Monday, 13 October 2008

How to manage a children's party

What can I say. It's been a really long time hasn't it. And I haven't even had the excuse of being on holiday either. Quite the opposite in fact - I've been working. I finished on Friday and now I've got a bit of a taste for it. I mean, after all you get paid and everything. Unlike managing a band. Hmm.

I didn't go to In The City this year.

Actually, hang on, I didn't go to In The City last year either. But this year Isosceles were playing and frankly, I really wanted to go. For starters, in these times of global financial meltdown, the opportunity to nail an A&R man's head to the side of the stage whilst they played a brilliant set would have been useful.

Anyway, I didn't go and the reason I didn't is really the crux of what this blog has always been about: family commitment versus rock and roll. You see, it was my daughter's 5th birthday the day the band had their show and I frankly, I wanted to be there with her rather than mingling with ITC delegates. The band were hugely understanding. They're like that.

So rather than spending Sunday morning travelling up to Manchester, I spent it packing party favour bags, making sure there were enough packets of middle class child-friendly crisps (Pombears - but other savoury snacks are available) and inflating balloons with helium.

There is much to compare organising a children's birthday party with putting on a rock show - you need a venue, a backstage area where you can put the rider (the snacks for grown-ups) and you REALLY need some entertainment.

My mum found the venue, a fantastic old school of music and drama bang in the middle of Walthamstow Village complete with a stage, a grand piano and lots of space to run around in. We were going for a Willy Wonka theme this year as Maddy has become obsessed with the Gene Wilder film. Quite pleasing actually as I bought it for a couple of quid in Fopp and gave it to her on the off chance - she of course was entirely ungracious and said "That's the wrong one" meaning: it's not the one with Johnny Depp in it. The Tim Burton film is good of course but doesn't have glorious Gene, Anthony Newley songs or Roy Kinear doing his brilliant obsequious dad bit to Veruca Salt. But how to make that clear to a five year old? In the end I let her discover it in her own time and as I say, it worked its wonders eventually. She can sing all the songs now and frequently watches it on her own. Not that she doesn't still bang on about the Depp version, though.

Robyn found the entertainment. A children's entertainer who claimed to do a Wonka themed birthday thing - she arrived earlier, equipped with hardly any props but loads of ideas. We then found the Wonka font online which we used to do invites with - sprinkled with gold glitter as if each invitee had received a Wonka Golden Ticket. How great is that Wonka font by the way? So distinctive - kind of up there with the font Saul Bass used on loads of his film posters. Don't think there are any rock and roll fonts that compare to either of these are there? Maybe Malcolm Garrett's Buzzcocks font.

Eventually, Maddy's guests started arriving. How loud are children? Especially 17 of them. Blimey, we were glad when the talent arrived - she was dynamite - no props necessary just a constant level of energy that every parent envied. Once she'd legged it we had to distract them with lunch ("I can't eat that" "What are these?" "I don't like these sandwiches can you take them away..." etc) and pass the parcel to keep them occupied.

Robyn volunteered to operate the CD player for pass the parcel and frankly did a rubbish job "I can't see it - the writing's too small" She couldn't find the pause button. Oh well, we'd only had the machine for six months so understandable, I suppose. Meanwhile the kids didn't know how long they had to carry on passing the increasingly-ragged package around. "The Pause is the same button as the Play - just press it again!" I shouted helpfully. "Oh, right." And of course she stopped it so that the child left holding the parcel was the one who'd already taken a layer off. If they'd been old enough to know the vocab they would have been shouting "Fix! Fix!"

In the end, Maddy - that's right, a 5 year-old - suggested she might have a go and you know what, she did a great job. She even managed to remember who had already had a go taking a layer off so there were no upset children. Actually, I'm slightly worried that she may be too adept at controlling the CD and DVD players in the house. OK, so I probably set a bad/good example but she's racing ahead in her tastes as well. The other day, I caught her and her slightly older (7) friend watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show - I remember when I saw it aged 17 thinking that it was a bit racy. Still, she hasn't asked me to explain why Tim Currie was dressed like that yet so I think we got away with it. "My room, my rules" she says wagging her finger ghetto-style at me before she points to the MGMT cover and says, "Daddy, I'm marrying him" "Oh yes, that one right?" I say pointing at the one with the face paint "No, not him!" she laughs at me as if I'm a madman, "I'm marrying the
handsome one."

Fair enough. Girls know stuff like that, don't they? But at such a young age? Maddy and a friend (also 5) were sitting in the back on the car when I was playing Kings of Leon last week and she asked me to see the picture of them. They both looked at for some time,"Which one do you like?" I asked "Him" they both said after much deliberation, pointing at the bass player. And they were right, he is clearly the most handsome member.

Of course in amongst all this childcare and working, the world has very quickly being melting down. It's rather frightening and here is not really the place you want to read about something you hear every day on the radio but let me just say this... This is what the music business has felt like for a couple of years at least - freefalling economics with no parachute, no bailout and no alternative plan. Welcome, everyone else. Now, what are we all going to do?

By all accounts the band did a great show at In The City while I was picking tuna mayonnaise splats from the floor of the party venue. I must have been singing the Oompa Loompa songKitch Bitch.

while they were singing

1 comment:

  1. Love the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket invites - very clever :)

    I had a huge secret crush on Gene Wilder after seeing Willy Wonka when I was a wee one.

    Fun story all 'round Ben!

    Shannon O'Shea