Elements or Lower

Mon, 28 Jul 2008

Nick Jr’s Jump Up Event

I’m happy to admit that I’ve developed quite a soft spot for much of my daughter’s favourite television. Kids’ TV is at its best when peppered with little gags intended for parents, such as Ming Ming’s asides in The Wonder Pets, or practically anything in The Backyardigans. So it was with pleasure that we hauled ourselves over to Milton Keynes on Saturday afternoon for Nick Jr’s Jump Up event.

Sportacus from Lazy Town, played by Magnus Scheving: that's why Mum's gone to Iceland

The event is set up to have a stage show, featuring a variety of characters from the channel’s trademark shows, surrounded by a selection of food stalls and themed activities around the perimeter. Tickets are free but strictly limited, and of course the whole event is a grand exercise in brand loyalty — ours is not a CBeebies household, and that’s the way the organisers would like to keep it.

Zoë, naturally, was just a shade overexcited and certainly overwhelmed, and after a couple of hours was more than ready to be taken home. This helped spare us much of the dramatic queuing for the various perimeter activities — that, and the fact that Zoë’s at the very youngest point of the target demographic, so almost all of them would have been beyond her.

The staff were friendly, and entirely unfrazzled by shepherding around 3000 very small children, together with their parents. The weather was glorious, the ice cream welcome, and the venue spacious. But that’s not to say it was an unqualified success: there are a handful of things that sprang easily to mind that could have turned it from good to great.

The queues for each of the activities were colossal, and small children and long queues in hot sunshine are a recipe for trouble. Much of the event felt like it was designed for a smaller number of visitors, in a venue able to accommodate a great many more. The longest queue, from what we could tell, was for the Thomas the Tank Engine bouncy castle. It needed more of these, even if they weren’t as strictly themed.

And whilst seeing her favourite characters on stage was lovely, I can’t help thinking that the kids would have adored being able to actually meet them in the flesh, as it were. Not for nothing does Disney have Mickey and Pluto patrol the grounds of Disneyworld, and although anyone who signs up to be accosted by a riot of toddlers whilst in a giant foam suit deserves every penny they’re paid, I’m certain the effect of Dora, Fifi and Piper O’Possum roaming the MK Bowl would have been just as successful.

Finally, and I don’t want to be churlish, but the stageshow went to great efforts to make it clear that you can see Arnie and Barney, or Stephanie and Sportacus, or Pablo and Uniqua, every day on Nick Jr — we know this already guys; that’s why we’re here!