Saturday 11 August 2012

Another Day Out at London South Bank

Some photos of a lovely day spent on London's South Bank last week:

The children enjoyed the new playground in the redeveloped Jubilee Gardens, in the shadows of the London Eye and the old County Hall building. The swings and trim trail are gone, replaced mostly with wooden climby things.
The once-completely lawned Jubilee gardens is now cut by a windy path with planted beds which look very nice. I can't help feeling nostalgic walking here as it always takes me back to the late-eighties when I worked at the then GLC/ILEA-controlled County Hall and would spend lunchtimes on the lawn (when not in the RFH bar or in the Archduke wine bar, the new kid on the block then, nice to see it still there under the arches).
Sadly there was no 'shower room' installation like last year for the kids to enjoy playing in the water. Instead the same spot, on the upper terrace of the RFH, is occupied by a project to build the world in a million Lego pieces. The kids got issued their boards and followed the printed grid - my two got blocks of blue which were obviously going to end up being part of a sea or ocean. We were pleased that when completed they were guided by the organisers to place their boards as part of the Indian Ocean.

Later on after lunch the children spent ages (and ages!) at the 'Rainbow Park' a long strip of multi-coloured sand along the railings in between the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre:
Having finished reading my New Statesman I watched some of the skateboarders and BMXers doing their thing under the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was here that I spotted some fresh and very topical graffiti art going up, capturing the mood perfectly of passers by - Jess Ennis and Mo Farrah in stencilled spray paint:
It was hard work dragging the children away from the Rainbow Park for a quick look at the free South African dance performance happening in the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall lobby. But it was worth it. The performance by 'Dance Africa Dance' and small exhibition were part of 'Ekhaya', a cultural base which the South Africans had set up for during the Olympics:
It was here that we were surprised and a bit bemused to find ourselves part of the enthusiastic audience to a surprise visit by a South African dignitary (?the Deputy High Commissioner?), closely followed by the gold-medal winning South African Olympic team! This included their well-known medal-winning swimmer Chad Le Clos, on the right:
Well, it was the closest I've probably been to so many medal-winners! After listening to some of the interviews and politely clapping their Olympic team, we beat a retreat. 

We pootled around enjoying the mime artists, ice-creams, and the carousel. My husband joined us and we decided to take a boat back to Greenwich. Shame that the RFH pier closes at 5.30pm, so we had to cross over the Thames to the embankment pier. During the boat trip I managed to capture the huge riverside royal portrait I'd read so much about:
And of course the Olympic rings under Tower Bridge:
Click here for my blog post on last year's visit to the South Bank.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Back from Camp Bestival 2012

Well, we just got back from our first festival camping experience and are still buzzing from it. We had an amazing time at Camp Bestival, the brainchild of Rob da Bank and friends, running for its fifth year. It was the perfect location, around Lulworth Castle, near Wareham, on the Dorset Jurassic coast.

There was a never-ending array of music, theatre, dance, comedy, interviews and lots of other wacky, surreal goings-on, all contained in a thick programme. No doubt it is a festival aimed at families. Whilst the multi-acre site was full of little people, whether dressed-up and face-painted or being pulled along in fairy-lit covered, ‘pimped-up’ trolleys, I reckon it’s still possible to enjoy it as adults - there are late night music and comedy gigs, along with the literary tent. But from the point of view of our family of four (including kids aged 10 and 8) it was fantastically arranged event - the space, the security, the atmosphere, the variety and importantly, the shower and loo facilities. Admittedly, it was a bit of a ‘Boden-mummy’ fest but it was fine. At £185 an adult ticket (under 10s free), plus the rest of the spending on car parks, trolleys, booked pitch, etc it is not a cheap option. I have to say though, it was well worth it - you get an awful lot of entertainment and fun.

I’m fascinated by the concept of camping while at the same time being unsure about it, especially when there's providing for kids involved - it’s one spot on the continuum of self-survival. The type of camping we do of course has more to do with buying the best gadgets, than surviving with minimal resources. Even the festival, a retreat from the ‘real world’ can only take place with reference to that ‘real world’. Anyway, that’s a whole different topic...

So, for posterity here’s our Camp Bestival weekend rundown - and we only scratched the surface of what was available:

Thursday 26 July
We drove down and arrived about 5pm, parking in the ‘Green 2’ car park. Then began the hard work (the only hard bit of the weekend) of getting our stuff into a trolley, pulled up and down hills and to our pitch in the ‘Camping Plus’ area. The sun was shining bright. The tent was up in no time (a six-person Coleman, since you ask). After a quick bit of picnic food, we met our neighbours - really nice people. The family next door turned out to be from Lee SE12!

We popped over into the venue area, a 5 minute walk, to have a nose around. Only a taster was open as we had ‘early bird’ tickets and it really all got going on Friday.

Friday 27 July
So here’s what we did on our first full day:
⚫ Freesports park - watching skateboards and bikers do their thing to live DJ-ed music
⚫ Mr Balloonie at the Little Big Top - always wanted to make a balloon dog...
⚫ the end of Silly Science at The Bandstand - resolved to go back the next day
⚫ Ian Stone at the Big Top - bit risky for kids but I’m sure the circumcision jokes went over their heads (we hope...)
Stooshe at the Castle Stage - our daughter flagging from the hot sun by now...
⚫ kids enjoyed getting soaked under the twisted metal ‘water tree’ art installation:
⚫ watched some ‘spin art’ at a stall near the Dingly Dell
⚫ followed the Dingly Dell Trail
⚫ listened to performance poet Alison Brumfitt at the Dingly Dell Stage:
⚫ played piano in the middle of the Dingly Dell woods!
⚫ attended a mock wedding at the Big Love Inflatable Church 
⚫ did a ‘Disco workshop’ in the Pig’s Big Ballroom with the wonderful Claude:

⚫ caught Pearl and the Beard at the Big Top
back to the tent for chicken fajitas:
⚫ watched the ‘Wall of Death’ - where some crazies ride motorbikes up and down a wall!
⚫ the end of the Cuban Brothers at the Castle Stage - the part where he shimmies in only his underpants, eeww...

⚫ danced to fabulous jazz-swingers, the Shirt Tail Stompers in the Pig’s Big Ballroom - where my son’s discovered a new love for swing jazz and lindy-hopping...

Saturday 28 July
⚫ Dick & Dom at the Castle Stage
⚫ The Gruffalo at the Castle Stage - though these two were very packed and kids got bored at the back behind standing-up adults...
⚫ Giant Helta Skelta (£2 though) in the Kids Lower Garden - always cheers them up
Insect Circus in the Lower Kids’ Garden - a surreal circus with performers dressed as insects: 
⚫ Rodri Marsden on ‘crap dates’ at the East Lulworth Literary Institute tent
⚫ Fancy Dress Parade across the site: 
⚫ Jimmy Cliff at the Castle Stage - moving to see this veteran of the reggae world and the poignant ‘Many rivers to cross’ performed by him
back to tent for lunch - homemade chili con carne, couscous, cheese
⚫ rushed back to the Castle Stage for Rizzle Kicks - the ones the kids had been waiting for (whatever ‘Mama do the hump’ means...)
⚫ Kids at the Netflix tent - yes, we gave in...for a bit
⚫ I saw end of Nile Rodgers, of Chic, doing a ‘meet and greet’
⚫ watched some fab random singer-guitarist busking at the Upper Kids Garden:
⚫ Circus Skills at the upper kids garden
⚫ Strange bike riding at the upper kids garden
Chapati man wraps
⚫ Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (we weren't up to staying for Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire)
⚫ Back to tent and game of Upwords

Sunday 29 July
⚫ Silly Science at The Bandstand - including the spectacular exploding cola bottles! 
⚫ ‘How to Dick and Dom around’ in the East Lulworth Literary Institute tent - thanks to the man who passed my son to the front of the crowd...
⚫ listened to the wonderful Camila Batmanghelidjh in the East Lulworth Literary Institute tent
⚫ Kids amused themselves in the Fidget Project
⚫ Medieval Jousting - with horses and everything, Wales won...: 
⚫ husband and son went on the Ferris wheel with its fab views 
 ⚫ Rolf Harris at the Castle Stage - surely my husband’s own personal favourite...

⚫ Moonflowers in the Big Top
⚫ daughter got a ‘free hug’ from one of the roving fairies
⚫ Tea and brandy coffee in the ‘Soul park’ while kids watched the ‘Freesports’
⚫  back to tent for Pot Noodles, soup, biscuits - I stayed in with son who fell asleep exhausted
⚫ Gideon Reeling: The No.1 Seed at the Dingly Dell
⚫ Happy Mondays at the Castle Stage - Bez was apparently on form
⚫ Grand Fireworks and animations finale around Lulworth Castle - on YouTube here - this is fantastic, really worth watching, never seen anything like it.

Monday 30 July
After breakfast at the Kitchen Stall, we packed up the tent, did some kite-flying and trolleyed our stuff over hill and dale back to the car,. I think we set off back about 12.30pm in the end and arrived home several hours later, exhausted but exhilarated and tanned!