At the southern approach to the King’s Cross development, the giant birdcage art installation by artist, Jacques Rival, has now been augmented with an oversized playground swing.
It’s not uncommon when you emerge from King’s Cross station to see ‘professional types’ joyously swinging back and forth while clearly tapping into feelings that have remained submerged since their youth.
The whole concept of ‘kidulthood’ – a desire to once again savour the fun of your younger years – is gaining a grip in London. And we’re not just talking about fishing out your old CDs or leafing through an angst-ridden teen diary. There is now an entire strand of the leisure and entertainment sectors which focuses on helping people reconnect with sometimes unashamedly childish experiences.
Music venues across the capital are booked out with pop stars rekindling popularity that dates as far back as the 1970s – basking in the adulation of crowds characterised by receding hairlines and Boden chic.
However, the trend is perhaps most interesting when it spawns new attractions. A pop-up adult playground in London Fields this summer sold out faster than you could say ‘Are we there yet?’, and such was the demand that visitors were limited to one-hour slots.
Meanwhile, in Shoreditch the exuberantly named Ballie Ballerson promises: ‘One million balls, retro sweetie cocktails, damn sexy food, and a ball waterfall – the ultimate adult playground to get loose’.
Essentially, it’s a series of huge ball pits (think nursery, think IKEA crèche) and an awful lot of booze. For those of you worried about the hygiene aspects of these high-jinks, the venue assures customers it has a ‘ball cleaner called Gobble Muffin who sanitises and cleans 18,000 balls per hour’. I’m not making this up…
Of course, perhaps the most interesting thing about Ballie Ballerson – and most of the other ‘kidulthood’ offers that are springing up – is the age of the clientele. Most people cavorting in the ball pits are in the 20-40 age bracket.
Back in the day, nostalgia didn’t kick in until you were well into middle age or later but perhaps our experience-hungry society has now done so much by a relatively young stage that it can feel nostalgic about the ‘good old days’ only a couple of years after they’ve taken place.
So if you want to come up with a great idea for a new leisure business, you may want to start by connecting with your inner child.