Close, but no (Royal) banana

Do you ever go to something with anticipation and come away slightly disappointed? Like it could have been really good but slipped a little through planning, presentation or something undefinable but experience altering?

We went to Tatton Park today, to the Royal Progress as advertised on Tatton Park's website and on Hampton Court's own website. This is the people from Hampton Court taking Henry VIII out into the country, much as the real Henry would have travelled around the land on his Royal Progress. And it sounded good; jousting, archery, crafts people of the time; the website said, "Step into a Tudor World through an exciting mix of jousting, costumes, crafts and much more."
Okay, I don't know what exciting is for the people who wrote the web blurb, but I'm thinking it wasn't more queues than even a person from St Helens can handle (St Helens is infamous for having people who love a queue) and a distinct lack of costumed people, jousters or crafts beyond paper shieldery.


Quite frankly, it was a disappointment that needn't have been. The idea was good, but we stood for ages waiting for 2 shots with a crossbow (children only need have a go, no adults because the queue was too long), a pop-up interactive theatre tour of Hampton Court that was definitely aimed at 7 year olds and .... actually, that was all we were prepared to queue for, but the families of under 10 year olds who wanted to see the Tudor crafts or many more attractions (make a shield with card and cable ties! Punch hole in a square of leather for no obvious reason! Learn to dance with people who don't really care! Line up for one of the few seats in an arena where at least 5 times as many people will want to watch!) would have spent ages in lines.


The idea was good; there was a stamp at each place that you collected on a map (children only; no adults are allowed to collect them) and at the end there was a prize that you could get. I hope it was a good prize, because judging by the hour we spent queuing for the two attractions we saw, the time you could put in to queuing to complete all 8 would be enough to weaken anyone.
There were grey-tabarded people who were supposed to help you. Not helpful enough to say that the place was so busy that only children could do anything. Not helpful enough to keep the side shows running while the jousting happened (and don't get me on to the jousting; two knights on horseback. Two knights. Not teams, not a tourney, not a contest or a competition, not a nothing. Just two povvy knights.)

And what of Henry? Well, he was more invisible than David Cameron on a proper leadership debate, more invisible than Ed Balls in Labour's campaign and even more invisible than a Liberal Democrat MP confident of keeping his seat. We saw him once, walking to the joust, and that was it. No walking amongst the crowds, no talking like a King. No style at all. And the other costumed people were absent from the field as well. Educationally the show was a wash out, with a lack of informational texts that might have taught teenagers a little bit about Tudor times, no expositions on costume, cookery or politics that could place the thing into a historical context.  No bookshop or gift shop to provide a moment of rest from queuing. No living historians, no people who love Tudor Times enough to camp out in Tudor tents and talk Tudor to the visitors. We've been to a few historical reenactment weekends, in Wales or at Tatton Park, when the woods have been filled with tents and a real buzz because the people who are there really want to be there, love their period and want to teach you. This was like a little history lite for the under 10's. I will be writing to Hampton Court Palace to point this out, to say that I feel it was a good idea poorly executed and that next year if we have a choice I will definitely go for the Medieval Fayre, or the Civil war weekend or History Live (excellent event!)

And having had a vast complain (thank you if you are still reading!) there was a highlight of the day for me; I could have watched this lady doing her braiding all day.







Comments

  1. Such a shame that a looked forward to day ended up as a bit of a damp squib.
    I remember feeling somewhat the same when we went to a, much smaller, event for the Titanic commemorations.
    I'm glad events get put on for our entertainment but without good planning they tend to lack the fizz and buzz which accompanies those that are well done.
    Lisa x

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    1. It's like the difference between a coffee shop where the staff smile and radiate the wish to serve, and a cold, unfriendly one where they are really just there for the cash.

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  2. That's so annoying. Let them know what you think and hopefully they will make some improvements.

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  3. What a disappointment. It's bad enough that the attractions weren't up to much but to have to queue so long to find that out is a bit much. I wouldn't mind but these type of events aren't usually cheap when you've added up tickets for all the family. I think you're doing the right thing advising Hampton Court Palace of your views, I hope others do the same.

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    1. Fortunately our children are used to disappointment, but the younger children waiting for everything with no entertainers to alleviate the boredom just looked so fed up!

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  4. I take it this was *not* a sponsored post, LOL!!!!! Sorry you had such a bad experience...there's a castle in the town I grew up in and there'd often be National Trust events held there (after the NT took it over; we used to run around it, as children, scaring ourselves half to death there with ghost stories at night time!)....the NT events were *always* terrible....pretty much as you describe...I always used to feel so sorry for the people coming from afar specifically to visit the event...you'd see them all, heading in, all smiles and cheer and, on the way out, all long faces and complaints....so awful!

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    1. We gave up on our local NT place for special events when the advertised Tudor Day (we really do have issues with the Tudors!) had an activity described as 'make a pomander to take home' and when we got there, the lady said they could spend as long as they wanted pressing cloves into the oranges, but then had to remove them because there weren't enough oranges for the next day. I was not very complimentary.

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  5. It sounds like a good idea has been poorly executed... shame. Jx

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  6. What a shame! You must write to H. Court - I'm sure Lucy Worsley would be keen to hear all about how to improve it. (Love your political references. My husband reckons Cameron's modelling his persona on 'The Wolf of Wall Street' - what do you think?) Judy.

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  7. Oh dear, what a disappointment. I'm all for letting the organisers know your experience, if you've got the time (or just cut & paste this post!). I don't think I could have handled the hordes of people myself. Who was is that said "hell is other people?" Can't remember now and quite sure they weren't talking about May bank holiday family entertainment, but anyway! xx

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  8. That really does sound very disappointing. Sorry it turned out to be a dud. I did enjoy your discussion of it, I laughed out loud at some parts, like where you described the crafts that could be made. You're funny!

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