Tanya Sweeney: 'Playgrounds with Prosecco? There's a growing need for 'adults-only' spaces'
Maybe it's just me, but when I hear of an 'adult-only' playground, all sorts of sordid images flash by my mind's eye.
Yet the Jam Park at the Airside Retail Park in Swords, promises to be mainly good, clean, unironic fun. The 'grown-ups' space launches at the end of this month, and will provide punters with the chance to relive the best parts of their childhoods. Think amenities like shuffleboard, crazy golf, arcade games and - phew - over-18s drinks.
So far, the outlook is sunny for Jam Park's success: spare tickets for a similar event in Dublin's Merrion Square in 2017, featuring an adult ball pond, Prosecco and hearty rounds of Tip the Can, were rare as hen's teeth. London has long had the hop on the kidult craze: the Ball Pit Bar in Shoreditch opened to serious fanfare in 2015. Meanwhile, the Belfast-born Keery brothers' Cereal Killer Café, founded in 2014 and featuring all the sugary childhood favourites your taste-buds could want, has expanded beyond East London to Dubai and Kuwait City.
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There's much to be said for this apparent desire for grown-ups to return to simpler, more sepia-tinted times. Life is tough, rents are high, dating is a nightmare, adulting in general is exhausting. For some reason, we Irish are drawn to nostalgia like moths to a flame. Our appetite for it can barely be sated. But another interesting trend is afoot: the rise of the public space that is effectively verboten to little ones. Last year, Tipperary entrepreneur Alan Andrews announced the inception of Ireland's first 'adults only' café at the Old Barracks Café in Birdhill, Tipperary, noting that 'all adults are entitled to a bit of me time'.
Most people know exactly what he's talking about. Nothing cuts through the simple pleasure of a weekend brunch or quiet coffee with the papers like an especially 'sociable' toddler, an iPad blaring Peppa Pig, or kids with proverbial ants in their pants. Many parents are under the wrongful assumption that everyone wants to talk to their delightful two-year-old. Nope, we'd rather get through a Full Irish unbothered.
Most of the time, the problem isn't the kids. It's the grown-ups that have a very laissez-faire approach to wrangling them in public spaces, and would rather let their offspring run riot than put manners on them. A friend of mine recently took a flight from Canada with her four-year-old. "He puked up all over the guy next to us and basically screamed his way across the Atlantic," she recalled. Wow, I pity the poor guy in the seat next to you, I responded. "Meh," she shrugged. "I guess he just had to lump it."
There's an element of truth to her reaction: after all, what can you do when faced with the horrific unpredictability of youngsters? At the risk of sounding ancient, if we stepped out of line in public as kids, you were briskly met with a clip round the ear. It being the '80s, we were brought to the pub for a 'swift pint' after Mass (not ours, alas) and forced to be seen and not heard, for longer than a swift pint. The current generation of ankle-biters have been spared this ignominy, but the pendulum has swung the other way.
Here's the thing about kids. Forget putting manners on them: most of them are treated like A-list movie stars at a Cannes junket. They waft into the centre of rooms with confident insouciance, with their parents often trailing behind like willing lackeys. Every burble, gurgle and fart is treated as though it's all the news that's fit to print. As a new mum, I've been subjected to more people under the age of five in the past few months than I have been in my previous four decades. It. Is. Exhausting. And as much as I adore my 10-week-old, even my teeth start to itch when she cries in public. And I'm biologically programmed to be (sort of) okay with it.
Last month, Kaleidoscope, a music festival that professes to be specifically child-friendly was announced for this summer. It's a wily idea, and one that hopefully means that the mainstream festivals will edge towards 'adults-only' territory again. But let's be honest here: this is as much for parents as anyone. Children are not fans of crowds nor of music, and there's no point pretending that they are.