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Why I don’t make balloon animals

2007-12-28 Roy's Balloon Modelled Poodle 02

Image by Roy Stead via Flickr

Quite often when I take inquiries for my Children’s Entertainment Service , Diane’s Puppets , people ask if I do balloon modelling. I don’t. Sometimes this is a deal breaker and I lose the opportunity to take a booking.

The thing is, I could make balloon animals. I’m a creative person, as my craft blog attests, I can turn my hand to making things. It’s not a problem. It could be another skill that I could use.

But I choose not to.

Am I being foolish?

Some might say so.

I choose not to because I believe strongly  that children appreciate our time and attention over things. Our very materialistic society which bombards our children with advertising constantly teaches that children have to have STUFF to be happy.

I don’t agree.

I’d like to point you in the direction of this  blog post by a very well respected expert in the field of parenting in the UK and a lady whom I admire greatly, Sue Atkins. I found this lovely lady on Twitter. She is responding to a recent UNICEF report that children in the UK are the unhappiest despite our tendency to throw material goods at them. This post didn’t just speak to me , it sang, danced and performed.

This is the reason I don’t twist up balloons to give out to children as part of the entertainment process. Sure , children like it.

But I don’t.

I like to feel good about the sort of entertainment I do. I much prefer to make children giggle, jump up and down, squeal with delight, interact with a puppet, feed them, receive magic wishes and kisses from a puppet, take children on imaginary journeys to feed their very fertile imaginations.

To me giving out balloons pales into insignificance.

Hey, I’m not saying that there aren’t some incredible balloon artists out there ( and I mean artists!) What some people can do with simple balloons is mind blowing,  and kudos to them.  I just won’t be joining them anytime soon.


The power of playfulness

London kids entertainer Diane

Last night I attended my very first networking event that I found through Twitter. It was run by a lovely lady called Bella who runs a company called RareWorld. I recommend her events highly.

As a children’s entertainer who dresses in silly clothes and bright ribbons , it is sometimes hard to be taken seriously as a business woman, even by myself. Sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit. Because I enjoy my work so much and I love getting stuck in with playing along with children at birthday parties and events it is easy for me to forget just how serious the business of entertainment really is.

Imagine a job where you can’t really have any days off sick, if you do you let down your client who happens to be a young child who has been looking forward all year to this very special day. Spoil this child’s day at your peril!(and then try and live down your spoiled reputation)

Imagine a job where you can’t get angry or show that you may be sad ( I’ve had to work when recently bereaved) .

But also imagine a job where you get to wear bright colours and sparkly things, be playful and silly, share in the exuberant joy of children’s laughter and feel like you have actually brought real joy to someone .

Well that is my job. And because of all these things, it is a very serious job despite the very deliberately silly content.

Well back to the networking event. I turned up in my ribbons and in bright colours. I was faced with a sea of black suits . There were around 160 people there, all dressed to kill, all in killer power suits. And then there was me, in my sparkly flip flops with ribbons in my hair. But I sucked it up, told myself I was a grown woman even though I felt like a little girl at a grown up party and headed in the the midst of all those grown-ups.

You have to understand that I work with children because I feel most at ease with children. I’ve never really felt like a proper grown-up. Even at my last birthday when I turned 47 , and I am now indeed a grandma, I still didn’t feel grown-up. I’ve just about started to enjoy Question Time on the telly, that’s about as grown up as I get. But the business woman inside of the silly children’s entertainer pushed to the fore. NETWORK she boomed from within my head. So network I did.

Strangely enough I gravitated towards anyone with a little bit of colour, and they in turn gravitated towards me. The creatives found each other. I spent a bit of time chatting to another Diane and her work colleague Mia from the Brickhouse, a wonderful cabaret club in the heart of Brick Lane.

One very lovely pretty young lady dressed to kill in the most beautiful little black dress ever, spent a long time chatting with me. Her name was Nooshin Bakhshi.  It turns out she was a couture designer ( ah that explains the dress!)and had recently taken the plunge to out into this recession to make her mark on the world. I admire her. She will go far. Then I caught the eye of a young man who seemed to know me. He shouted out my name. Ah, it was Rudolph, we had met via Twitter earlier that day. We had a good chat and he told me he had admired my honesty in my  introductory email that was circulated round to the other attendees. You see, because I’m not a proper grown-up, I tend to just be honest. I don’t understand the masks that a lot of adults wear , I prefer to stay genuine . This is me. With ribbons on and flip flops.Take me or leave me. It appeared that my naive stance seemed to be refreshing to others. I suddenly felt less scared and realised that just because I was different, didn’t mean I was less of a business person.

My differences were my strengths

.* Light bulb moment. *

Let’s brush over the slightly inebriated gentleman who seemed to confuse me with an adult entertainer and was very persistent in his insistence. But a gentleman to the rescue of the silly children’s entertainer came in the form of Tim Sheed who persuaded this night owl to have  a try at breakfast networking. Thanks Tim, I appreciated your support.

As the evening wore on I grew more comfortable in my skin and really got into the swing of networking. But my old feet couldn’t hold me up anymore and reluctantly I left on a high.

So a massive thanks to Bella for showing this silly woman just how serious being silly can be.

Birthday parties and the great British outdoors

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

Image via Wikipedia

Summer time is coming, hooray! We all look forward to those long hot days and balmy evenings…

Okay, wake up now, this is England after all. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so trusting about the weather. Our lovely island has a special feature in that if it is sunny outside and you plan an outdoor activity, best pack the wellies. You’ll probably need them. This is fantastic for gardens and the countryside and the lush vegetation of our countryside and our parks, but not so lovely if you are planning to hold a party outdoors.

Every year, around this time, I get numerous requests to entertain at birthday parties held in the great British ( London) outdoors. When the weather is fine, there is nothing nicer than to gather a group of children underneath a big oak tree in the park hung with pretty bunting , sit them down amongst the daisies and buttercups dotted in the grass and tell them stories and play fun games and chat with puppets. This is a childhood idyll at its best. It is also a very cheap ( free) venue, saving wear and tear on your freshly decorated home.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you are planning to host a party in the great British outdoors, have a plan B. Make arrangements for a nearby suitable venue ( gazebo/ shed/ any form of shelter possible better than a leaky tree) that you can easily decamp to if necessary. It’s not being negative, it’s clever. You won’t appreciate how much you’ll thank me if next time the heavens open at your party in the park.

Remember, picnics outdoors can attract all sorts of bugs, so remember to pack  a basic first aid kit including an insect sting spray . So many times a party has been ruined by a rogue wasp or bee. It’s hard to pacify a stung panicked child without some sort of pain relief.

If you are hiring an entertainer, especially one who has kit to set up, please check with them first before you book them that their set up is suitable for outdoors. There may be safety issues with gusting winds/ uneven ground etc. You may have to come to some sort of compromise as to what they offer in terms of entertainment, and have a less structured session for the outdoor setting. Bear in mind also that it is fairly hard to focus children’s full attention in a venue without boundaries ( walls). Try seating the parents and children in a semi circle  to form a  natural boundary in which the entertainer can operate.

So have fun partying in the park.

Let’s all cross our fingers for good weather this Summer, I have a fair few outdoor parties to entertain at!

Brand spanking new website!

I’m so excited, I’ve finally taken the plunge and sorted out a proper website for my business. It’s been a long time coming and my old free tripod website o has served me well, but I realised it was time to take what I do seriously and be a ‘proper’ grownup. In my line of work it is sometimes hard to be taken seriously, even by myself. So I’m pumped.



I do hope you like it , dear readers.

Over the last 18 years my job as a children’s entertainer in the London area, providing puppet shows for children’s birthday parties has brought me much joy. I hope to be in my dotage when I retire , which I hope is in a long time. I’m 47 now and don’t anticipate retiring until my arms , legs and voice give in. Roll on granny in the sparkly tights , say I! I hope to be famous around these parts for that old lady who brings joy to kids  one day.

Here’s where it all started: It was on a beach in Skegness. I was about 5 and dressed to match my lovely dolly. There was a puppet show on the beach and a certain Mr Punch who by turns terrified and delighted me.

Intoxicated by Mr PunchMy love affair with puppets was born here.

An invite to a free London Puppet Festival

It’s not often that you get owt for nowt.

Coinciding with my birthday each year, ( serendipity rocks!) the beautiful St Paul’s  Covent Garden ( The Actors church, where Gwen Stefani married, incidentally) hosts the splendid May Fayre.

It’s FREE folks! Yes you heard it right, FREE.

A whole day of entertainment for the kids ( and for those young at heart) celebrating the art of puppetry.

So , the 36th Annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival

at St Paul’s Church Garden , Bedford Street WC2 on Sunday 8th May 2011  from 10.30am -5.30pm .


If I’m not at a birthday party, I shall be there.

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