I’ve literally just taken a pair of scissors and snipped off my ‘artist’ wristband, the final part of the festival ritual, and as the ribbon hit the ground a mini-montage of colourful, sunny memories played through my mind. Always one for some festival action, I jumped at the chance to Join Tilly and help run now>press>play activities at the family oriented Camp Bestival in Dorset. Having worked in the same shared work space as Tilly and Alice for over a year, I felt I knew quite a lot about their company; phone calls to schools, conversations with teachers, meetings about headphones and sound effects. So, I was excited to finally see what they do out in the field, quite literally, and maybe even get to don the funky pink cans myself.
Each day we held two workshops outside the amazing Science Tent, where, among other things, you could make beats with Playdough with the amazing Technology Will Save Us, use a 3D printer, make electro-zebra masks and paint fossils. Each now>press>play workshop took us on a Mission to Mars, through animal Habitats, and back in time to Ancient Egypt! First we rounded up a large groups of children, inviting them to join us for a trip to Mars, the shiny headphones glinting like gems in the sunlight. Parents were equally interested in bouncing across the surface of Mars – although when they realised that this was no intergalactic baby sitting scheme, they sighed whistfully.
Once the headphones were on, the participants began their journey. This was a wonderful sight; 30 children all zipping up their spacesuits and taking their first tentative steps into a realm where gravity is weak, all experiencing their own Neil Armstrong moment in the sun. The strong but pleasant sea breeze blew consistently from the nearby coast, carrying along shoals of bubbles that whizzed by like stars, adding extra sensory stimulation and making hurtling through space or the dust hurricane all the more believable. Predictably, passers by were curious about this seemingly silent adventure, and more and more children (and parents) picked up headphones and joined the journey. Many asked when the next session would be and returned with friends and siblings to experience the different adventures. There’s surely no better feedback than return visits!
Although it’s not science based, I think the Ancient Egypt Experience was my favourite as it conjured up the best images in my head, especially when rowing away from crocodiles while holding the Pharaoh’s spirit, in the form on a cat, underneath one arm!
I look forward to hearing the other now>press>play Experiences, I didn’t realise there were 20 of them, all linked to the curriculum and co-written by teachers. I’m particularly keen on hearing the Climate Change experience, and to see how relevant sessions can be taken outdoors successfully, which is the focus of my work with children for the charity I work for, Learning Through Landscapes.
All in all, we had a fantastic weekend, and I had as much fun as the children. I’m sure that images of dusty craters on Mars, shark-filled oceans and crocodile chases in ancient Egypt are as much a part of the memories of the happy festival families as they are mine.