Festival city keeps whole family happy
DAMON WILKINSON discovers that Edinburgh offers an event tailor-made to enthrall kids and inspire parents
AFTER becoming parents we assumed the weekend city break was a thing of the past.
Why would you spend a fortune dragging two hyperactive toddlers along to a place where most of the stuff you want to do – wander round aimlessly, go to the pub – ends in a tantrum and the things they want to do – roll around in the mud, eat ice-cream – can be done anywhere?
But what if there was a way of making everyone happy?
And that’s where Edinburgh comes in – specifically ‘Auld Reekie’ during the only one of the city’s 12 annual festivals aimed specifically at kids.
Every May and June the city’s smaller, off-beat arts venues, community centres and grand old buildings such as the National Museum of Scotland are taken over by performers for the eight-day Imaginate Festival. This year’s event involved 14 shows from nine different countries decamping to Edinburgh, and there’s stuff for all ages. Our girls are two and three and the youngest finds it hard to sit still through a five-minute episode of Peppa Pig. So it was with more than a little trepidation we took our seats (or cushions on the floor) for Poggle, a 40-minute ‘playful, high energy’ dance piece, about a boy who finds friendship with a wood nymph, at a tiny theatre in the Old Town – just round the corner from the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books.
But we needn’t have worried as both of them were rapt from the start. It helped that the children were encouraged to play with the branches that littered the apron of the stage and weren’t frowned upon when they occasionally stood up and walked around.
But they also loved the dancing and percussion, which saw the lead characters stomping around while playing the drums on their bellies.
We were packing two shows into a busy afternoon, but we still had time inbetween to make the most of the distinctly un-Scottish sunshine and meet up with some relatives in Princess Street Gardens for a picnic underneath the castle walls.
We then headed off to The Story of the Little Gentleman, a play about a man’s struggle to find friendship after moving to a new town.
That might sound a bit heavy-going for toddlers, but it was done with a lightness and mischief that has our two crying with both laughter and sadness.
We stayed in the Old Town Chambers, a luxurious apartment, full of Scandi-cool furniture and dark wood floors.
It’s a mere caber toss to the Royal Mile and with the windows open we can hear the bagpiper playing under the statue of philosopher David Hume.
During a whirlwind two-night stay we also crammed in a visit to the Dynamic Earth, a museum squeezed up against the foot of Arthur’s Seat that tells the story of the earth’s creation – and on Sunday morning, the jaw-dropping castle.
And as the kids both fell asleep on the train home, us grown-ups were left to think that, maybe, we might just be able to squeeze in a few more weekends away yet...
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
Damon Wilkinson, with wife Helen and daughters Mae and Neve at Edinburgh Castle
A childen’s theatre show