A day at Norden Farm… on a unicycle!
I rode a unicycle!
Ok, so this doesn’t have quite the same iconic weight as ‘I carried a watermelon’ but hey, let me have my moment. On Good Friday, me and the Mudlets spent the day at Norden Farm in Maidenhead experiencing its popular ‘Give it a Go’ day, part of the art centre’s month long ‘Jump In!’ festival which runs throughout the Easter school holidays.
‘Give it a Go’ is basically a day of workshops for children aged 5 to 11+ and their families. Workshops range from a Teddies Music Club for pre-schoolers to circus skills, podcasting and making chocolate lollipops for older children and their parents.
Me and the littlest Mudlet kicked off with circus skills, led by award-winning circus company Albert and Friends. What I loved was the fact we really did some seriously awesome stuff – they didn’t just fob us off with a few bean bags to juggle (although we did try juggling, because what circus clown doesn’t know how to juggle? Uh, me it turns out). We did tightrope walking (granted, only a few feet off the ground, but it was brilliant fun!) giant ball walking and unicycling – which is as hard as it looks, although my daughter got it within about two tries and was sooo chuffed. I managed a wobbly attempt while clinging to the wall and sort of dragging myself along – yep, that looked stylish I can tell you. Cirque du Soleil isn’t going to be on the blower anytime soon, but at least I can say I gave it a go! There was loads of other equipment laid out on the stage so we could try plate spinning, flower sticks, juggling etc. and we had such an awesome time the hour was over in a flash.
While we were crashing headlong into walls on our unicycles, my older Mudlet was trying his hand at comic book animation – which he really enjoyed. Animator and illustrator Lawrence Dodgson taught the children how to tell a story in comic form, and create a quick animation using an old record player! This was a workshop for older children 8-10, and numbers for all the workshops are kept small so you really do get individual attention and an intense hour of the subject.
We all joined in the next workshop together as it was a family session – making chocolate! Now you’re talking. We made our own chocolate bars using melted chocolate and moulds, then got to decorate them with literally thousands of sweets laid out on the table. Trying to keep every child (and adult) in the room from not eating the sweets was how chocolate maker Rosie spent most of the hour. All brilliant fun, and the resulting chocolate bar was seriously delicious – smooth, creamy quality Belgian milk chocolate. We made lollipops too and got to wrap everything beautifully with bags and labels, it all looked very professional! Rosie is the owner of The Chocolate Factory in Wargrave and does children’s parties so I’ll definitely blog more about that soon.
The Mudlets became the Sorcerer’s Apprentice next at a magic workshop run by celebrity magician Maximillian Somerset. He’s pretty darn nifty – being the star of BAFTA nominated CBBC show, The Sorcerers Apprentice. I stuck my head in for a bit and was so impressed at how he calmly handled some of the ‘livelier’ children in the group. Now, my children seriously love their magic so I was hoping this was going to impress them – and it did. Max taught them some really good tricks, and they got to take all their magic essentials home including trick rope, cards and cups (for the classic cup and ball trick – I now know how it’s done – mwah ha ha!).
While they were practising their wizardry, I had a nose at a few other sessions and was really impressed with the quality of people running the workshops. The range of stuff to try is impressive too – from create your own monster make-up (below) to How to Own the Stage – a crash course in posing, attention-seeking and upstaging – enough said.
Around 650 children took part in over 40 different workshops on the day but despite that it never felt too crowded as it was organised so well and there are lots of great rooms and spaces at Norden Farm to make use of. The café ran as normal and we had a great lunch in between sessions. Fish finger butties for me and the kids had burgers – apart from service being a little slow because of so many people coming through the doors that day, the food at the café was really good.
Norden Farm’s Jump In! festival continues until Sat 9 April and there are still tickets available so do head over there and give something a try – it’s such a lovely venue with a great line-up of shows, workshops, arts & crafts sessions and more for children and adults. All the details of what’s on during the festival are on the website.
Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Altwood Road, Maidenhead SL6 4PF. Tel: 01628 788997. norden.farm