BBC Ten Pieces Prom – taking kids to the proms

There are some experiences in life that just blow your kids minds. That’s exactly how I would describe taking my children to the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Ten Pieces Prom. I have never seen such a look of wonder on their faces and found the whole experience quite emotional if I’m honest.

Let me backtrack a bit in my tale…

BBC Proms

Firstly. The Proms.

If you’re British you know about the BBC Proms. They’re an institution and rightly so. It’s likely that people are most familiar with the world famous Last Night of the Proms, but musically that’s just scratching the surface. The Proms actually go on over eight weeks and include daily classical concerts – with most taking place at the Royal Albert Hall in London’s Kensington.

The thing that always amazes me is how varied the Proms programme is. There really is something there to suit all different classical music tastes. From world music to famous tunes that you hear regularly. And hundreds of different pieces in-between. I’m lucky enough to have been to the Proms once before and I’ve always known that it was an experience that I want to share with my kids.

Proms for Kids

When it comes to getting children involved in the Proms there is a whole schedule for families. In the BBC’s own words:

There are regular matinees for all the family to enjoy, with tickets half-price for all young people aged 18 and under. Or for families looking to delve deeper into the music, the Proms Family series offers the perfect introduction to the classical Proms. Whether you play an instrument or sing, whether you are a complete novice or an aspiring virtuoso, come and join in the fun at our family-friendly workshops.

As part of this family programme we were lucky enough to be invited along to the second of the two Ten Prices Prom (Prom 20) and also the accompanying Proms Children’s Press Conference, held at the neighbouring Imperial College Union.

BBC Ten Pieces

The BBC Ten Pieces project has the aim of opening up the world of classical music to 7 – 14 year olds across the UK. To educate and inspire them to develop their own creative response to the music. The initiative was launched in 2014 and has so far reached over four million people across the UK. The project provides an amazing set of teaching resources for this age group, all based around ten pieces of classical music.

They are currently on the third list of Ten Pieces which forms the central core of the programme, with teaching resources arranged either by piece or via other theme. These ten pieces were then included in the Ten Pieces Prom, as ten musical spells to help bring the Firebird back home to the Royal Albert Hall.

BBC Ten Pieces Prom

The Prom itself was a beautiful musical story which not only introduced the audience to the ten pieces, but brought them all together with the firebird story and also dance and poetry. It really was a showcase of the arts, and an amazing way of introducing children to more than just music.

BBC Ten Pieces Prom

With children’s television’s Naomi Wilkinson as the musical spell-caster, we also had the on stage delights of Shakespearean actor Paapa Essiedu (as composer Joseph Bologne) and the magical Josie Lawrence (as eccentric music bird spotter Molly Finch).

BBC Ten Pieces Prom Firebird

The three of them took the audience on a musical journey to find the Firebird and bring him back home.

BBC Ten Pieces Prom

With pieces as varied as Aaron Copland’s Rodeo Hoe-Down and Kerry Andrew’s No Place Like the Ten Pieces list really does give children a huge variety of music to help inspire them. I particularly loved Kerry’s vocal composition – full of human observation and humour.

Brave New Voices

Another inspiring part of the Prom for me was the performance of the poem Home by Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices is English PEN’s ongoing outreach programme for young people from refugee and asylum-seeker backgrounds.

BBC Ten Pieces Prom

The group created this poem having been inspired by Dvorak’s New World Symphony. It was performed in English and Arabic and was, quite simply, breathtaking. There was a lovey clip from this on the BBC News website in advance of the Prom and it makes you realise what an incredibly piece of work the Brave New Voices project is.

The Royal Albert Hall

As if the Prom itself wasn’t enough for the kids, there was also the spectacular Royal Albert Hall for them to take in. None of the three of them had visited before and even as an adult I remember it taking my breath away the first time I went in. It is a huge space. Incredibly impressive. Like nothing they’d ever seen before. The closest Master C could come was comparing it to the circus! I suppose he’s right when you think about it being in the round like a circus is – but it did make me laugh when he kept telling people over the next few days that he’d been to “a concert at the circus”.

BBC Proms Children’s Press Conference

As if a Prom wasn’t enough for a day out in London, the kids also got the excitement of going along to the BBC Proms Children’s Press Conference first. Hosted by Barney Harwood of Blue Peter fame, this press conference gave children the opportunity to pose questions to leading musicians to find out what it takes to make it in music.

On stage with Barney were composer Bushra El-Turk, saxophonist Jess Gillam and clarinetist and composer Mark Simpson. All three of them spoke passionately about how they made it in music. The dedication and determination that they had to show as children and how hard work and practice can pay off.

Whilst none of our three show an interest in becoming a musician (yet!) what came across loud and clear was how the messages that all four of them on stage were giving could be read across to other professions. My step-daughter wants to be an actor, but as is often the case when you’re young, has received some set-backs in her aspirations. The messages that Jess and Mark were giving in particular about not giving up and remaining focussed on an end goal were so important for her to hear from someone other than her Dad.

The girls were also completely starstruck to meet Barney. He’s been a key part of all their Blue Peter watching over the years and they were particularly excited to see him in the flesh, and really that he’s actually a real human being! Little Miss C was incredibly proud to put on her recently acquired Blue Peter badge for the occasion and was thrilled when Barney asked her about it.

A musical education in the arts

I have to say that our afternoon at the Proms was definitely a school holiday highlight for all three kids. Not only did they get the experience of amazing classical music being played by incredibly musicians (the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Payare and accompanied by the BBC Singers) in a world-class venue, but there were also so many other messages that they took away, especially from the press conference. I feel that it was an important step in their arts education for all three of them, and one which I urge any parent to try to follow.

Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to the BBC Ten Pieces Prom. The accompanying BBC Proms Children’s Press Conference was free of charge to attend. All opinions remain my own.

All photographs thanks to and copyright BBC/Pete Dadds.

Pregnancy Diary – Weeks 25 and 26

Pregnancy seems to be speeding up. I’m sure of it!

I’m now at the stage where I think I’ve honestly forgotten how pregnant I am. I can just about work it out if I use my fingers and consult the diary, but it seems that I’m so busy right now that I don’t just have it instantly to mind.

Exhaustion

What I would say about the last two weeks is that I have felt utterly exhausted. I’m not sure if it’s just down to trying to cram in a lot of stuff with all three kids the first weekend, but by Monday and Tuesday I was no use to anyone.

Pregnancy Diary BBC Proms Royal Albert Hall

The first weekend had been crazy with a visit to the Dunstable Kite Festival, along with a very long day in London. We managed to squeeze in both a children’s festival and a children’s Prom (watch out for the blog post about it very, very soon) into one day. On opposite sides of London. Without very long at all to get between the two. And without any proper plans for lunch. What I learnt was that I need to slow down a bit. And eat properly. Valuable lessons that I’m trying to take forwards into the rest of the school summer holidays.

Lazy days at home

Pregnancy Diary baking with kids

If there is a plus side form overdoing it though it is realising how much my kids like a day in which we do very little. A day full of board games, television, baking and happily pottering about the house. Don’t get me wrong – the house is a tip at the end of it – but I think we all needed a few lazy days like this. It gave us time to reconnect somewhat and spend some quality time together at home.

Master C has got a bit of a thing for board games at the moment, so when he’s not playing with his trains he’s keen to find someone to play either Snake and Ladders or Ludo with him. Something I’m more than happy to agree to. Well, for the first nine or ten times!

Regaining my fitness levels

Another thing that I’ve noticed with this pregnancy is that I’m nowhere near as fit as I was with the last too. Back then I did the school run on foot and just generally seemed to have so much more energy. This time round I’m desperate to go to bed at the end of the day and in comparison walking and exercising very little.

I’m feeling. bit bad about that. Especially since I haven’t even been able to make it to my weekly aqua natal class for about 6 weeks now.

The only regular bit of exercise I have been getting is when I take the kids to their swimming lessons once a week. I’ve made a real effort to start swimming lengths again whilst they have their lessons. It’s a good thing for me to do – mentally and physically – and I’m realising I really do need to make some time to look after myself a bit better. I need to make time to go for walks and do other bits of exercise, as well as eating better too.

As I sit here writing this I have a week where the kids are staying with their Dad, and I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to get properly organised for the rest of the year. With the wedding and the baby I know that the next five or six months are going to be crazily busy and I also know that I need to be on top of things so nothing gets dropped. I just need to make sure I put time in my plans to concentrate on myself too.

Midwife appointment

Speaking of looking after myself, one thing that I do religiously make time for is medical appointments. I have to admit that I don’t understand people who don’t keep regular appointments. You’re responsible for a little life inside you. How can you not make the time to go and see the Doctor or midwife?

I therefore waddled off to the local doctors’ surgery for my 25 week mid-wife appointment, which was short and sweet. Although luckily not as disappointing as the last one was. This time around I did get to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, but to be honest there wasn’t a whole much more to the appointment.

A quick feel of my tummy told the midwife that baby (unsurprisingly) wasn’t head down yet, and all my blood pressure and urine sample were also fine. I’ve already got the next two appointments with her in the diary and at those I’ve been told to expect another set of blood tests and also my Anti-D injection. It seems the way they do Anti-D is different from when I had my son and daughter, so that’s yet another thing I have to get my head around.

Travelling around

I’ve also been making the most of the times when the kids have been staying with their Dad to accompany B on some of his work travels. I generally find that if I stay at home I end up not working that well as I get distracted by the various jobs that need doing instead. I therefore try and find cafes with wifi near where he is working and go with him and concentrate on my work whilst he is at work. I can make a cheap cup of coffee or tea last a good couple of hours if needs be, but it does mean I get so much more done. At the same time I can also make the most of the car journeys for a bit of crochet or sewing (which is like mental therapy to me!) and get to see a bit of the country at the same time.

Brighton

Pregnancy Diary Brighton beach

We were lucky enough to be in Brighton the day before Brighton Pride and loved the carnival atmosphere in the town. I found some gorgeous cafes and shops and even managed to find my wedding dress on a sale rack for the bargain price of £15 whilst there! That afternoon we sat on the beach watching the waves come in and it was just perfect.

Colchester

I also tagged along when he had to go to Colchester, which gave me a perfect excuse to catch up with my blogging friend Mary over a cuppa and piece of cake. We worked out that it’s been about two years since we last managed to catch up in person and it was an excellent reminder of how wonderful some of the blogging friendships I’ve made over the years are. She took me to a lovely vintage tea rooms and we platted a return visit so that we can go to the local board game cafe too. Colchester – we’ll be back!

As if that wasn’t enough as we made our way home, we delayed lunch plans slightly as the heavens opened, but that meant that we happened to be driving past the East Anglian Railway Museum just as our stomachs were rumbling.

Pregnancy Diary East Anglian Railway Museum

Unfortunately the need to get back to pick up the kids meant that we didn’t have time to do the museum itself, but the pair of us loved having lunch in an old railway carriage on one of the platforms as we watched real trains go through the middle of the museum. Yet another reason to return soon.

Norfolk

As if all that wasn’t enough we also managed to squeeze in a quick overnight trip to Norfolk to see B’s family. We figured it was the last chance we’d get before the wedding so we thought we ought to make the effort.

Pregnancy Diary Wells fish and chips

It was very much a flying visit, but no visit to Wells Next The Sea would be complete without fish and chips from French’s. If you’re ever in the area it is the place to go. Don’t let the queue put you off. It’s well worth the wait.

The gorgeous weather also meant that we were desperate to fit in a beach trip and we managed it. Holkham is one of B’s favourite beaches and I totally agree as to why. It’s just so big that even on the busiest of days it doesn’t seem busy. There’s also something completely magical about paddling in the sea and it’s one of those things that I think should be done at every possible opportunity.

Leighton Buzzard Railway

The fortnight finished with a final trip out with the kids to the Leighton Buzzard Railway. Master C is a huge train fan and seeing as Leighton Buzzard is our closest train day out we thought it about time we visited.

Pregnancy Diary Leighton Buzzard Railway

Needless to say the kids had a ball (full write up coming soon on Penny Travels) but once again it reminded me how much days out are exhausting me with this pregnancy. Luckily we were able to change our plans and just stay home the following day, but it was another reminder not to plan too much these holidays.