On Saturday I went along to the launch event for the Once Upon a Story Bus

This bus is no ordinary bus. 

Forget the images that spring to mind when you think of the council run mobile libraries that existed when we were kids…. This bus is very special and very unique in a digital, ‘iToddler’, declining literary skills kind of era.  

For children of all ages the bus represents a mini literary adventure waiting to happen…. For Arti Sharma-Grey, the lady who dreamt up the idea, I’m sure it must represent hours of challenges and dedication. When she was made redundant from her IT job she decided to buy a bus (as you do!) and renovate it! Amazing idea, and what an adventure! 

Photo courtesy of Maidenhead Advertiser
The bus today- quite a transformation!

Now before you all get jealous that the most exciting things happen in Berkshire (first a new library at the bottom of my garden and now a story bus!), I will hasten to add that it was a little bit hectic at the launch event – ‘middle class mayhem’ at its finest, and we didn’t actually make it onto the bus!

I heard about the event from the infamous Maidenhead Gossip Girls group on Facebook, which is undoubtedly the ‘go-to-place’ for all things local, and for advice on everything from children swallowing toys to finding a reliable local plumber.  (Yep, its that random!) 

The post about the launch event was one of those things that pops up in your news feed that you have to re-read to check that you didn’t get crossed wires and that its not an April Fool! 

A story bus?
A pub?
Just down the road?
Paul Daniels?
The UK’s No.1 Jack Sparrow act?
CBeebies performer?
A performance of Room on The Broom?
3-5pm avoiding the critical 12-2 nap time?

Yeah man, count me in!

Plus, as we sat at home and watched the torrential rain and then the sunshine, and then the torrential rain again, we were pleased to read that the entertainment would be in a covered marquee so we’d be OK, rain or shine. 

So with a promise of singing, storytelling and a lovely big bus, off we went. 

The first hurdle was finding somewhere to park! It got a little crazy on the streets of Holyport! 

People were parked right down the lanes.
The pub itself was jam packed with cars.

We arrived in the sunshine and found a crowded tent but managed to squeeze in.  We suddenly found ourselves on the front row for the action. It was great that they decided to step outside to perform Room on the Broom live with the help of children from the audience. 

The children get involved despite the rain.
It was a high energy performance, even when the rain started!
Is that Jack Sparrow??!
Yep, definitely Jack Sparrow!

Or at least it was great until until it started to rain. And my word, what rain it was! And yet like real troupers they carried on. I have to admit we chose to run for cover over to the Bus and shelter under the canopy.

An ice-cream van in the pouring rain. How very British!
Blue skies emerged eventually!

We waited patiently for our turn to go on the bus (we couldn’t all fit on at once) and I was looking forward to being able to take some photos to share with you on the blog… but just as we got to the front of the queue my little one decided that under NO circumstances did she want to get on the bus! NO WAY. The little lady was not for turning.

You know that moment when they start to wail and their bone structure melts and you can’t pick them up or put them anywhere…. yep, that! So in order to avoid a very public toddler meltdown we went for walk instead. (Obviously I was more gutted by this than I let on!) and we went to find the hubby who had gone in search of a pint of beer from the pub. 

The Jolly Gardner is a lovely pub with lots of charm, but I just don’t think they had any idea of how busy it would be so they were relying on the one till to serve everyone, meaning it was a little bit hectic! They should definitely have had a quick serve bar somewhere in the pub or even outside.

We then headed back to the main tent for Teddies Music Club which was in full swing by this point with kids and adults alike swaying and singing along to a pirate song! We found a good spot and joined in as they handed round percussion instruments for everyone. I’ve been to a few music classes with Anya, but the two ladies performing seemed to make things a lot of fun- I’ll definitely keep my eye out for classes locally.

Happiness is… a snack pot for the little one and a pint for Daddy.
The word was out… Lots of people waiting to go on the bus.

Meanwhile the queue for the bus grew and grew and snaked across the pub car park, but on the plus side, the sun finally stayed out! 

Reports say there were up to 1000 people that made it to the launch!  Even though we hadn’t been on the bus we decided it was time to leave. Although it was hectic at times, we had a great afternoon. 

I take my hat off to Arti for having the vision, the passion and the dedication to see the project through. She is hoping that the bus can bring storytelling to children who can’t access libraries, a great idea and I hope that the local community of Maidenhead support her wherever and whenever they can.

You can hire the bus for a private party, or you can find out about what they’re up to by following their Facebook page. and you can read more about the story behind the bus here. 

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