What?: “Listen, play, leave early, arrive late, no judgement”, the leaflet said. Perfect, I thought. Pre-baby I’d never have dreamed of turning up late to a concert and then arsing around for the duration of the performance until I got bored and pissed off home, but every parent knows that social etiquette goes out the window post-baby and it’s really nice to be given some kind of reassurance that that’s ok.
We arrived about 15 minutes before the performance started, in the half-hour window where kids are encouraged to blow off some steam in the big, bright hall space while their adults inhale caffeine from the coffee shop at the front. We were warmly welcomed by one of Mini Jam’s two musician founders, Chez, while the other, Erica, went through the agenda – basically just do what you want without harassing the musicians, which I thought was fair enough.
Our musicians were a ridiculously talented Spanish bass and guitar duo but if salsa’s not your thing don’t worry; Mini Jam’s concert calendar covers a variety of genres, from soul to classical to gypsy jazz. Each event also hosts a free pop-up, be it a toddler snack brand dishing out nutrition advice and free samples, a masseur poised to iron out the knots in weary parents’ shoulders or a nail-art specialist offering mini manicures for you and your little one – admittedly all a bit crap if you have an under-five to watch and are going it alone, but lovely if your child is slightly older or you’ve brought along an obliging friend who’ll watch your tinies while you indulge.
Mini Jam offers weekly baby, toddler and mixed-age music classes in addition to its concert programme, though I was particularly interested in the parent-focused nature of the concerts given that they enable those of us who rarely get the chance to ditch our little darlings to enjoy live music that isn’t a superfluous percussion accompaniment to Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake, Baker’s Man.
I must admit that Bab wasn’t massively engaged with the music, and whether that was down to her not being in the mood, being too engrossed in balloon politics with the other toddlers (more kids than balloons) to notice, or her general antipathy towards Spanish guitar music I really don’t know, but I would definitely file this one under ‘parent-friendly’ rather than ‘child-friendly’ – which is no bad thing at all.
If you’ve read my post on parent-focused live music events you’ll know that I will always opt for a concert where the music is adult-friendly over those that are misdirected towards the kids, who aren’t listening anyway, and where most of the adults look bored shitless and start chatting to their mates 10 minutes in. And don’t worry, these concerts might be aimed at the adults (or at least that’s the impression I got), but there is enough singing, colouring and stomping room to keep the little ones happy too. Mini Jam was also a lot less crowded and cheaper than similar but much less enjoyable events we’ve been to that definitely don’t have free pop-ups or a nice coffee shop on-site, though I imagine at least the former will change as more people get wind of how good they are.
Where and When?: Concerts take place on regular Fridays from 1.30pm until 2.45pm (check website for details) and are held at Fresh Ground in Battersea, a six-minute walk from Clapham Junction (Ginger, mainline).
Best Bits: Great music, lush location, chilled atmosphere, no daft rules.
Worst Bits: Needs more balloons. Also criminally under-attended. If more people knew about these concerts they’d be rammed.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, buggy parking, on-site cafe.
Cost: £8.50 per child.
Would We Come Back?: Definitely.
Bab does her own thing at a Mini Jam concert, Fresh Ground, Battersea.