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Wings, Wellies & Wands

I'm just back from a day of fairy super-cuteness at the Spellbound Fairy and Goblin Festival in Plymouth and, I have to tell you, very quickly, if you're at a loose end with kids tomorrow,  you should get yourself along, too.  It's a h-u-u-g-e Muddy thumbs up!

I’ve been hearing lovely things about the performances coming out of the Soapbox Children’s Theatre, based at Devonport Park for a little while now.  Two years ago, husband and wife team Iain and Jacqueline took over a semi-derelict WWII mustard gas decontamination unit in the grounds of the park (as you do) and, using mainly crowdfunding and grants, have been developing the building into a teeny tiny little theatre hub for children, from baby age up to teens.

The long-term plan is to develop the building into an amphitheatre, with roof top classroom and stage, but until then the show must go on, dahlings, and it certainly has here.  In the two years since launching, thousands of families have been mesmerised by imaginative performances, by resident theatre company Stiltskin Arts & Theatre CIC; most recently SPLASH!, an immersive show for babies and toddlers, and a dark tale of Rumpelstiltskin for the over 7s.

And back to this weekend, it’s an amazing mini-festival for wannabe woodland-dwellers! The two-day event takes place in and around the Soapbox Theatre in the park and you can’t fail to get at least a little bit caught up in the magic when you see the captivated looks on the faces of the small people.

Fancy dress is encouraged, of course and so you’ll see plenty of tutus, wings and wands about the place and help is at hand if you didn’t get the memo.  You can opt for a session in make-up if you like, as there’s a pro make-up artist there, ready to paint a bit of sparkle on your mug.  I don’t know whether I witnessed more adults than children queuing up today.  Kids can also make their own magic wands, using willow sticks and an abundance of arts and crafts materials in the fairy craft pavilion.

The big-top is the place to go and dance to a revolving line-up of musicians, from jazz to folk, whilst outdoors you’ll come across Clive Pig the Story Fella, or Isabella Necessity Storyteller and discover various random spots to learn circus skills, or how to be a, erm, knight.  There are wood-fired pizzas being cooked and coffee on tap and plenty of space undercover to shelter should the weather turn dodgy.

And then into the Soapbox theatre itself which, somehow manages to house a cute little cafe and toyshop, too.  Throughout the day, a programme of workshops and shows are performed. The Mudlet particularly enjoyed the Toddler Dance Workshop, learning how to cast spells and run about the woods, although she kept running off to stare behind the curtains at poor Spangles the Clown who was patiently waiting backstage for his turn.

I can’t tell you everything I saw and I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, either, but I was hugely impressed by how much is cleverly packed into this festival. It’s innocent, traditional fun that helps to get kids using their imaginations and growing their confidence.  And whilst there’s not a tablet or games console in sight, I don’t think I saw a single toddler tantrum explode anywhere the whole day, which sends a pretty strong message, I think.

So, it’s all happening again tomorrow, people – go, spread some fairy dust and have fun! And send me a pic of your frilliest 90s throwback rave look – you know that clobber is still in the wardrobe somewhere!

Spellbound Fairy and Goblin Festival, Sun 21 May from 11am.  To book tickets visit: stiltskin.org.uk 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Devon