Yesterday, at the end of a very hectic day which had already involved one ballet lesson and two birthday parties (one for each child, in different places, thankfully at non-overlapping times!), the entire geek family headed down the road to Queen’s Park in Crewe. We’d been given tickets to The Lost Carnival, a theatrical circus family entertainment event which we’d enjoyed so much when it first appeared in Bury last year. We had high hopes – the kids both remembered it from last year, and earlier this month we’d all enjoyed A Day At The Lake, another production from the same team. So we were all looking forward to another fun family adventure.
We arrived at Queen’s Park in Crewe, and found the free event parking, which was clearly signposted. If you’re travelling to the event I recommend setting your satnav for “Victoria Avenue, Crewe”, and not for any specific postcode you might find, because the post code I used took us into a cul-de-sac with no sign of the carnival! When we headed back and got onto the right road, the parking was quickly obvious. There is loads of parking available. Due to aforementioned birthday parties we didn’t arrive until the last admission time of 6.30pm, so we didn’t see what the carnival was like at it’s peak, but the playing field being used as parking was no more than a third full when we arrived.
We arrived, collected our wristbands and programme, and headed in to the event. Just beyond the entrance there was a tunnel to walk through, and we immediately had the impression that we were arriving somewhere special as we walked through the area decorated with photos of different carnival acts.
Having listened to the podcast I already knew that the story behind this year’s Carnival was two rival families battling it out for survival. The Ingenue family, bright, colourful and the heroes of last year’s event, and the Bird family, dark, mysterious, and the villains of last year’s event – but is there more to them that meets the eye? The scene was set as we left the tunnel…
The location for this year’s Lost Carnival was perfect. There is loads of open space at Queen’s Park, and a footpath running through the middle of the site acted as a natural division between the Bird side and the Ingenue side of the carnival. The park bandstand was put to good use as the venue for the hourly battles between the two families.
What became clear very quickly was that there was loads to see and do at this event. There were several locations around the park where performances were clearly going to take place, and I was pleased that each one had a board in front of it saying what times the performances would be, so we could plan our movement around accordingly. Each act did plenty of performances over the course of the evening, which meant we didn’t miss seeing any of them.
There was a group called Pif-Paf – a team of acrobats performing on what looked like a giant hamster wheel. There was also an aerial show, an acrobat, and a fantastic trampoline act. It appeared that all the performers had several different shows – I caught sight of things happening in some performances that we didn’t see on the ones we chose to attend. I felt if we’d been able to be at the event for longer there were some of these acts which we would have gone back and watched a second time, just to see the different variations.
In addition to the performances that took place in fixed locations, there were a number of “roaming” performances to enjoy as well. We spent a lot of time with both the Ingenue and Bird jugglers. Like other Wild Rumpus events that we’ve attended, you can go right up to the performers, and ask them questions or just chat to them. They were all solidly in character, showing their allegiances to either the Bird or the Ingenue family.
The Voodoo Love Orchestra played music to accompany the event, and moved from being out in the park to playing on the bandstand. The geekdaughter enjoyed watching them.
The geekson was less convinced…
As we’ve come to expect at Wild Rumpus events there was a good selection of food vendors to choose from (the geekdaddy chose Poutine, and I had the chicken and chorizo paella). Drinks, both soft and alcoholic, were available, and the kids managed to persuade us to buy them ice creams as well.
Another thing we’ve come to expect at Wild Rumpus events are the “curiosities”, and we were delighted to see some of these at The Lost Carnival. I was fascinated by the mobile piano:
And then there was this pile of luggage, complete with talking head:
And that’s before I tell you about the tattooed lady, or the bicycle fortune teller, or the charleston dance-off, or the chance to meet the key players from the Bird and Ingenue families, or the opportunities for kids to try drawing in the shade of one of the huge trees, the selection of hula hoops for them to play with, or the Big Tops where they can make their own rosette to show which family they support. But the activity both my kids enjoyed the most was the area where a collection of cable spools had been put together to make stepping stones.
In fact the geekson enjoyed this activity so much that whilst we were sitting near the food trucks whilst the geekdaughter ate her pizza, he just got up and wandered back across the park to play on them again. My shy, nervous boy felt confident enough to just wander off on his own to play – something he doesn’t do readily. And that’s kind of the point of The Lost Carnival. It felt SAFE. It was relaxed, it was laid back, it was full of families. People entered into the spirit of the event, and were wearing costumes (everything from off-the-peg Anna and Elsa dresses to beautiful carnival-style costume creations). There was no rush, no pressure. Everyone was friendly, and talkative. We could have a chat with the food vendors as they prepared our meals. It was a truly delightful experience.
All too soon it was 9pm, and the climax of the event – the final battle of the families. Both families performed, and then it was up to the audience to choose which should win.
We pinned our colours to the Ingenue mast, but at the end of the day more people were in the Bird corner, and we had to admit defeat (the geekson was a little sad about that, but it was well past his bedtime and he was quite tired!).
And then, time to head home. We were at The Lost Carnival for about two and a half hours, and whilst we felt we had seen everything, I could have spent another hour or so there. If I was to go again I think I would aim to arrive about 5pm, after the initial rush has died down, and stay right through to the end. There was certainly enough to do to fill the time, as long as you’re prepared to embrace the slower pace of life that seems to happen at a Wild Rumpus event. If you’ve been to other Wild Rumpus events before, this one will feel remarkably comfortable. If you haven’t, then you’re in for a real treat of a family afternoon out. We loved it, and highly recommend it.
The Lost Carnival continues on 29 and 30 May at Queen’s Park, Crewe, Cheshire with tickets available online a day in advance via the Lost Carnival website, or on the gate on the day. (£12, Under 3s go free). Also look out for more family adventures from Wild Rumpus at La Lune (Barnaby Festival 18 – 25 June) and Just So Festival (19 – 21 August)
Disclosure: I was provided with tickets for the family and me to attend The Lost Carnival in Crewe on Saturday 28th May. All words and opinions are my own.