Teddy Bears Picnic

While I have written about the Scarborough Spa Orchestra in a generic way previously in this post I realise that I haven’t done a proper write up. However, as we had a long weekend on the North Yorkshire Coast last weekend, we took in the first Teddy Bears Picnic Concert of the summer season.

Throughout writing this, I am thinking “Why does no-one else do this type of event?”

The Teddy Bears Picnic event is relatively simple. A professional orchestra plays a series of songs for an hour and a half. There is plenty of interaction and education for the children and everyone goes away happy. It is not massively complex, but it works and it is perhaps the highlight of the summer for me.

The Music

Firstly, it is a proper concert, witnessed by the number of adults without children enjoying the music. As a result, the quality is obviously there (note, I am in no way a music aficionado). However, some of the songs are “child friendly” – for example, tunes from the Wizard of Oz were played.

20160704_113551.jpg
Preparations taking place

However, unlike other concerts, the children are encouraged to get involved. As such, they can sit as close to the stage as they want, dance, clap and enjoy the music in any way they want. There are generally a couple of marching songs which gets the children active. Also, instruments get shared out in the second half of the show to keep the children involved.

The glamorous (and I am putting this because my disguise is blown and she knows who I am!) Kathy is the compère and she is excellent at describing the instruments of the orchestra for the children. She also plays conductor, in trying to get the children to play slow/fast as well as stop. It is really something to see, as well as the “calming down” song towards the end where magically the children are all settled for a relaxing piece of formal music.

20160704_123610.jpg
The Playlist

The Teddy Bears Picnic concept doesn’t sound too complex, but “Why does no-one else do this type of event?

The first show of the season tends to fall well for us to get to and it has become a bit of a tradition.  It appears as though Yorkshire Coast Radio have the similar tradition as we have bumped into DJ Dex for the last couple of years!!

20160704_105113.jpg
Heidi with DJ Dex!

Practicalities

In terms of practicalities, it is a long concert and so if the little ones are flagging a bit, don’t force them to stay. The price of £4 a ticket means it is excellent value for money. To help concentration, food seems to help, so bring a picnic (and teddy!)  although there is a cafe there as well. They try to hold the concert in the Sun Court, which is outside and  a bit of a sun trap. As such, if the forecast looks good, pack the suncream and lots of fluids. However, if it is raining, they will take the concert indoors, so you don’t need to worry about it being cancelled. You can pay on the door as well for all the Teddy Bears Picnic concerts. However, for the Christmas concert, that is really busy so I would suggest ordering online for those.

20160704_104718.jpg
Fully prepared with sunglasses and Elmo!

In terms of baby changing facilities, there aren’t that many available. However, there are loads of toilets dotted about, so if there is a queue, the helpful staff will point you in the right direction. Given the Spa’s location, parking is an issue. If you’re spending the rest of the day on the front, you might as well bite the bullet and pay for the day long parking just outside the Spa. However, previously we have parked on the cliff top (free!) and walked down. This is a lovely but tiring walk down, but best to then get the cliff lift up afterwards.

Effect on Children

Sometimes with the music, your child might just “get it”. At the concert last week, Little Clockwork Fairy was played, and Heidi got “it”. She interpreted the music into a story and was very upset when the music (and fairy!) stopped. We then had to look in Scarborough for a wind up fairy!!! Hearing Heidi talk about that made me realise that going to these concerts really does help her develop, although you may not see it straight away.

As I mentioned earlier, there are multiple concerts in the summer season. However, they are all different songs so no two concerts will be the same. Also, regardless of your child’s age, they will get lots out of it, just in different ways. There are lots of small babies there which underlines how good this concert is and I ask myself again, “Why does no-one else do this type of event?“. I just need to find some more days off for us to go again this summer!

UPDATE: The Teddy Bears Picnic shows are now every Tuesday in July and August.


To read more of my blog, please feel free to:

“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/leedsdad (Please do this – it makes me smile!)

“Follow” me on Twitter @leedsdad

Email me at: [email protected]leedsdad.com

Go onto my website: http://www.leedsdad.com

Follow me on Instagram: @leedsdad_blog

Jim of the Garden

Our regular Easter getaway is to Scarborough/Filey and Easter 2016 was no different. Good weather was interrupted by bad weather (I am currently writing this at 5am with the sound on torrential rain all around!). However, on Easter Saturday morning, we went to Scarborough to see “Jim of the Garden”, a performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Location

The theatre is in the centre on Scarborough and while parking can be somewhat difficult, it is in no way impossible, even with a toddler. Don’t let the exterior of the theatre deceive either. Whilst the exterior is aged, inside, the facilities are what you would expect.

The show is targeted for children up to the age of 7 and this feels about right. The children found their way to the front to sit on the cushions, beanbags and blankets at the front as the parents/carers sat at the back and side. The parents who were nervous about their child ruining the show were closest to their child! I have spoken about our first “theatre” trip to the Rainbow Factory here – where I had the same worries!

wp-1459193752408.jpg
Before the show

The Show

Without wanting to give any spoilers away, the performance is about 30 minutes long and involves songs, dancing and mass audience interaction. This breaks it up for the little ones so that they are not sat down for more than a few minutes at a time, and it works really well.  Heidi fondly remembered the “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song. As a result, she kept on singing it all day!

In terms of a plot, I am not really sure, as in part because the songs and dancing broke the plot up and this isn’t a bad thing at all. There is enough in the performance for adults to get lost in the production, rather than following it through. There is certainly enough for the adults to be entertained with – especially the Lady Gaga cover which was absolutely amazing!

wp-1459193771151.jpg
Play in progress…

There seemed to be 30-40 children there and I am not sure many more could fit it.  However, it was Easter weekend when we went, which might have brought in more people. For £3 each, you’re not going to find much better value for money for a live performance.

Facilities

In terms of the venue, as Heidi is toilet training, we had to play the game of getting a 2 year old girl in a male toilet cubicle. This is always an adventure! Fortunately, the toilets were clean/modern which helps. One thing to note is that the baby changing facilities are on the second floor, which was cordoned off. This is presumably because there were no activities happening on that floor. As a result, if you need baby changing, you might need to ask for assistance.

With all that being said, we will keep an eye out for future child friendly shows at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for when we are making our regular trips over to the North Yorkshire Coast!

wp-1459193784776.jpg
Happy theatre goers!

Continue reading Jim of the Garden

Rainbow Factory – Romeo Romeo

d82f5d_db9476b976754f45bf778c3529985c0f

Is the Rainbow Factory the coolest place in Leeds to go with young children?!

It must be pretty close, given that they can be creative, learn and be independent whilst having excellent “teaching” by staff, with not a soft play area in sight!

On Valentines’ Day, we headed over to the Rainbow Factory for their Romeo Romeo event, not quite sure what exactly to expect. Rainbow Factory are doing more and more “events” now and this was the first one we had been to (apart from the Christmas Show review here).

We got there in good time as the cafe area filled up with about 30 children and parents before being let into the stage area for the introduction show. The show was short and sweet which meant that the children stayed still and watched before the audience was divided into 4 groups – with each group doing a different activity for 20 minutes or so before rotating round.

wp-1455738211524.jpg
Getting on stage

A quick look round showed that there was 8 or 9 in our group, and Heidi (aged 2 ½) was the youngest, probably by a couple of years. This coupled with the fact that she didn’t have a morning nap sent a shiver down my spine……would MY child be the one to ruin it for the others?!

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, because of the excellent way that the afternoon was planned out. Each group spent just the right time on the different activities, all of which were completely different, testing and stretching all of the children, be they 2 or 10. The activities included arts, drama, singing/songwriting and the good old fashioned Rainbow Factory tour (with a slight twist).

wp-1455738195412.jpg
Part of the action..

Obviously there were things that Heidi couldn’t do and was a bit shy of doing, but the staff were great at involving her at the right level, without (hopefully!) distracting the older children. To say that the session lasted 2 full/intense hours, all of the children seemed to cope really well, although I think some of the parents were flagging towards the end!

Crafts with a 2 year old is always a challenge and Heidi loved the drama and games, even though she didn’t quite understand the concept of a few of the games!! To my surprise, the songwriting was a bit of a success and seeing her reaction to having her song played on stage was a sight to see. The tour is always excellent, in part because the leader is always enthusiastic and keeps it going at the right pace, even if little hands want to touch the displays!

wp-1455738228427.jpg
Singing on stage…

One of the good things, which might sound like a little thing is that there was a box for the arts/crafts that were made during the day to keep them safe and so you didn’t have to carry them all afternoon. However, as we had just (unexpectedly) started potty training that weekend, there isn’t a potty in the baby changing toilets – and I have never looked for a potty in a toilet previously (I can feel another blog post coming on…!)

Every visit to the Rainbow Factory is different, which is why I feel as though I have to write up every visit (another visit here!)  With a toddler, you know that somewhere is good when they get excited to go and they don’t want to leave. This is the case with us and the Rainbow Factory and I can’t wait for Heidi to be older and be able to appreciate it at a different level and learn more and different things. I just need to find some time off during the week to take her when it it quieter!

 

#YorkshireFamily with Yorkshire Tots

The Shoemakers Christmas Wish – 9/12/2015

d82f5d_db9476b976754f45bf778c3529985c0f

 

Full Disclosure – The entry for me and Heidi was free and part of a preview performance

Full Disclosure 2 – I have no idea about performing arts, the stage, or anything vaguely creative! I am a bloke! Therefore, if you’re expecting a detailed account of the stage management and posture of the performers, you will be sadly disappointed…

I watched the show through the eyes of a child, in part, because I am one myself…

xmas shoemaker and elf. Copyright C Johnston Photography

So having been to the Rainbow Factory a couple of times (see here for a previous review) we were invited to a performance of the Shoemakers Christmas Wish.  While the review won’t give a detailed account of the story or how the story is acted out (because that would spoil things!) it will hopefully give you the warm fuzzy feeling that the Rainbow Factory is still producing magical memories and will hopefully do so for a long time to come.

wp-1449698014139.jpg

So, there was an audience of around 20 children, aged from 2 to 9-ish and the famous Rainbow Factory beanbags were at the front for the kids to sit on, with the adults having grown-up seats at the back. Some kind of magical spell must have been put over the children as they were all seated quietly and still for the start of the show…

…and they stayed that way…

The show was so entertaining and captivating that the children were transfixed on the performers and the story that they were communicating – through song, music, actions and Elf-speak! I was laid at the front as I knew Heidi was only 2 seconds away from joining in on stage, and the look of happiness, concentration and joy on the children’s faces was such a sight. It must have given the performers such a thrill to see the audience transfixed on their every movement and action.

Don’t forget, children are not good fibbers  – they will tell you if something was boring, or if they didn’t like something.

But none of them did.

At this point I must apologise of Heidi’s over-enthusiasm to those who were there… She was into the performance so much, she wanted to join in on stage, and didn’t want me anywhere near her to act as crowd control! Mild embarrassment followed, but it was fine – it was simply the fact that she was stimulated, perhaps overstimulated (!) by the magical performance.

By the looks of it Heidi was the youngest there (aged 2 ½) and so if you are to see the show (or any show) with a child of a similar age, perhaps a little toy in the nappy bag could come in useful to aid concentration! However, the magic of the Rainbow Factory meant that a new friend was there for Heidi to share a rubber duck and a shaker between the pair of them for the last 10 minutes of the show!

I realise that I have not mentioned the actual play, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but the 2 performers were amazing. To carry a 40 minute play involving songs, costume changes, musical instruments and comedy with just 2 people and no pre-recorded action/music was amazing. I have so much respect for stage performers anyway, as it is something that I could never do due to a) a lack of skill and b) a lack of confidence, but they had both in abundance.

The quality of the show was that it would not look out of place at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, but then again, it would not have been as intimate and certainly would not have given the audience both young and not so young, a warm, fuzzy feeling of happiness.  The Playhouse certainly doesn’t have a tree in its seating area, which turned out to be a brilliant prop!!

As with most children’s shows, it does work at two levels and this certainly did and the uncontrollable laughing by the children (again, which cannot be faked!!) shows that the children appreciated the jokes aimed for them!

The huge round of applause at the end of the show was well deserved and the fact that so many of the Rainbow Factory team were there to watch was so wonderful to see as well. The stimulating effect of the show meant that afterwards, most of the children were running around and playing and generally being like children should be, even though it was past 7pm! Also, we took the opportunity to look at the decorative scenes again, which are truly amazing!

In true Rainbow Factory fashion, the show has 2 big thumbs up from us (fine motor skills allowing!) but now the main problem is how does the Rainbow Factory top this for next year……?!

xmas funny. Copyright C Johnston Photography

xmas stocking. Copyright C Johnston Photography

Xmas show. Copyright C Johnston Photography.

xmas secret. Copyright C Johnston Photography

The performers were Emily Goldie (the Elf) @EmilyGoldie1 and Jennifer Carss (the Shoemaker) @JenniferCarss   who also devised the original performance (amazing!)

The pictures were courtesy of C Johnson Photography @cjohnstonphoty  (apart from the amateur one of the stage because that was my effort!)

The good people at the Rainbow Factory can be found at:

www.rainbowfactorykids.com

www.twitter.com/RainbowStoryFun

www.facebook.com/RainbowFactoryKids

as well as in Farsley!

 

The Hey Diddles!

image

This Easter weekend, the Hey Diddles will be performing at Holmfirth Civic Hall (Saturday at 2pm) and I urge everyone with a child under the age of 8 to go and see them!

I went to see them with H at their Christmas show in Moldgreen in December 2014 and they were brilliant! By this point, you should have googled them, but if not, they are a 3 piece group (Sunny, Sky and Poppy) who are dressed in the appropriate colours who entertain the audience for an hour singing songs while working their way through a story.

They give everything on stage and get the audience into the spirit of the show. The kids love it, with the older ones dancing at the front, getting into the spirit of the show. H was just short of 18 months old and was just walking and so she enjoyed exploring the seating area before the concert but after that she was sat on my knee fixated on the performance. She loved it! We bought the CD and while there is a Xmas theme, the songs are of good sound quality and are still played in the car now!

Update: December 2015 – we have been to see them on many, many more occasions and what I mentioned before still rings true, perhaps even more so!

A couple of recent memories are when we were buying the tickets for the 2015 show in Holmfirth Tourist Information centre was, without prompting, Heidi said “I love Poppy, I love Skye, I love Sunny” when I asked the cashier for some tickets!

Also, one evening trying to get Heidi to sleep (late!) and she crawled to lay on top of me and started singing “Shake, Shake, Shake your sillies out”!!

I think she is a bit addicted!

For a good, innocent, well priced afternoon out, go to see the Hey Diddles! If you have a younger one, get there earlier and get to the front. Also, bring your autograph book as they do a meet and greet afterwards (not sure if they do selfies with you!) and prepare yourself for the discussion on the way home, “Who is you favourite Diddle?”