My daughter Millie has been attending street dance for the past four years and it’s been something that has really built her self confidence and helped her to make new friends – to the extent that she now even sings out loud whilst in the car, shower and her bedroom. Beforehand she was a rather quiet child and as such her birthday parties have always involved one or two friends coming over for tea and party games at our home. However, with the enormous amount of effort and hard work that she’s put into studying for her 11+ this year, her new found confidence and friendship groups, this is the first year that she’ll be having a BIG birthday party to celebrate turning eleven and to give her a good send off for her final year at school with her friends before they move up and on to big school next summer. So what better way to celebrate than throwing her the ultimate VIP Popster Party by singing, dancing and making a music video for everybody to keep, remember and cherish their childhood memories forever!
I found Unit Nine Kidz online whilst searching for birthday party ideas; a recording studio in Milton Keynes seems like the absolute perfect fit for my daughter as they ‘make dreams a reality.’ They pride themselves on delivering stress free parties for children to keep everlasting memories whilst taking the stress and organisation out of party planning for parents – pretty essential considering I’ve never attempted a party of this scale before and I’m sure I’d end up with either a million check lists and reminders or forgetting everything I need on the day otherwise. Thankfully we simply need to rock up ready to party, have fun with friends and leave afterwards minus the mess and tidying away; it literally is the party of my dreams! (And of course my daughter!)
The creative studio environment is said to be a totally unique experience with ‘jaw-dropping’ floor to ceiling graffiti artwork that children my daughters age find soooooo cool, along with superhero characters and enthusiastic hosts to party like no other. Whether you want to become a real life popstar for the day or just party and play games with best friends and classmates there is something for everyone with a recording studio and professional live music venue. Seeing as their parties book up fast I’ve booked a few months ahead to secure the weekend before her birthday as we’re attending a family wedding on her actual birthday and with it being the weekend it makes it more convenient for her friends to attend. I was asked to leave a £50.00 deposit to secure the date and conveniently payment plans are also available to break the total into smaller monthly chunks.
As much as it’s a party for the children it’s also nice to get the school mum’s together for a final farewell for our penultimate year at the school gates. They have a great adult friendly chill out area with endless tea and coffee which we’ll use to put the world to rights, catch up on gossip and dote on our darlings as they party – and for those who want to dash off for a spot of shopping they can enjoy a few child-free hours.
Millie’s party starts with the VIP host greeting guests upon arrival, allowing the adults to sit back and relax throughout. The recording studio session will be made into a music video that is synced to a song before they step onto the venues professional stage to have their performance filmed. The party lasts 2.5hrs and is guided entirely by the host to ensure everybody is involved and having fun which ticks all of the boxes for me as a parent as I’ve found when my daughter was a little younger during parties children would get tired and throw tantrums, friends would have a disagreement, fall out or not want to join in with party games so keeping 24 children entertained, involved and engaged is quite an art. The party includes exclusive hire of the recording studio and performance venue along with a professional recording studio engineer throughout for the children to record two studio songs.
There is also karaoke which I’m sure the parents will be joining in with as it’s almost impossible to resist the temptation of testing out the venue sound system! The music video is then supplied once edited along with party bags for all of the children to take away, a CD of the song, water, squash and hot drinks throughout, free wifi, party invitations and thank you notes that can be downloaded and printed. Seeing as I wanted to personalise Millie’s party invites and I’m pretty handy on a Mac I’ve decided to make my own invitations along with Millie’s favourite colour scheme and design ideas which she was incredibly excited to help with and have printed to hand out to all of her friends.
Whilst catering isn’t provided by the venue you are able you to bring your own party food and there is a Pizza Hut close by. Millie has decided she’d like to have just cake and treats at her party so that she can spend her time enjoying the experience rather than sitting down for a meal as she’s a rather slow eater and I’m sure she’ll be too caught up with excitement to eat once she’s there so we’ll be having dinner before we set off. Nearer the time we’ll choose some cupcakes, lollipops and sweets along with prizes for the best dancer, best popstar outfit and best singer. And now all we have to do is sit back, relax and wait for the time to pass until her big day; this is by far the easiest birthday party I’ve ever had to plan!
It’s Party Time!
Wow, wow, WOW! How do I even begin to describe how much fun that was? Gosh. I’m still smiling from ear to ear and it’s been the talk of the school as Millie’s friends merrily reminisce on what could quite possibly be the best and most memorable birthday party of the year!
Used for musicians recording albums, television voice overs and live band performances throughout the week, Unit Nine is a hub of all things entertainment and is wonderfully open to birthday parties for all ages at the weekend. Speaking with the friendly and very energetic staff I found it fascinating to learn and experience first-hand how a professional recording studio works and the children were in absolute awe. As each child arrived, clutching beautifully wrapped presents and wearing their best party clothes, Millie’s excitement was simply tangible and it was lovely to see. She proudly greeted her friends, showed them to the sweetly table, offered them a glass of juice and they all jumped around cheering each friends arrival, admiring one anothers outfits and feverishly chatting about the songs that they were going to perform.
It was her dream come true to have such a large group of friends coming together to celebrate her special day and she felt so very special because of it. We’ve always had rather low-key birthday celebrations for a few friends so this was an extra exciting and grown up occasion and absolutely perfect for her age group. On the cusp of becoming teenagers, turning eleven the girls and boys relished in the opportunity to party beneath the disco lights, surrounded by cool graffiti walls set within an industrial night club whilst showing off their best dance moves which far exceeded my own!
The two party hosts were absolutely wonderful and took care of the entire event which really took the stress and hassle out of organising and running the day. Other than showing up there was nothing I needed to do as they worked to a wonderfully paced agenda which kept all of the children entertained and engaged throughout. Millie’s younger brother Gabriele -who is 6rs old- is autistic and as such I wasn’t sure how he’d handle the bright lights, loud noises and video recordings as he has a tendency to act out and go against instructions when something isn’t to his usual routine. Likewise, I was informed that some of the children may be a little shy, not used to dancing or cautious of being at large parties but the staff handled every individuals needs and abilities beautifully so that every child felt special and involved, each taking their turn in the spotlight as well as part of the group.
As we decided against having a sit down meal -my daughter would have spent around an hour eating whilst chatting which would have halved the party time- so I took a bag of snacks and nibbles which we laid out along the middle of the party table where every child had a cup of squash and a plate as well as decorations. From popcorn and smarties to Haribo, lollipops, chocolate rolls, cakes and snack bars the children could be as naughty or as nice as they chose whilst freely helping themselves to snacks for extra energy throughout.
The party began with a short briefing to explain to the children what would happen throughout the afternoon, before they were split into three groups to allow a suitable amount of people into the recording studio at a time. Whilst the first group of wannabe-popstars filed into the recording studio, slipped on their headphone and cleared their throats ready for a warm-up song, the rest of us entered the control room where we could watch their performance through a glass window as the sound technician expertly tweaked and turned hundreds of silver dials and sliders on a huge desk with multiple computer screens and gadgets. It felt like we were in a spaceship and the children stood wide eyed and open-mouthed as they took it all in, behaving beautifully as they awaited their turn and waved at their friends beyond the lyric sheets and microphones.
Nestled in the control room we could hear every word that was sung and the technician instructed the children on which dial to turn to raise the sound, increase the base, drop the music and press record which was lovely to watch as they felt so very special and grown up. When the first group finished a practise run of the first song they then sang it again this time with it being recorded and their confidence grew as they became familiar with the surroundings and performance. The making of the music video also took place as a member of staff panned a video camera across cheerful faces singing into microphones, holding headphones and singing as a group behind the scenes much like the iconic Live Aid collaboration by Bob Geldof.
The second group then took their turn, followed by group three before they moved onto the second song which was to be recorded for the audio CD to take home in the party bags. As the sound technician expertly edited the children songs together the rest of the team set about capturing the second half of the music video which was set in the nightclub arena with bright flashing lights, neon wrist bands and a stage. The first section took place on the dance floor where each child was able to show of their special moves as the others copied, closely followed by them all jumping around on the stage and Millie on a podium.
I’ve never seen so much energy, enthusiasm and smiles in one single place and I felt incredibly proud and pleased for my daughter as her dreams of becoming a popstar came true and the incredible experience was magically captured and shared with all of her nearest and dearest friends. Music video complete, the children had a quick break to go to the toilet and stock up on sweets before the games and activities began, starting with karaoke where they could request any song imaginable and sing their little hearts out as the rest of the children danced along.
With two microphones there were solos, duets and group songs aplenty and it felt just like watching the x-factor live, something my daughter has been to and loved just as much as this. It was wonderful to see the children so confident, at ease and having fun, exactly how carefree and energetic every child deserves to feel. They took to it like a duck to water and really gave it their all, even the quieter children, which was heartwarming to see. This was closely followed by a team building activity of throwing a huge colourful parachute up in the air.
The party hosts instructed the children to take hold of the loops around the edge of the giant rainbow coloured parachute and throw it up in the air as they took turns to duck down low and run underneath to the other side each time that it rose and fell. The room filled with giggles and cheers as the music played and lights strobed with the atmosphere absolutely electric with enthusiasm. I found myself clapping and cheering along and before I realised the time was almost up!
Next up came the dance battle, a chance for the children to show off their best and most impressive freestyle moves as the party hosts watched and took note, rewarding the best dancers with prizes of smarties and stars. The final game was Millie’s favourite, musical chairs, and what I really liked about how this was handled was the fact they when somebody lost a chair they didn’t lose the game and feel bad, instead they danced together on the stage as the others continued to skip around the chairs and everybody cheered.
The afternoon was finished perfectly with the presentation of Millie’s birthday cake; she stood in front of all of her friends as they sung her happy birthday, her rainbow cake complete with 11 sparklers and a huge amount of candles lit up the room to rapturous applause. Making her birthday wish and blowing out her candles, the children settled at the table to have a slice of cake before home time. Thanking her guests for coming and handing out party bags at the door with their popstar recordings, Millie’s party was a great success and the children left singing the praises to their parents. Unit Nine is a fantastic set up, stress free entertainment and kind and inclusive treatment of all children, including my special needs son.
Millie says: “The venue was absolutely amazing and the staff helped with everything. They told us exactly what to do and we understood it straight away. They let me choose my own songs which I really liked and my friends and I had a great time. Even some of my friends have said they want to have their birthdays here, I really hope I get to come back soon, it’s been the best birthday party ever!”
This has been by far the most exciting, memorable and worthwhile party we’ve ever had, or even attended, and I couldn’t recommend Unit Nine more highly for children and adults alike. An amazing experience for all ages, great value for money and a wonderful keepsake to take home at the end of it. The children are eagerly awaiting the music video which will arrive in a weeks time and we can relive the magic all over again!