We were invited by Wild Rumpus, the team behind the Just So festival, to experience their new offering, The Lost Carnival. Billed as a large scale, outdoor, immersive theatre event, taking place in Burrs Country Park, Bury over this Bank Holiday weekend, details of what to expect were pretty scarce. As part of the build-up to the event a series of podcasts were released, and from these I learned that a carnival was kind of a cross between a fair and a circus, and that this particalar carnival was going to have a story behind it as well. But beyond that I had no idea what to expect.
On arriving at Burrs Country Park we were directed to a large area of parking, From there we were directed to the ticket tent where we exchanged our tickets for wristbands which would give us access to the carnival area. Entry to the carnival is done in groups at specific times, so we waited around at the entrance until we were allowed in.
The whole group was ushered into a large tent, where we were given an overview of the back story to the Lost Carnival (so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t listened to the podcasts in advance). From the start we were encouraged to interact with the characters. After hearing the story of the lost phoenix we were then led into the main carnival field, and allowed to explore at our own pace.
It is difficult to describe the Lost Carnival, as it is a unique event. Part circus, part fair, part theatre, with a delightfully bohemian festival feel to it. Spread across two fields there were sideshows, food stalls, wandering performers, stages where performances took place intermittantly and even a marching band! In one area there were loads of hula hoops left spread around, and swarms of happy kids playing with them. We saw strange exhibits like a bearded lady and a pair of mermaids.There was a fortune teller and a fear eater, a strong man and a clown. There were lots of people there, but there was enough space and enough things to do that it never felt crowded. Every hour on the hour the main characters make their way to the stage area and play out a litle scene which tells some more of the story of the Lost Carrnival, and this is the only time you realise how many other people are there, as they all gather around. The whole thing culminates at 9pm with the grand finale to the story.
We absolutely loved the Lost Carnival. I was worried that the 9pm finale would be too late for the kids, but they became gripped by the story and both were keen to see what happened in the end. In fact it was the geekdaugter who insisted we took up position early so that she could be right at the front for it! The geekson was a little unsure of the whole thing to start with, but he soon settled down and threw himself into the whole experience. The whole thing was extremely family friendly, with the performers involving the kids right from the start. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the whole thing was completely family friendly.
The Lost Carnival is taking place at Burrs Country Park, Bury this weekend, with entry every 15 minutes between 4pm and 7.30pm. Once you have entered you may stay as long as you like until closing at about 9.30pm. There are still tickets available, which are priced at £10 per adult or child, with under 3s going free.
If you are heading to the Lost Carnival over the weekend, here are my top tips for making the most of the experience
- Listen to the podcasts. They do a great job of setting the scene for the Lost Carnival. There are four episodes altogether, with a total running time of an hour and a half.
- Wear wellies and wrap up warm. Even though it was a nice day today, the ground was still wet underfoot and after a few more people have walked around the site it is going to get muddy.
- Arrive 30 minutes before the timeslot on your ticket to allow time to park your car and collect your wristbands. It’s a good site, and everything is very close together, but make sure you allow a little time to get your wristbands before your time slot.
- Interact with the characters. All the performers were friendly, and one of the things that makes this show unique is the way the show is performed by the same people you can see in the sideshows. We went to see the fear eater, and the kids were really excited to see her on stage a few minutes later.
- Stay until the finale at 9pm. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but it is well worth it, and features one of the best entrances I’ve seen in any show.
- Be sure to explore both fields. We spent a lot of time in the first field before we realised that was only half of it!
- Don’t have tea before you go. There are plenty of food stalls, and the food is very nice. We particularly enjoyed the crepes and the burritos, but there is also pizza, hot dogs and vegetarian paella.
- Make your way to the main stage 5 or 10 minutes before each hour to get a good spot at the front. On the hour a siren will sound to warn everyone that a show is about to start, and at that point loads of people will suddenly materialise. If you’re in position early you’ll get the best view.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to The Lost Carnival for myself and the family. All opinions are my own.