Child-wrangling at the Festival: a Helpful How To

Got kids? Well, fortunately, you're not the first. Fest gets some top tips from performers who have been there, done that, and wiped ice cream off the wee one's T-shirt

feature | Read in About 5 minutes
26763 large
Published 22 Jul 2017

Babies: Ellie Dubois (No Show)

What to do? Go and see shows! There are so many super brilliant shows to go and see with babies that are specially designed to be a delightful experience for babies and their adults. It is so excellent that they can experience high quality work by wonderful artists right from being born. 

What about places to go? If the weather is good the Meadows are always good for hanging out.

In terms of tips, I try to ignore any show that has a large age range like 0-5 or even 0-10. I think it’s really unlikely that the work is really suited or made for children, particularly at the younger age range. 

That said, there's loads to see! This year we are excited about BambinO which is an opera for babies made by Scottish Opera and Phelim McDermott. The Polar Bears Go Up, made by Eilidh Macaskill, is likely to be super amazing. My son is too old for this now but Snigel and Friends by Caroline Bowditch at Dance Base looks really wonderful for 0-1s.

3-7s: Sarah Thom (Beak Speaks)

The Fringe as a parent is a whole new ball game. Last year was my first in this new guise and I discovered a whole world that happens in Edinburgh before the sun is over the yardarm. We’ll be up again this year with five-year-old Albie and his younger brother, Stanley.

Last time we saw a show nearly every morning – all as eclectic as the main Fringe. The highlights for the boys were a brilliant Korean company who sang about a pooing elephant, and The Amazing Bubble Man who delighted Albie by putting him inside a child-sized bubble.

We spent hours wandering, stumbling across all sorts: an impromptu show on a bus, street theatre on the Royal Mile and the Mound. The Pleasance have a fantastic kids area at the Courtyard where we spent many a crafty hour. And if you need to escape there’s also a brilliant playground on the Meadows that I had never noticed before, and Portobello beach is just a bus ride away.

7-12s: Henry Naylor (Borders)
What do you do with a bunch of narcissists who burst into tears every time they don’t get their own way? Take them to see a bunch of narcissists who burst into tears every time they don’t get their own way. Performers are all seven-year-olds at heart. 

First stop for my gang would always be Martin ‘Bigpig’ Mor’s Funny Stuff for Happy People. He’s one of the country’s leading standups, and one of those rare beasts whom both adults and kids find funny. Similarly the Pub Quiz for Kids With Patrick Monahan is a bonkers idea and well worth a visit. Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco Dance Hall is always a hit. I like to go there and appal small children by doing ‘embarrassing dad dancing’ to '80s classics. You’ll probably end up cutting shapes to '99 Red Balloons', and finding your kids wanting to divorce you. Great value. 

You can’t go wrong with the Trash Test Dummies either. Baby Loves Disco, too, is a Sunday morning must for the kids. Have heard good things about La Vie Dans Une Marionette, which won awards in New Zealand. Apparently it’s got puppets and pianos in it, and kids love all that malarkey.

If you want to do stuff outside the festival, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is excellent family fodder. Also, go on the bouncey trampoliney-thing that’s in the giant golf ball by Waverley Station – but only towards the end of your trip. It’s chuffing expensive, and the kids’ll want to go on it every day. And really, you want them to be supporting the 3,400 groups of fellow narcissists.

Top tip: make sure you’re armed with the number of a reliable taxi firm. The littlies’ legs aren’t built for rushing from venue to venue up steep hills. 

Teenagers: Cally Beaton (Super Cally Fragile Lipstick)

I'm the single parent of Jake, 19, and Ella, 17, god help me!

You know what it’s like. Teens really like to try things they’ve never done before. Like going to, er... Nando’s, Top Shop, Pret. Things with a more local flavour: Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, hanging out at Assembly and Udderbelly at George Square (and the pop up macaroni cheese stall that was there last year). Any off-licence that serves them without ID while I’m out gigging.

Get them out stickering & flyering. Every time my 16-year-old daughter and her friend flyered for me last year, the show sold out. At the end of the run I said I thought it was mainly because she was my daughter. She just looked at me and said, “Your daughter? I never told them THAT”.

What not to do with them? Well, never take them to your own show and expect to come out of the experience alive. In fact, never take them to your own show. Never trust them to actually get up and go flyering at all if you’ve left the house before them. Never pay them for flyering in advance. And definitely never introduce them to the after-hours Edinburgh scene and the inhabitants thereof...

There are shows that they should see, though. Austentatious and Whose Line is It Anyway – Live at the Fringe are high on their list. They’ve also already got tickets for: Sara Pascoe, James Acaster, Desiree Burch. And the brilliant Geoff Norcott – to give these millenials in a Guardian-reading household a counterpoint to Corbyn-fever.