aimed at children under the age of 10. It’s billed as “the big bash for little people” and is always held during an August weekend (this year it was Friday 15th – Sunday 17th August) in, or near to, London.
This year the event was at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. A sprawling country estate – and one of 10 Treasure Houses of England – with acres of space.
I was a little nervous at taking two little children to such a big event on my own (my husband had to work), but I wasn’t about to let that spoil a potentially fun day.
We were given tickets for Sunday 17 August, the last day of LolliBop. Having never been before, I had no idea what to expect.
You can check out our day at the festival by watching my video, but here’s a more detailed rundown of what I thought about the festival.
As a newcomer to the LolliBop experience, I really appreciated the ‘parent superhero pack’ that the organisers produced. It was an information pack that could be downloaded from the LolliBop website and included directions to the venue; a map of the festival; a timetable of all the shows; and details of all the food options that would be available on the day.
It really helped us to plan what we wanted to do and where we wanted to visit – something that I would highly recommend doing before you go. There will be lots going on.
Venue and crowds
This was the first time in its five year history that LolliBop was held outside of London. Although I have no problem getting to and from the capital, it’s nice not to have to contend with London traffic and busy public transport.
Hatfield House was a great venue for the festival. It’s easy to drive to (with car parking facilities – another first for the festival) and is also close to a train station. Getting there really isn’t an issue.
Although LolliBop started at 10am each day, my children and I got there at about lunchtime. It was a deliberate ploy to try and miss long queues to park and get into the event, which we did. I figured that 6 hours (it closes at 6pm) would still be long enough to see everything that we wanted to.
Inside the festival there was so much space that it never seemed busy. There were small crowds by each stand and a few queues for some of the activities, but there was lots of green space across the whole festival.
There was also a fantastic relaxed feel to the event, which I think had a lot to do with the venue too.
There is a diverse range of food options available at the festival, some of which is reasonably priced and some less so. You can also take your own food with you, which is something that I chose to do for our lunch.
There were picnic benches spread out across the site, but also a designated green and grassy picnic area to enjoy your food. It was sponsored by Pom-Bears and its staff were even giving away packets of crisps to anyone who wanted them.
It was a nice surprise and something Olivia and William took advantage of.
If you don’t fancy taking your own food, but like the sound of a picnic, LolliBop did offer adults the opportunity to pre-book a luxury Carluccios hamper for two (£45) and ‘LolliBop lunchBoxes’ for children (£5.50 each).
With LolliBop finishing at 6pm and knowing that we had a long drive ahead of us, I made a beeline for the hot food stands towards the end of the day.
There was so much to choose from: pulled meat; burritos; tacos; meatballs; churros; toasted sandwiches; paella; chicken provencal and other French dishes; superfood salads; and the traditional hot dogs, burgers and chips. It was great to see so much choice and all vendors offered child-size portions too.
We enjoyed hot dogs with chips as the sun prepared to set in the sky. Although I spent more than I would have liked on those meals (£12 for two child-size portions), it was nice to finish the day in such a relaxed way. Equally nice was that you’re not pushed out of the festival as soon as it ends.
LolliBop is jam-packed with shows. It had an open-air main stage for its most popular acts and a LolliPalladium tent for other shows taking place throughout the day.
The festival has close ties with Cbeebies and CBBC: the vast majority of the shows and presenters are from these two channels.
Justin Fletcher was the headline act for the Saturday and Sunday, and other acts included: Mister Maker; Mr Bloom; Scooby Doo; Andy Day’s Live Show; Lazy Town Live; Postman Pat; Chris and Pui’s Mini Roadshow; Poppy Cat; Michaela’s Really Wild Show; Horrible Histories; Cook and Line from Swashbuckle.
Some shows were only performing on certain days (for instance, Scooby Doo and Mister Maker were only on the Friday while Justin Fletcher only performed on the Saturday and Sunday) so it’s worth checking out who you want to see on stage and choosing which day you want to go accordingly.
We actually missed almost all of the shows because Olivia and William were kept so busy with other activities, but did catch some of Justin Fletcher’s set. He was as energetic as his on-screen persona and everyone looked like they were having a great time.
If truth be told, I would’ve liked to have seen more live acts. One of the problems was that I kept forgetting what time they started because the children were so engrossed in whatever activity they were doing.
Some sort of loudspeaker or announcement every now and again to remind visitors when various shows would begin would have been appreciated!
So what else is there to do at LolliBop besides the shows? In one word – lots!
The event attracts some major brands who all focus on giving children a good time.
There was Duplo to play with; a Little Tikes playground to enjoy; Nintendo challenges to complete; t-shirts to design with River Island; Thomas the Tank Engine and Dennis the Menace to meet; animals to see at the National Geographic Kids; experiments to watch with the Science Museum; football skills to learn with the Tottenham Hotspur Global Coaching Team.
I could go on…
The festival was split up into zones to try and make things easier to navigate. We had particular fun in the discovery and active zones. Although there was a wait to do some of the activities, such as meeting Thomas the Tank Engine and designing t-shirts in the River Island Design Den, for most others this wasn’t an issue.
The only gripe I have is that some stands began packing up before the festival had finished. I suppose it’s inevitable on the very last day, but by the time we made it to the Lollibooks zone – about one to two hours before the end of the event – all stands were almost completely cleared away.
The LolliBop toilets deserve a special mention. I was worried about these facilities before we went – how many toilets there would be, how clean they would be kept, how full of toilet paper they would be.
I needn’t have worried.
We never seemed to be too far from a block of portaloos and each one was large enough for all three of us to stand in. They were always clean and filled with toilet paper and hygienic alcohol gel to clean your hands.
There were also baby changing facilities too.
What we thought of LolliBop
Olivia, William and I all had a marvellous day.
Olivia said she had a “really nice” time and loved meeting Thomas the Tank Engine the most.
William enjoyed climbing all over the Beano logo and giving a high-five to Dennis the Menace.
I appreciated being able to relax. It felt safe enough for me to let my children scamper around the site without worrying about crowds (although I was always close behind them obviously).
Although we had a great day, I did learn some tips and tricks which would have made the festival even better for us. I’ll be sharing those ahead of next year’s event to help parents make the most of LolliBop 2015 and beyond.
Please note: I was given complementary tickets for Olivia, William and myself to attend the event, as well as a complementary car parking pass. This has not influenced the review in any way and all words and opinions are 100% honest.