Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Best shop in the world chooses Diane’s Puppets

It’s official, Diane’s Puppets has come of age!

The best shop in the world voted by the Global Department Store Summit in Paris  is Selfridges.

And lovely , lovely Selfridges have asked Diane’s Puppets to appear in their Xmas shop from early November to late December on Sunday afternoons.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

I’ve already spent the day at their Press show, showcasing my Xmas puppet show to a whole lot of journalists, a challenge to say the least. Important grown-ups really don’t know how to respond to such a child centred thing as a Diane’s Puppet show. But I’m really, really glad that the wonderful Harvey and Katie of Selfridges London office recognised the value and charm in what I offer and have totally understood the Diane’s Puppets ethos.

Quirky, very English in its charm , a little shabby , old fashioned but with a modern twist, with a genuine concern to bring the best experience possible for  its’ customers and just a little bit bonkers. That’s the Diane’s Puppets way.

It could also be argued that that is the Selfridges way too.

So Diane’s Puppets , in a Selfridges Xmas shop near you ( as long as that is in Oxford Street, London. )

Advertisements

A Birthday Party away from Home : Checklist

So you are having a birthday party at a venue. There was just not enough space at home or the thought of having a bunch of marauding kids and accompanying parents in your home was just too much to bear. Fair enough.

So you’ve booked a venue and have loaded up the car ready to drive off for your party.

 

STOP!

 

Before you put that key in the ignition and drive away make sure you have the following things:

 

  • Matches or lighter ( I can’t count how many times I’ve witnessed blind panic as parents realise they’ve nothing to light the birthday cake with. Not many people smoke these days, so do come prepared)
  • The venue’s caretaker’s contact number ( in case of problems accessing the venue)
  • Your door keys ( Easy to forget in the fuss to pack stuff for the party. It’s all good until you can’t get back in the house… )
  • A list of guests and contact phone numbers of the parents in case of emergencies
  • Your phone ( fully charged)
  • Batteries for any camera/phone/ camcorder
  • Entertainer‘s mobile phone number ( if using entertainment services)
  • Checkbook or cash to pay the entertainer ( if using entertainment services)
  • Tablewear ( plenty of cups /plates/ paper napkins/ tablecloths)
  • Decorations (banners/bunting/balloons) and sticky tape or blue tack
  • Party bags or going away gifts
  • Food and drink for the guests
  • Drink for the parents ( if you are serving wine, don’t forget the corkscrew!)
  • Music player
  • If organising your own games, sweets for prizes.
  • The Birthday Cake with candles
  • Black rubbish bags for clearing up
  • A small first aid kit just in case ( try packing some arnica cream for bumps, plasters, cotton wool and antiseptic, maybe some sting relief for outdoor parties)
  • A toilet roll ( just in case!)
  • Pass the parcel ( if you are playing it)

So, it’s all packed,  now off you go! Have fun like these children did !

 

Happy children at a birthday party

Diane's Puppets meets Waybaloo

The Year of the Dragon

It’s my year, the year of the Dragon!

My Chinese dragon puppet, the beautiful Pearl Dragon.

 

Happy Chinese New Year! I researched how to say this in Chinese and realised it wasn’t as straightforward as the one response. So for accuracies sake , here are the variations in the different Chinese languages;

Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐
Standard Mandarin (the most widely used Chinese)

Gong Hei Fard Choy, 恭喜发财
Cantonese (Mainly Hong Kong and Macau)

Xing Ni Ju Yi, 新年如意
Teochew/ Hokkien (Mainly in South East Asia and Taiwan)

The safest bet is “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. Even Tibetan understands this.

 

I am very fond of dragons. They’re beautiful, fierce and magical creatures. They’re also a little showy, the natural performers of the mythological world. I’m very proud to be born in the year of the Dragon : 1964. My eldest daughter, also fortuitously was also born in the year of the Dragon 1988. We’re both fairly similar creatures, initially shy in crowds but will dress up ostentatiously and fearlessly and once dressed in our magnificence, we exude confidence and breathe fire.At least that’s how I see it! Who else would have the guts to wear the clothes I wear to work out in public  if not a Dragon?

Birthday party entertainer/face painter and puppeteer Diane of Diane's Puppets

 

I’ve been painting lots of dragons on people’s arms recently as part of what I do as a face and arm painter as part of my kids entertainment services. It’s almost as if I knew my year was coming up ( I didn’t!)

Fire breathing dragon coming to life

I’ve recently remade my skirt for work and the first applique I sewed on was that of a fire breathing dragon.

My fire breathing dragon adorning my skirt.

One of my original puppet shows for children’s parties centres around  a bird’s quest to grow his wings quickly so he can escape his cage. The story takes him all the way to the golden moon where he has to find a pearl to give to the wonderful and awesome Pearl Dragon. I really enjoyed making this fabulous puppet, with her red satin chinese fabric body  and her papier mache horns and wings. She breathes fire like all self-respecting dragons and is strong and fierce but essentially kind and helpful. ( All characteristics that I value in any strong woman!) This visually stunning show also features a golden moon tiger  and a magic singing tree, the sort of story that fires up imaginations like the breath of the dragon herself.

To see further pictures of my show click here.

 

So I wish you all a very Happy New Year , especially to all my fellow dragons out there. Let’s go and breathe our magnificent fire of creativity and make the world a more vibrant and exciting place!

 

 

A tale of two Christmasses

So 2011 is drawing to a close. I’ve sung my last Jingle Bells for the year.

The Festive Season for a jobbing Children’s Entertainer can be a very busy time and Xmas usually starts earlier for us than most people. For me it started on the 3rd of December with my very first Nursery Christmas party. About a hundred verses of Jingle Bells later, I’m now packing up my Father Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer puppet  with the tinsel and the Xmas props. By the time proper Christmas starts it can feel rather rehearsed. I had a few days to prepare my own Xmas, buy presents and put up a tree. I did it in the (St) Nick of time. Christmas this year was pretty special as my darling granddaughter has just turned 18 months and her Christmas experience was wonderful to behold. From her saucer eyes and Donald Duck impressions as she spotted the robins on my Christmas tree to her clear excitement upon opening her presents, her joy was infectious. Christmas really is all about children.

I wish some of  my last clients had signed up for that theory.

My last Christmas party of the year was in Canary Wharf for a very large group of Investment Bankers and their families. For me it was a surreal affair. To be perfectly honest, Canary Wharf gave me goosebumps and not in a good way. It doesn’t feel human.  I’m not really a corporate animal, I’m much more Brighton in spirit than what is expected of someone in Canary wharf and it showed. I almost caused the security to have a heart attack at my raggedy pile of puppet stuff that I brought through the ludicrous glass revolving doors  in shifts ( I have a lot of stuff). Maybe they thought I was an anti capitalist protester ( my ribbons and bright clothes would fit the profile). I hated to disappoint them, but I was simply the Christmas Kids entertainment. No Flying Squad required.

After being asked for ID and being issued with an ID badge, I was shown into the place where I was to perform. I bumbled in with my various bits of wooden stage and equipment, ‘Merry Christmassing’ as I went along. I walked into a room full of children and a magician making balloon animals.  One man was introduced to me as the ‘Santa’ for the day. He was nervous about his impending performance. I  took note of his pink shirt and decided that he would be fine once he got into character. I reassured him that Fifi the Fairy would make sure his entry and time with the children would run smoothly and indeed it did. Fifi the Fairy charmed the children in her inimitable style and had her picture snapped as she chatted with children for quite some time. A good two hours of entertainment  was had by all including a very funny Christmas themed show where Fifi gets to be naughty and steal the star from the top of the tree.

Fifi in her new found freshness

Happy Christmas!

As I packed up , feeling satisfied at the very positive reaction from the children and their parents, one of the female staff said to me:

“Oh thank god you’ve stopped that fairy. Her voice was so annoying. I was about to come and throttle her if she had carried on any more. ”

Merry Christmas.

I smiled . What else could I do? I think that lady banker and I lived on different planets , there was no point in joining in with her debate.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. As I waited for my cab, I watched the ice skating on the open air rink . It should’ve been festive what with all the Christmas music , fairy lights and Santa hats but there was something missing.

That something I found in bucketloads a few days later in Brixton. It was emotion.

I ran my very first Crochet stall at Brixton Makers Market on Xmas Eve. It was a very lovely experience, albeit a cold one ( in temperature). What the temperature lacked in degrees was more than made up by the warmth of human spirit that I witnessed from my fellow stall holders, the lovely Lisa and Tony who ran the market and the every day Brixton people who embraced my new stall with enthusiasm and pure delight.

People would double take in front of the stall and back track to come and admire my produce. Grown ups were walking past and shouting out compliments, many bought things even though they had already done Xmas shopping but they just had to have something. I was humbled by the reaction. I was so thrilled to have followed my heart and gone with what made me feel happy: bright colours and magical things ( and dogs of course). Clearly my love resonated with others as their reaction showed.

Christmas is about children and the child within us all.

Forget that at your peril.

It’s Party Time!

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

So you’ve decided to plan a birthday party for your child’s special day.

You’ve decided on the date, chosen a theme and decided how many children to invite.

Have you ever considered the importance of the time that you host the party and how it may impact on how the party is scheduled? Have you ever considered the timing of the eating session and how that impacts on the behaviour of the children at the party?

I hope to help break things down for you in this post so you can make clear informed choices for your child’s next birthday party , to make it the best party it can possibly be.

 

Traditional tea time

From 3pm up until 6pm

The traditional tea time party is usually the first choice of most people, commonly starting at 3pm and ending at 5pm or thereabouts.

If this is your first choice time slot, do remember if you are going to book an entertainer and /or a venue do book well in advance to ensure that you manage to secure that time slot. It may be the first choice of many other parents hosting a party that day too.

At a Diane’s Puppet’s party, I’ve found that the most successful schedule is to have  45 minutes to an hour’s entertainment before having tea, leaving the thirty minutes tea time at the traditional hour of 4pm. This leaves thirty minutes at the end ( I usually perform a puppet show in a booth at this point) sending the children home, happy and fully partied out at 5pm.

This timing works well on weekends or during holidays when school turnout isn’t an issue or when there aren’t too many younger siblings who rely on afternoon naps.

Midweek tea parties

Midweek parties are best held after 4pm, allowing children to get to the party immediately after school.

Do remember that the children will be coming to the party a little tired and ravenous after a long school day, so it will work best for all to feed them first. Allow 15 minutes for them to arrive / change out of school clothes and then sit them down to have something to eat. Maybe leave the cake and sweets until later on in the party to avoid the inevitable sugar rush.

At a Diane’s Puppets Party I often face paint during the eating time to avoid the boring queuing up.

Facepainter too

I'm a bunny wabbit

Weekend parties

If your first choice tea time slot has already been booked when you call up your entertainer, have you ever considered having a lunch time party?

Lunchtime Parties ( 11-1pm) ( or 10.30am-12.30)

Many of my clients have become firm fans of the lunchtime party once they have tried it. This party time slot is fantastic for those parents who are organising a party for a child with younger siblings as it doesn’t clash with nap times, allowing the younger siblings to be able to enjoy the party too. Your birthday child doesn’t have to nag you all morning about when their party is as the party begins when they are fresh and ready and full of excitement.

One of the biggest benefits of hosting a lunchtime party is that there is very little wastage when it comes to the eating time. Instead of throwing away a mountain of disregarded sandwiches after a tea party, why not prepare a simple hot dish of pasta or shepherds pie and watch the children eat it all up!

This can be very cost-effective too and is also much less labour intensive to prepare than the traditional snack foods of tea time.

Children are always hungry at lunch time , I’ve never seen food go to waste at a lunch time party.

At a Diane’s Puppets party, I usually suggest scheduling the eating time at 12 noon when the children will be good and hungry and really ready to wolf down their food like the Big Bad Wolf!

The children go home after a puppet show that finishes at 1pm leaving you with the rest of the day to put up your feet and relax.

The birthday child will appreciate having the afternoon to leisurely tear open their presents when they’re not too tired to enjoy the experience.

 

Times to avoid

There are times that clients sometimes request parties that cut right across tea and lunchtime.

Parties that are held between 1-3 pm or 2-4 pm are really awkward in so many ways.

From an entertainer’s perspective, parties held at these times limit the day to only one party as there is no leeway to be able to fit in another party in the day, given the travel and change over times needed. For an entertainer this doesn’t make good business sense nor does it help our other clients. We like to try to be available to as many clients as possible, we hate having to turn down customers  and disappoint our young clients.

From the guests perspective, these times straddle eating times, making it awkward to know when to feed children. They’re both straight after lunch but before tea , so unless you are planning having a party that doesn’t really entail feeding the children, this isn’t ideal. The eating time at a party isn’t just about feeding,  it creates a good break that punctuates the party. It is very hard to maintain concentration for two hours straight even for an adult, let alone a small excitable child.

Also remember that your guests may have other parties to go to, and if your party straddles that awkward time zone, your party may be the one that is not attended.

Ultimately, the client is king. We entertainers want to help our clients to have the best party experience they can possibly have.

I hope this information has helped you make an informed choice as to which party time would suit you and your child’s party needs the best.

Happy partying!

 

Diane

Hope to see you at a birthday party soon!

 

 

 

 

The International Language of Puppets

Painting by children, International Peace Day ...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the wonderful advantages of being a London Children’s Entertainer is the opportunity I get to meet people from all over the world and to share in that cultural festivity that is a children’s birthday party.

I’ve performed for people from all over the the world in my 18 years of being a children’s entertainer including Japan, Russia, Saudia Arabia  and Australia. In the past week  alone I have done parties for people from:

South Africa : land of braaivleis ( barbecue to you and I) and boerewors ( very yummy meaty sausages) the Springbok rugby team and also the land where I lived between ages 10 and 21. The party children sat enraptured and giggling their socks off at the antics of the silly puppets.

 

India: It was a splendid outdoor party for a lovely gentle couple with the sweetest daughters. I wish I had a waterfall in my back garden.

 

Italy: This was a fun, boisterous but enjoyable party with energetic boys who relished being vampires and tigers. I loved performing in their ‘football ‘ room complete with it’s full sized football stadium wall piece. Go Chelsea!

Fifi loves giving hugs

Fifi the fairy got lots of  hugs at this party. Boys really do love her!

 

France:  The French really appreciate puppets. I have  many French clients and they are always a joy to work for. It’s always fun to practice the French I learned at school. My puppets mask my ineptitude as I struggle with my vocab. Joyez Anniversaire! ( The cake is always splendide!)

 

 

Spain: Pinata! The wonderful spirit of the Latin party, full of noise and ebullience and fun. Not for the shy and retiring , the spanish party is a family affair with the grown- ups having just as much fun as the kids. This last party I was really touched by grandma of the birthday child coming up to me and saying: ” Diane, my English is not good but you were magnificent. ” Thank you Grandma. I appreciate the love.

 

I just love London. What other city is such a wonderful melting pot?

 

 

 

 

Which Witch is Which?

Halloween is fast approaching.

Here in the UK, Halloween isn’t really the big thing that it seems to be in the States, but it’s popularity is ever increasing.

It is very sweet to see groups of little children dressed up in spooky costumes knocking on doors and crying Trick or Treat! Well it is lovely in the nice areas where the people knocking on doors are young and innocent. In some of the inner city areas it isn’t as pleasant. But I won’t lower the tone of the post.

I like witches.When I grow up and I’m too old to be a children’s entertainer,  I might become a witch. It seems like a fun thing to do when your hair goes grey and wrinkles start spreading. It sure beats botox and hair dye. I’d rather use the power of wisdom and age and celebrate the changes rather than spend the rest of my years trying to hold them back.

Sings: ” Holding back the ears…”

In fact, I have my own handbook on witchcraft called The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries which to me is all about being a strong woman.

I’ve made a few witch puppets in my time.

One is a small pocket puppet, useful for quick storytelling. She’s only a few inches tall, not terribly terrifying, but lovely colours, with her green hair and blue face.

Green pocket witch

Then there’s Witchy Poo Poo, she’s a character from one of my original puppet shows .  Fifi the fairy creates her by hastily making a magic spell and getting the words wrong. Instead of wishing for a birthday wish for her mummy, she wishes for a Birthday Witch. ( see what I did there? ) So Witchy Poo Poo is a birthday witch, complete with fiery red hair, wart on the nose and a cloak covered in birthday candles. Look carefully, she doesn’t have any eyes, that makes her even spookier in my eyes. She sure can raise a giggle and a scream from my young clients. Older children really buy into her scariness, even though she is more silly than scary.

I'm a witchy, I'm a witchy poo!

Birthday witchy, come to bother you!

Then I have a very scary witch indeed. She isn’t your typical witch with a pointy hat and black cloak. She is the even more terrifying sort, she is the old lady in disguise. I made this one for my puppet show of Snow White. Here she is the evil queen disguised as a old pedlar woman selling combs. She has really big meaty forearms and one beady eye and a big jutting toothless lower jaw. I know I’d be wary of this lady if I came across here. Wouldn’t you?

Combs my lovely?

Buy my wares, pretty?

Come here my lovely...

Yes, she is a little scary. But don’t we all like a nice safe scare sometimes?

Finally, I’d like to introduce you to a puppet of mine who really has never been used. She is a marionette witch, and because I’m not really a great manipulator of marionettes, ( I prefer fast moving hand puppets) she has languished in a suitcase for years, gathering dust. Not that she minds, mind you. She rather likes dust. She uses it in her magic spells along with spider webs and slug slime.

She has rather fetching red pantaloons underneath her black dress, don’t you think?  She’s wearing  a fine black cloak around her neck. Her broomstick has gone astray, I think it’s flown away or maybe her familiar ( her black cat) has taken it somewhere and hidden it.

I'm casting spells

I'm melting Aargh!

My favourite witch of all time has to be the Wicked Witch of the West from the glorious MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Can’t you tell?

So which witch do you prefer and why?

I’d love to know.

Tag Cloud