** Disclosure – I was provided with tickets to attend the Big Jam Sandwich summer event in return for promotion, coverage and my honest review. All opinions are my own and this does not affect the integrity of this post.**
It was the summer of 2019. Garon Park, Southend-on-Sea opened its gates and the crowds poured in, then they poured some more, and then they left.
This is a hard post for me as I try to respect the fact that as a blogger I get fabulous opportunities such as this, to attend events. At the same time I respect the fact that readers come to my blog and my social media pages for recommendations and I owe it to my readers to be honest, as I always have been.
As a blogger, I was given a press pass to attend the Big Jam Sandwich. This meant I skipped the entry queue and was allowed in before the event gates opened. We arrived early at 10:20am anticipating traffic and thankfully had no hassle parking. As it approached 11am, the gates started to filter people in slowly.
At this point the event was running beautifully. We had watched Mr Bloom and Elsa practice their routine on stage. Witnessed a lifesize velociraptor walking around and trying to steal the contents of someone’s picnic cool box. George was living his best life trying out all the bouncy castles and interacting with other children whilst on them (a rarity for him). We settled down on our picnic blanket to watch the show introduction from The Magic Frostie, Ben and Holly’s story time, and Joe Banana. I grabbed a lush ice cream from the Rossi stall and there was no queue. By now it was nearly 1 o clock.
That’s when the chaos started.
I had a friend who had purchased tickets on my recommendation who arrived around this time along with many, many others. Suddenly the atmosphere of the event felt chaotic. There didn’t feel like there was enough room for everyone to get around the site hassle free. Add to this that there simply wasn’t enough activities to go around, making the queues unbearable for young children.
I quickly realised our itinerary was null and void. The activities I promised George we would “do later”, were now either massively oversubscribed and the queues were extreme. His face turned to disappointment and he soon realised this wasn’t as much fun anymore.
We attempted to watch the Dinosaur show on the main stage but it didn’t appear to be lit very well. The main issue however was partly down to the behaviour of the other people attending but this could have been resolved with some adequate stewarding. Many people on arrival grabbed the deck chairs that had been placed a good distance back from the stage. They moved them right in front of the stage. From here people set up picnics but were unable to see the stage so began to stand. None of the performers on the stage requested that at least adults sit to allow others to see. Some of the shows required dancing and participation.
If you arrived to find a fair amount of litter strewn around this was in part caused by the Joe Banana show as he dished out masses of toilet rolls for people to wrap around their adults. This ended up shredded across the field along with streamers.
By the time the dinosaur show started around 3pm, so many adults had their children on their shoulders from the front of the stage leading back, that it was impossible to see. There was a screen but it was pretty grainy. I saw lots of aggravated parents with their frustrated children, upset that they couldn’t see what was going on. It only required some stewards at the front to direct people to not obscure the view for everyone.
We had a brief play with the Bubble Inc before deciding to abandon the rest of the show and leave. We had been looking forward to trying out the go carts, meet and greet with Ben and Holly, Peppa Pig Story time, Bam Bam and Mr Bloom and his band. It didn’t feel like we would be able to enjoy these due to the issues with viewing the stage and the queuing situation. We made the decision to leave around 3pm.
George said his favourite was the velociraptor but that he was disappointed he didn’t get to do everything.
From my perspective, I was really grateful that we enjoyed those early few hours before the crowds arrived but the bulk of our happy experience was due to being allowed in early as press. Had I been on a standard admission ticket I think I would have felt disappointed. The tickets were upwards of £20+ per person and for many families thats a lot of money. Inside, not all of the activities were included in the price and the fairground attractions seemed overpriced to be honest.
The actual acts in attendance were great though and the staff we saw seemed to try their best.
Overall I think the main issue was that the event was oversubscribed, the field was too small and there wasn’t enough activities to go round.
I would feel happier if Big Jam Sandwich acknowledged that not everyone was happy. There have been so many posts on their facebook page and throughout described peoples disappointment and even anger at what they experienced today. Whilst I’m not responsible, I feel bad that I promoted an event that didn’t live up to so many people’s expectations.
I feel the organisers at Big Jam Sandwich should release a statement to try to explain what went awry today. Without this I can’t recommend attending in future years.
I hope anyone reading this appreciates that whilst I try to respect my working relationship with brands, I will not be false and say something was fabulous when it was less than so.