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It's on again, and again, but little kids love it
Children have their own special weekend every year at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts Writer's Week. If you have never taken your children, you are missing something special, but be warned, it is a very poplar event for all. I have attended probably on five occasions so here are my observations.
Maisy the mouse is a special visitor at the Story Tent and sure pulled in the crowd. Find a spot and take your seat early. Image by Out and About.
The activities for the children's weekend are based at the grassed area beside the Torrens Parade ground on King William Road, opposite Elder Park. This area seems to have outgrown the size of the event. It has become very crowded, and feels cramped. It is also difficult to walk around the sloping grass near the big story tent. The event now attracts hundreds of children and their families, strollers and screaming overtired babies over the weekend.
We usually go very early, with morning tea packed in our backpack to enjoy later at a quiet spot under the trees. The food and drinks for sale are ridiculous prices. A small bottle glass bottle of orange juice was $5, so we stuck to our water bottles, sultanas, cheese and biscuits. The food for sale caters to the adults over at the nearby venue, listening to authors talks all day in the shade. Squashed in beside the kids activities are the tables and chairs for the coffee area catering to the adults from the writer's talks event nearby. These facilities need to moved closer to that event. A parent with kids is not having time to sit and sip a leisurely coffee, so it is out of place here near the kids area. The tents take up a lot of space and it is not easy finding a place to sit. However there is some nice shade on under the huge plane trees towards the women's pioneer garden which make a cool spot if it is a warm day. Toilets are somewhat hidden on the bitumen area of the Torrens Parade Ground.
The huge story tent has sitting room only, where you sit and hear a story read aloud. Image by Out and About.
The aim of the weekend is to share the love of books and reading with children. May I add, it also a way to market books to children. Sadly I don't feel the event in the past has anything much to do with writing as far as children are concerned, but then again writers' festivals are generally all about the authors of books and talking about them. Nothing changes for kids events. The kids authors are here of course, and although entertaining it's a case of the same every year. I have attended here a number of times over the past five years with some young children, and am left wondering why there is no opportunity for children to do some writing. Or for that matter the opportunity to do anything creative; that is to say something they can entirely create on their own.
The activities are craft orientated. That is to say, they are pre organised and kids just make a copy of what is already been designed or organised for them. To cater to the hundreds that queue, this may be the only way to allow them a turn at something. There are many fabulous volunteers that allow this to happen. The only things they can create themselves is a painting on small pieces of paper, which suits children of kindergarten age. However, I am pleased to see this year there is a poetry writing segment, so perhaps some creativity on the child's part creeping in to this event.
The silk screening activity at the 2015 Kids Weekend. Image by Out and About.
Dressing up at the Nylon Zoo. Then kids are made to parade around through the crowded cafe area, with parents running behind to ensure they are watching over them. It is a bit hectic. Image by Out and About.
Looking at the program for 2016 it almost reads the same as the program of years ago. The Nylon Zoo returns which is a fabulous told story session, but you must book in as soon as you arrive. In past years children have enjoyed the printing press where kids are assisted by the staff to use the huge antique manual printing press to print their own poster. This has been designed by some adults before the event, so not really their own artwork. Other arty activities are on offer, such as silk screening. The arts activities may change this year but there is always plenty to do. Afterwards kids can relax on the rug and play with some large floor puzzles.
There is a huge marquee for the story time sessions with guest authors, and other tent areas for the arts activities. The event overall is suitable for toddlers to lower school aged children to around 8 years. I think older kids would find the event slim on stimulation. Hopefully the poetry writing will be popular with older kids.
There is painting, printing and puzzles on a rug all at the Writers Weekend for Kids. Image by Out and About.
In summary, this is a fabulous free event, but it has run its course and needs a revamp, with a new and innovative program. I would like to see kids coming along who want to write and to give them some activities or mini workshops to do. If you have been here many times before I would suggest giving it a miss this year, and allow the masses that go with younger kids to have a turn. There is so much on in Adelaide at this festival time that will be of more interest to kids who have been here before.
If you are lucky your Grandpa will give you money to buy a brand new book from the bookstore tent. Image by Out and About.