| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Concerts with kids?

Your fave singer is in town but you can't get a babysitter. What to do?

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Given that we’re about to dive into winter concert season, Kelly Ann Crane went to the pros and collected some tips on the etiquette of taking kids to concerts.

One thing we’re pretty sure those feisty members of the Spice Girls never did, was take their kids to a live arena concert. Right? Wrong.

Victoria ‘posh spice’ Beckham admits to taking her brood, Mel C and Mel B have both been snapped at stadium events in the US and while the jury is still out on Baby Spice Bunton, Geri – or the now politically-incorrect Ginger Spice – attends “mate’s shows” with her nipper if the papers are to be believed.

A concert, festival or arena spectacular can seem like a terribly stressful-slash-inappropriate place to take a kid, with the big crowds, smoking, beverage-influenced (child-friendly way of saying smashed) idiots and tendency for a number of the more popular musical artists to include profanity, nudity and severed appendages in between song patter.

Admittedly a night at the opera might be asking a little too much – mum’s across the UAE now imagining the fidgeting, tears [read floods] and tantrums [read mother-of-all-meltdowns]. But at an AC/DC concert or grass-based 12-hour music festival and the tykes could be running in circles, blowing raspberries on the necks of the family on the blanket next door and pouring water on the ground — and still be the least annoying people in the crowd.

Take the plunge and decide to take youngsters to their first entertainment event and you’ll experience a mixture of optimism and mild-to-massive anxiety.

Will they be traumatised by the chest-rattling volumes and screaming masses? What if we spend more time changing nappies than teaching them to appreciate live music? At what age can I let my children go it alone?

That said, the UAE is a child-friendly nation and given the amount of musical offerings, it makes sense the next generation of concertgoers are made to feel welcome.

If you’ve got the guts to brave the judgemental stares, the occasional toddler zipping across the audiences’ field of vision isn’t going to land you a jail term.

Amy Wilkinson-Lough, Managing Director at LOUDER Entertainment, the guys who last month brought us Take That’s Gary Barlow, believes live music must be accessible to anyone who feels a connection to it – no matter what age.

“I have been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine life without it,” says Wilkinson-Lough. “I’m a firm believer that music and the live events that come with it are a way of life, from your first concert to your first festival, it’s like a right of passage and it’s absolutely something that should be accessible to everyone; children, teenagers and adults alike. Music does not and will never discriminate. It brings people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures and indeed age categories together.”

British-born Wilkinson-Lough created LOUDER from nothing more than a love of music and as for which shows are appropriate for children, that’s a call for the parents she says. “Much like the movies, some of them are great for the whole family and some just simply aren’t appropriate.”

UAE-based Done Events, the guys behind Justin Bieber in Dubai, is gearing up to host nipper-favourite RedFestDXB this month, and One Direction early next year, an event guaranteed to pull the small people.

COO Thomas Ovesen, 44, says including youngsters is very important for many reasons. “They are our future concert customers so we need to groom their interest for live entertainment but they are also the indirect decision makers in the households and their wellbeing and having a good time rate very high on parents’ agenda.”

From a purely business perspective, targeting a younger audience can also help sales. “At Eric Clapton an adult might buy two tickets where a household with a couple of kids will need three or four.”

Ovesen says kids use, live and consume music as part of their every day life today. “Nothing beats the live entertainment experience. We develop music festivals acknowledging the needs of young fans.

So what are the dangers parents should be aware of? “I would like to think once inside the gates at our events parents needn’t worry about the wellbeing of their children. In our experience it’s what happens on the way home that can be a cause for concern. We have meeting points and at events like the recent Justin Bieber shows or the upcoming One Directions concert special announcements and bulletin boards will advise guests of how to avoid getting lost and what to do in the case of needing to find friends, children or parents again.”

Ovesen estimates two thirds of the audience at Harlem Globetrotters, Imagination Movers, RedFestDXB and Justin Bieber were young guests.

Alchemy Project Entertainment organises popular child-friendly events including the 12-hour Atelier festivals, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, as well as Shadowland, Laverita, Cinderella Ballet, The Illusionists and Cirque Du Soleil.

CEO Mac S Far is a firm believer the youth of today must be considered when it comes to entertainment.

“They are the most important audience and create a backbone of interest for the next generation in the entertainment industry,” says 28-year-old Far. “They are passionate and energetic and we must put an emphasis on providing convenient facilities and the right environment for them.”

Far says when it comes to age you have to be realistic. Family entertainment shows sometimes have quiet parts so kids under four should steer clear. For concerts, depending on the artist, I think anything above five is OK with restricted access in family areas.”

Time Out Dubai,

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