I was really excited to be taking my sons along to the 3 foot people festival in Chelmsford on the 29th June. The sun was shining, the journey was quick, and we sang songs all the way. Parking was close, reasonably priced and clearly mapped with passes available to purchase before the event. A slight downturn in enthusiasm as my 2 year old was travel sick just as we arrived in the car park. Not to worry, I cleaned it up, fresh clothes and off we set to meet our friends, with a lovely stroll along the canal.
Once we arrived at the event I was disappointed to see an enormous queue. We had to stand in line to get in, in the full glare of the sun. There were pregnant women in the queue, and many a toddler crying about wanting to go straight in, or being maintained by parents pulling their hair out. My disabled friend had to find a nearby bench and wait until we were near the front of the queue before she could join us. There was no reason for this delay so I do think entrance could have been a little more organised considering all tickets were prepaid and collected from a separate box office. If it really wasn’t possible to speed the entrance then entertainment in the queue would have been ideal so that the toddlers were distracted from the taunting delights they could see beyond the fence.
Finally we made it through the entrance and went to explore the delights of the festival. The activities included art tents, music and movement tents, show tents, a fabulous little farm tent, a sandpit and lots of outside space. Face painting was a must, and so off we went and joined another queue. At least while we were waiting we could peruse the programme for the days activities. The timings of each tent seemed different, and so it wasn’t possible to see half as many of the activities as we’d liked – things always seemed to finish 5 mins after the beginning of another.
We attempted to get a coffee from the refreshments tents and in doing so discovered there just wasn’t space to manoeuvre a push chair through the tables and chairs, and perusing the menus while queuing for our drinks showed that there wasn’t anything suitably healthy for little ones (If nothing else I had expected to see at the least one of the brands like organix or plum baby products available, and I don’t think it was just that I missed them.) It made me extremely glad I’d packed a picnic. Sadly one of our party hadn’t managed to pack anything, her intention was to buy food there. We ended up sharing because there was nothing she could get for her 3 year old and she wasn’t prepared to queue for junk she didn’t want.
After much pontification and general meandering around the “stall” type tents We did finally manage to get into a music and movement tent, and sampled a Talking Tots session which, as you would expect, was mainly structured around talking, but the language development was also supported by music. This session was small and intimate and very inclusive, every child being greeted by name etc. The teacher was warm and friendly, clear and articulate. There was good use of songs within the session for memory and for rhyme, although there was no explanation of why songs and music are linked to language development, and I didn’t get the impression this would be covered in a regular session either. All in all a jolly civilised session.
We remained in the tent for a Jo Jingles session, partly as I was interested to observe a session and partly as we couldn’t face leaving for something else and queuing again. I have to confess I had not got high hopes for this session, and my heart sank as the Jo Jingles signature tune bleated out. The tent however was full of eager smiling babies. They all had a lovely time dancing about, singing songs, shaking instruments and dancing. The parents generally stood around the outside of the hall while the little ones enjoyed the session, and there was little evidence of the group actually learning anything. What they did get though was the experience of singing in a group, which has an importance.
We then wandered back through some of the open tents, and enjoyed creative arts experiences in various guises. One of the really nice touches here was when we encountered a wandering minstrel. A gentleman simply meandering around the different tents playing the saxophone. He had actually been running a tent based activity, and I was suddenly sorry to have seen his session which would have contained an element of live music.
Talking Tots – 8/10 – a well run inclusive session with a little bit of music built in
Jo Jingles – 6/10 – a fun session, but mainly an organised jumping around sing song
3 Foot People Festival – 7/10 Great concept and some nice touches, but organisation, food, and practicalities with babies/toddlers could be better
Posted by: karen