Celebrating our 30th anniversary this month gives us the perfect excuse to look back on the plethora of events, people and places that have helped fill the Nipperbout scrapbook. Here are a few stand-out memories:
Our first ever event happened before the company even existed. I was running a shoppers’ crèche in Wood Green, and we were asked to repeat the format in the middle of a field as part of a big corporate party. Our ‘venue’ was the inside of a giant bouncy clown that kept falling over, and although this corporate event was a ‘first’ for us, we evidently did a good job, because we were contacted by a promotional agency that was putting on a series of Ride & Drive events at Millbrook Proving Ground for Vauxhall’s fleet-buying clients. Over four or five weekends, we looked after the children of Vauxhall’s guests, leaving the parents free to check out the range of cars on offer.
It was probably our early work for car companies that led to our providing crèches for attendees’ children at major exhibitions like the Motor Show and The Motorcycle Show.
We have always themed our play activities around the exhibition content. At the Clothes Show Live we had children walking on a catwalk, at the Environmental Show we got the children to build a huge whale and, of course, for the Motor Shows it would have been all about cars and fixing them; garages, mechanics and other car-related games.
One of our most bizarre experiences involved managing a creche on a plane. British Airways had run a children’s competition to ‘Paint a Plane for Christmas’. The winning designers attended a big party in an aircraft hangar. Their designs were painted on the outside of the plane and they were taken on a flight around the UK. Several of our staff were on board to look after about 40 of the winners and their siblings!
Our introduction to the festival scene started with a chance conversation between me and another mum as we pushed our prams around Finsbury Park. Her name was Alison Charles and she said: “You know my husband runs a festival called the Fleadh". That was the start of a long relationship with the Fleadh – and from there, Glastonbury and many others followed.
In its early days, the Phoenix Festival was a little bit like the Wild West: which for me included being held at knifepoint by someone hoping I could get them in without a
ticket! On the back of this experience, we developed our own emergency hand signal to colleagues so that emergency support could be summoned when needed.
Steve and I were part of the team that put together the Purple Book – which is still being used today as the benchmark for childcare at festivals.
2012 was a huge year for us, with Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and the London Summer Olympics and Paralympics. For both, we were responsible for providing
Lost Child Points. For the Jubilee this involved staffing 11 of them around London over the Jubilee Weekend.
For the Olympics we also ran our own Mini Olympics - lots of games and races for the children, with assault courses and also circus skills and children’s shows. We even ran a kids’ sailing event.
We had managed Lost Child Points at all of the festivals we’d worked at, but looking after children from other countries, complete with language challenges, gave us an extra level of experience. As a result of this we devised our own best practice course.
We used to run a little crèche for the National Farmers Union conference. Back in the nineties there were fewer regulations and I would take my two guinea pigs and a rabbit with me, along with our two wire-haired dachshunds, (not forgetting our own two children), all travelling in an old Post Office van.
I drove all three all over the country in that van, but it had a habit of breaking down. On one occasion, the RAC man said to me in a very tired voice, “Are you the lady with the two kids, the two rabbits, the guinea pig and the dog?”
For several years we ran a children’s show at the end of the NASUWT annual conference. We would see the same group of children every year and they loved doing the show so much that they used to write to each other before the event and say: “What are we gonna do?” They even used to write their scripts before the event.
We have met some wonderful children in our 30 years, including one a little boy who was always getting into trouble – he’d even been expelled from school. But he used to pack himself in the back of our van.
We apply a ‘no punishment, no reward’ philosophy, which he really respected, and he felt that the van was his safe place. We reached the point of saying: “Check the van in case he’s in there, and so often he was. One of our team actually stood up for him in a court hearing.
Looking back, I just knew that some of those children were going to be fantastic grown-ups and I would really love the chance to meet some of them again. If any of them are reading this – please get in touch!