These last few weeks, we have been branching out and daring to socialise a bit more in the world of Small Children and have been to two events in particular which both Wriggles and I loved. Both I was quite apprehensive about booking as her attention span is notorious for being similar to that of a gnat. However, they were both rarely affordable so we braved them and I'm so glad we did!
These last weeks, we went to Wriggles' first "gig" if you can call it that! Folk duo Megson have recently produced an album specifically for young children. "When I was a Lad" is a mix of traditional songs and ones written by Debbie and Stuart Hanna. The self-penned songs fit in beautifully with the older songs. One of our favourites is "All The Shops Have Fallen Down" which is an amusing ode to the decline of the British high street. We listened to a few songs on Soundcloud before going, but most of it was a surprise and all new. The layout of the Sage's Hall Two meant that as soon as we went in, I met my attention-nemesis: stairs. "s'Deps!" gleefully shouted my toddler. I tried to hurry her down them only for her to find an identical few on the other side of the room. However that side was slightly less busy as the floorspace was filled with soft mats and small children, so I resigned myself to creeping up and down some stairs in the dark between songs. We are still very much experimenting with "no" and sometimes, in public, an easy life is called for! I managed to wrestle her onto my lap for the first song, which was rather lucky as tears began to prick my eyes once the music started. It was even quite a jolly song, but something about the rawness of music has a terrible habit of choking me up these days. In the worst bits of PTSD, I used to regularly get panic attacks at music groups and all but cut out listening to music other than the drone of a radio as it made me "feel" too much. Inviting it back into our lives has been really quite joyous; and also is a stark reminder how much I struggled without realising to have something so simple, wonderful and unrelated cut me up so much. The concert was one of those rare occassions where time slips by, and before you know it a good half an hour has elapsed. A few songs I half-recognised from a folk-based childhood and many were easy to pick up. Megson knew their audience well, and had two bubble machines which had a captive audience is raptures. It could have easily turned into fairy-liquid-based pandemonium, but the music was still the overriding element and the bubbles seemed to work in engaging the children more rather than detracting from the experience. We loved every minute; despite not sitting still for more than a minute (and attempting to shamefully charm a poor Granny between songs) Wriggles really did appear to enjoy herself. We listen to the CD regualrly at home, and she has picked up very quickly on certain favourites and the odd sounds and actions. Clearly you don't have to sit still to take it all in! Since the gig, Wriggles claps enthusiastically after she hears every song, be it on their CD, any old rubbish on the radio and sometimes after I start caterwauling a nursery rhyme. She has always seemed very at home at music-based toddler groups and responded best to sounds out of sensory input, so I'm so glad that live music seems to be a natural progression. I've been eagerly devouring the Sage brochure for any further child-friendly events and can't wait to start collecting ticket stubs together. Music was an integral part of my own growing up and is something I really want her to experience, especially in this growing digital age. We will have no hesitation in seeing Megson again and if they are touring near you, do go.
Last weekend was awful, Wriggles caught a stomach bug and as soon as she recovered swiftly passed it on to me. Neither of us could hold even water down, so when we were both human again a treat seemed in order. Northern Ballet have developed a ballet for pre-school children; "The Ugly Duckling". When I'd first seen a flyer I really wanted to take Wriggles, but held out any hope of getting her to sit still for 45 minutes. However after 36 hours of being hunched over a bowl, I thought just leaving the house was worth a try so we headed over to Dance City and I prayed she was not feeling too energetic. As luck would have it, there was a trio of real musicians to play the score and our seats were very nearby. Even if the dancers had never made it on the stage, I suspect Wriggles would have sat transfixed by the sounds of the cello, oboe and flute. Her eyes constantly fitted between the dancing and any new notes creeping in. The choreography had a great mix of humour with a fairly clear narrative as well as showcasing a great first introduction to ballet. Although the audience seemed to be a good 80% or more small girls in tiaras with fairy wands, I didn't think there was anything overtly girly about the production and the boys dancing were both athletic and very funny, especially as frogs. My Wriggler only started to become antsy towards the very, very end which I was very surprised by. Evidently she was drawn into the spectacle as much as I! Northern Ballet are going to produce another show for the pre-school audience in October 2013 which we will definitely look out for. I knew that they have struggled with funding over the last few years, and it was both heartening and a relief to know that quality dance is still accessible and thriving in the North. Whilst it is brilliant we have the plethora of companies and arts organisations in London and the south, it is so important that everyone gets the chance especially whilst young, to be introduced to all these platforms. It might not be everyone's cup of tea and it might not be a priority in these economic times, but arts and culture is something which makes gloomier times bearable and encourages routes of expression which can otherwise become bottled up. My degree was in the arts and I was quite passionate about people having the right to be part of the arts, no matter what background and after graduating become a little jaded and cynical by how the jobs market was and how arts funding seemed to be dropping off the face of the planet. Now Wriggles is at the stage where she is interested in the world, I care a lot more again. I want her to grow up in a world where she can see dancing ducklings and know what a violin sounds like! I've noticed that adverts for The Ugly Duckling have been appearing for it on Cbeebies (albeit gatecrashed by Mr Bloom and friends; please no ballerina potatoes to ruin it) and I do urge to watch it. Live it was an absolute delight and one I would happily go back to see again even without a toddler!