Friday, 22 October 2010

A day at The Barbican with E.T. and Paul Frank

by Dino B


When the opportunity came up for us to visit the children's cinema screening of E.T. as part of the Paul Frank Bicycle Film Festival, I must admit, I did have to do a sneaky search on Google to figure out what on earth it meant. On the face of it, it's all of the things we like, all in the same sentence. Kids stuff, funky monkey clothes, good movies and bikes. But all in one sentence seemed too good to be true. Turns out it wasn't.



So if you're as vague as I initially was, let me enlighten you. The Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) is a week long festival of movies that feature bikes. Simple. This is the 10th year it's been running which is an indication of
how popular it is. The screening of E.T. was inevitable, what with its classic BMX racing sequences and iconic bike-against-moon scene. It was also a great opportunity to clarify the point with my kids that we actually invented BMX bikes in the 1980's. Luckily, the Barbican Centre obliged with a great venue, and what better place to host the event. Their upcoming London Children's Film Festival looks really interesting and I guess this was a good way of getting the word out too. Definitely check it out if you're stuck for Saturday morning activity.

Now, at this point (and arguably for the previous 9 years) you probably wouldn't have batted an eyelid at either the festival or the Barbican Saturday cinema. So what made the difference this year? Or to paraphrase, what made my kids nag me to go? Simple, the monkey (aka Paul Frank). My sister, #ahem#, I mean Santa... gave my kids some Paul Frank clothes for Christmas a few years back, so they were clearly aware of the 'brand'. Turns out that the guys at Paul Frank are big into bikes and clearly, from their products, make some funky kids stuff too. Anyone parking their bike within a 5 mile radius probably came back from work to find a free saddle cover with monkey faces all over it as a flyer for the event. Nice touch. I used to race bikes for a local shop 'back in the day' and bikes are a passion. Our garage is stacked with them and it was a true right of passage when our kids made that first stabiliser-free ride across the local park. We like bikes in our house so were looking forward to the event immensely.


The day itself was mad. It was clearly a very popular event, "The most busy the Barbican children's Saturday cinema had ever seen!" according to the enthusiastic compere. The foyer was filled with activities from collage making to drawing - all with a monkey or biking twist. There was also a big monkey mascot for the all-important photo opportunity. My kids (7 and 9) still believe mascots are the real deal, so this was almost the highlight of the day. Long may the innocence continue. The staff and helpers were really nice and my hat goes off to them for being so calm and helpful in the inevitable chaos of excited kids that filled the room.

All too soon it was time for the movie. But before it began, kids were invited up on stage to show the audience their works of art. We even sang happy birthday to a few surprised kids. And then the movie started. Now I'm not going to pretend that sitting in a cinema full of a squillion excitable kids is my idea of relaxation on a Saturday morning but everyone is in the same boat and it's a chance to just go with the flow and enjoy the riot.

E.T. didn't disappoint, even though it is nearly 28 years old now (I know!). You can't go wrong with a Spielberg movie when you have kids to entertain. That and Shrek maybe. After many laughs, a few tears and the inevitable trips to the loo, it was time to head back to our normal activity-mad Saturday. We'd loved to have stayed longer as the Barbican seems always to be crammed with little activates, hands-on music workshops, tours and cool stuff hanging from the ceiling (like the rhinestone encrusted bicycle my daughter fell in love with). Alas, a drama class for child number 1 beckoned.

The nice little goody bag full of stickers and knick-knacks made sure the tube journey went without a hitch. I did have to apologise to a few confused tourists after my two darling 'aliens' pointed and chanted the iconic "Eliiiiooooot..." in a surprisingly accurate E.T. voice.

Suffice to say we now have some MORE stickers on bedroom doors, the Paul Frank seat cap has been gainfully employed as a shower cap and we'll be back next year.

Loved Dino's review? Check out his blog at dino.co.uk

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