Busy Parents Network: winning the Best Family Welcome Award

Carnival Big Draw

As we gear up for the next lot of Fantastic for Families awards, we’re shining the spotlight on last year’s well deserved winners.

Here we hear from Busy Parents Network – she tells us all about applying for the Best Family Welcome award and the benefits it brought to the organisation:


WINNING the Get Creative Family Arts Festival Best Family Welcome Award in 2017 was a great boost for Busy Parents Network!

We’re a small team, organising high-quality fun arts events for the whole family, and we always strive to go the extra mile.  So when our feedback surveys came back with 100% people giving our welcome 5 stars, we knew we must be doing something right.

The event was a live draw-along of Carnival of the Animals.  Author James Mayhew (Ella Ballerina and the Katie gallery books) sketched animals live on stage as professional musicians played Saint-Saens’ famous Carnival of the Animals.  Each animal was introduced with a riddle as the piano and cello struck up. Then as James’ sketches were projected on the large screen they had to guess which animal he was drawing. The children ‘drew-along’ on sketchpads we’d provided and created their own animals in response to the music.

The event took place at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, and after the concert there were wrap-around activities which gave young children the chance to explore one of Europe’s finest small art galleries – animal mask-making, storytelling and a treasure hunt for all the animals which appear in the Barber’s paintings and sculptures.

We sold all 630 tickets available for the two concerts and over a thousand people attended through the day.  Families booked one of two-hour slots and were free to enjoy the activities around the main performance at their own pace.

Busy Parents Network - Carnival of the Animals

Ticket prices were a very reasonable £5 (free for under-3s) as we are determined to keep our events affordable to everyone. To the same end we had a cake stand selling delicious homemade cakes costing from 50p-£1.50.

Wheelchair access was provided and the concert was signed by an exceptionally-talented BSL interpreter. Local schools for the deaf and special needs were specifically contacted to let them know how welcome they would be at Carnival, and as a result we welcomed a number of children with hearing impairments or learning difficulties. They were given first choice of seats on the day.  Feedback from these families was excellent.

All staff from both the Barber and Busy Parents Network were briefed to go the extra mile to help during the day. Breastfeeding mothers were given complimentary bottles of chilled water and out-of-town families were helped with bus routes. All ticket-holders were contacted afterwards to thank them for coming and given the opportunity to fill in an online feedback survey.

We had clear signage pointing out toilets, baby changing and performance times.

The author-illustrator James Mayhew said afterwards in all his years attending festivals and book-readings he’d never witnessed such a warm welcome.

The Birmingham Mail said the day was “a magical experience”: “The Busy Parents Network in Birmingham have been at it again!…Kids in the audience squealed with delight as they started to realise what he was drawing and then came up with beautiful interpretations of their own”.

It was wonderful to have our efforts recognised by Get Creative Family Arts Festival and the award ceremony gave our director Sarah Mullen a valuable opportunity to hear best practice stories from national arts organisations.  It’s given the team the confidence to keep up the same level of energetic, friendly interaction with customers and maintain a high standard.  We’ve featured our GCFAF award widely in our marketing material and it has helped build our reputation, as we strive to bring high-quality arts within reach of every family in Birmingham.

Applications for the Fantastic for Families Awards are open until 10th January 2018. Find out more and apply.

13 November 2017