It's the ultimate family festival in the UK and The Sunday Mirror have labelled it as "Glastonbury for kids!" Yes, this review will feature the brilliant Geronimo Festival. For 2018 Geronimo was brought to ticket holders at two different locations. The first being at Cheshire's Arley Hall and the second being Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the two day event at Knebworth Park on the weekend of 30th June – 1st July.
With Geronimo being the ultimate family festival, I made the most out of the event by taking my three year old son along with me. The line up was jam packed with well known CBeebies presenters, characters and many other recognisable faces that my son believes to be his idols, so there was no way I could leave him at home with the grandparents for this one.
The site was easy to find, although we did have to queue in a lot of heavy traffic outside of the park at the top end of Stevenage. I believe we sat in our car and waited for around 20 minutes. The organisers of the festival had hired traffic control teams and stationed them outside of the park to help to manage traffic levels in a more effective manner. On Saturday morning, the workers that were taking on this role, actually appeared to struggle with the amount of cars building up, as traffic could be seen queuing onto the A1. Although by Sunday the problems had been resolved and it was far easier to enter the site straight away without any problems at all.
Walking into the actual festival site was like walking into a wonderland. There was so much to see and do. At the entrance there were dancing trees, a clown on stilts, floating bubbles, balloons, brightly coloured flags, music and more. This was a festival that had it all. At the back of the site there was access to an inflatable village, a fun fair with a large Ferris wheel, Helter Skelters, smaller rides, traditional fairground stalls and games. There was also a climbing wall, a real life arcade where children and parents alike could be part of games like Whack-a-mole, giant Jenga and Tetris. It felt like everyone was able to be a character from the blockbuster Ready Player one. I won't forget to mention there were also plenty of access to toilet facilities, water stations, nappy changing and breastfeeding tents as well smaller live shows including stunts, imaginative plays and a brilliant live Dino show which my son watched numerous times. Children were asked to volunteer to meet a 'real' baby T-Rex, aptly named Rex in a fun and interactive segment.
The whole weekend was presented by former CBeebies presenter Alex Winters. What a brilliant choice. Not only did he introduce acts on stage, he also entertained the audiences in between set times, he was also casually walking around the site meeting everyone and would cover all of the site to promote other events going on around the site that weren't featured on the main (Castle) stage. As the weekend event fell in the middle of a heatwave, what was also great about Alex was that he was there to be an assistance to parents to advise children to put on their sun creams, wear protective clothing like hats and drink plenty of water. This worked very well. Also regarding the heatwave – Winters was often seen on stage throwing out water balloons and buckets of water to the crowds of people in front of the main stage to keep everyone cool, which actually was really helpful in the scorching temperatures.
There was also a great variety of food provided by vendors at the event. On offer were ice-creams, deluxe milkshakes (at a whopping £8 each!), stone baked pizzas, the traditional burgers and fries, sushi, vegan and oriental street food and plenty of sugary treats for the little ones.
Before I get to the performers that were featured at the weekend event, I would like to share with you all just how much there was to do on site. We never once got bored as there was always something else to take part in or see. My son was able to part in a wide variety of craft activities, which was actually really lovely as it meant taking something home. All craft activities were FREE, but were happy to receive donations should ticket holders want to offer to support their organisations. An example of just some of the crafts included making bug bling and pine cone insects by the lovely people from The Fairyland Trust, wicker craft which meant shaping and decorating either balloons, wings or baskets, wooden staff carving – so ideal to bring out your inner explorer or wizard. Also clay modelling, soap carving, ceramic tile decorating inside the Messy Kids workshop tent.
Over the weekend there were so many amazing performances including shows from Sohan Bollywood – pretty self explanatory, but it was a colourful, fun and interactive Bollywood dance show where parents and children were invited up onto the stage to dance along. Also Junior Frood – a teen dancer who has amazing talent at such a young age. He does all of his own choreography, has already danced alongside pop star Justin Bieber and is soon on his way to Hollywood to work with celebrity choreographer Brian Friedman. Other very amusing and interactive shows came from CBeebies presenters Sid & Rebecca (who are well known for their imaginative TV programme "Let's Play") and also the very funny and cheeky pirates Cook & Line from the very popular children's television programme "Swashbuckle".
Here is some information of some of the most standout performances of the weekend:
Andy and The Oddsocks – Saturday
Andy Day is probably one of, if not the most famous of the CBeebies presenters. He is easily recognisable for his height, big hair and his smiley, jolly nature. Andy is well known for his many adventures on CBeebies shows including "Andy's Wild Adventures", "Andy's dinosaur Adventures", "Andy's Prehistoric Adventures" and most recently his "Safari Adventures" on the pre-school aged television channel. Now he will be known for something completely different. For being in a band! Andy and The Oddsocks have recently recorded and released their debut album, titled "Who Invited This Lot?" which is solely aimed at young children. At the beginning of the set, we got to meet The Oddsocks (Blu, Moxy and Mac) first as they entered the main stage. Of course there was a big build up to introduce the main man himself (Andy Day) as band member Mac worked the audience to encourage everyone to chant "Andy! Andy! Andy!"
Day ran onto the stage to greet the crowds of screaming pre-schoolers and some very enthusiastic mothers. Haha! The set was highly energetic and involved a lot of audience participation including bouncing giant inflatable footballs around the arena. The band told the stories behind each one of their very catchy songs that they performed including:"Aliens", "Ninja Pig", "Groover Hoover" – which saw the introduction of Hetty The Highland Hoover, "Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match" and the song with a heartfelt meaning "Unique".
I was also lucky enough to meet Andy Day backstage for a chat before they were due to grace the main stage to discuss more about Andy and The Oddsocks. He was just as everyone imagines him to be, so down to earth and just lovely. My son was also clearly very star struck when he got to meet his hero. Thank you to Andy for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me.
To find out what's next for Andy and The Oddsocks and to check out my interview with Andy click on the video link below:
Katy Ashworth – Saturday and Sunday
Katy is best known for her presenting role on children's television programmes "I Can Cook!" and "I Can Cook With You". The presenter is currently heavily pregnant, but this certainly wasn't going to hold her back from putting on some amazing shows. How she had that much energy I do not know. She is a role model for not only children but mothers alike. She sang a couple of traditional children's songs, one of them being the very popular "Wheels On The Bus" and also songs from "I Can Cook" which I even ended up singing along to, but there was a lot of amusing puns and innuendo within her show aimed at parents so that it was certainly something that we could all genuinely really enjoy too. I remember at one point she asked parents "Who out there eats the children's left overs?"many people admitted to this so she continued with "Oh yes, a lovely soggy fish finger on a Wednesday night after Brownies!" Katy also had the audience interacting by playing a giant game of "Fruit Bowl" which is a game where children, mums and dads all had to impersonate and represent a piece of fruit whenever she called out it's name. Towards the end of her segment she also invited three dads up onto the stage to help her 'cook' were they helped her make a banana milkshake and the winner was presented with a wooden spatula with her name on it and the runners up being given wooden spoons with the same inscription.
Mr Bloom & His Band – Sunday
Mr Bloom is a very popular CBeebies character played by Cornish actor Ben Faulks. He is a keen gardener and has been involved in programmes including "Mr Bloom's Nursery" and "Here And There" where he teaches children about nature, the importance of gardening and also goes on day trips with children (or as he calls them 'Tiddlers') and their families. The famous gardener strolled out onto a stage that was surrounded by giant inflatable fruit and vegetables as he introduced everyone to his band before shortly bursting into song while playing his ukulele as they performed the well known theme tune for his programme "Here And There". The show included a fruit and vegetable guessing game to which children in the audience won whatever food item Mr Bloom was showing on stage. I've never known young children to be so excited over a piece of fruit or a vegetable. Many families could do with their own Mr Bloom in their households at mealtimes if that's what it takes to get children to eat their 5-a-day. Like Katy Ashworth's set there was also a lot of innuendo filled humour for the grown ups too. Even a discussion about the possibility of the band playing music by Metallica.
Justin Fletcher – Sunday
Justin Fletcher, MBE, is the man behind many lovable children's characters. He is most famously known for his TV show "Something Special" where he appears as a clown like character named Mr Tumble. He teaches children how to use Makaton in their daily lives. This form of sign language makes Mr Tumble a firm favourite in many family households and he is held dear to the hearts of families with children who may have physical or learning difficulties. His show started in the most spectacular way possible, he was supported by backing dancers as he came out singing original single, the infectious "Just Party" while confetti cannons were released and filled the grounds in front of the Castle stage with bright colours. He soon went on to sing "Happy Birthday" in case anyone at the event were celebrating a birthday around the time of the festival. Fletcher also went on to announce that his TV show "Something Special" is 15 years old this year and that he has been in the business for an impressive 20 years! He followed the announcement with a huge thank you to everyone for their support over those years. There was also a further announcement that the presenter had to share with his fans, he told everyone that there will be a new series of "Gigglebiz" on it's way and that there's only 2 more weeks of filming. Exciting stuff. As "Gigglebiz" was mentioned he went on to bring some other well known characters of his to life including Arthur Sleep, Keith Fit and Gail Force. His show also included a the biggest "Hokey Cokey" with the whole arena getting involved and other songs including "Let's Go Fly A Kite", "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", and "Wibble and Wobble". There was also a chance for both parents and children to show him their Makaton skills before he closed his set by singing "The Goodbye Song". Justin Fletcher not only put on an amazing show, but he clearly had an amazing time himself too.
My little family had the best time at Geronimo Festival, it really is a festival like no other and is perfect for the whole family to enjoy. This is a festival that I highly recommend to everyone and one that I hope to return to in 2019. Some details for the 2019 weekend have already been put into place including the line up. For more information about what Geronimo has in store for all of the Geronimites in 2019 check out their website.
Photos by Kane Howie
For more photos CLICK HERE!!