We recently met with Maggie Bolger, cofounder of Maggie & Rose – the private club for kids and their parents – to talk about family travel and the ongoing battle to steal our kids’ attention away from their cell phones. In addition to serving as CEO and Creative Director at Maggie & Rose, which now has clubs in London and Hong Kong, Bolger has her own brood of four.
Tell us a bit about Maggie & Rose – how did it come about?
Rose and I were introduced through friends, and within a few hours we both realised what we wanted to do together. Rose was making films and I was running classes for kids. We had the vision to create a better quality of family life by creating an experience that appeals to both parents and children. Everything had traditionally been aimed solely at kids: bright, plastic play areas and appalling food. We decided to change that and create a calm and creative space that everyone would love to visit.
Any hiccups or hilarity along the way?
In the beginning, it was hard to get people to take us seriously. I had no business experience and little idea of what it took to run a company – I had to google what a CEO was! Also, more than a few times we had to be the entertainment at client parties when the real entertainment bailed on us. We’ve winged it with a bubble machine or two.
We most recently opened a club in Hong Kong, and that was a proud moment. To have families coming to our club on the other side of the world has been awesome. I love that both mums and dads love the clubs and can’t imagine life without us! We are where their family memories begin, and we’ll be a part of their lives forever because of this. Many families meet their closest friends through the club and their kids have some of their ‘firsts’ with us, whether it be steps or birthday parties.
What would your dream family weekend consist of?
We love a PJ lock-in. The rules are, no one gets out of PJs and no one leaves the house! We all cook mad recipes, inventing with what we have in the cupboards ( all my kids are pretty good in the kitchen thanks to years of attending our clubs’ cooking classes), followed by either a box-set binge or movie marathon. As the kids get older, it’s rare that we’re all together in one place, so staying in is a real treat.
But after a lock-in, it’s always great to try new things with the kids. We recently discovered King’s Cross, with its outdoor soft play and water fountains. We’re also fans of both Tate Galleries.
Which are the most popular activities at M&R clubs?
Our classes are pretty cool, from ‘I Can Paint A Rainbow’ to ‘1,2,3 Get Arty With Me’ to our most popular, ‘Make & Make Believe’ themes. Families love getting involved with our sessions, as they’re totally different from anything you’ll find elsewhere. We like to think outside of the box when inspiring children, and adults love that they can be just as involved, whether it’s creating a chef-of-the-moment dish in our cooking school or getting inspired by Banksy and creating graffiti art.
What three things would you never leave home without when travelling with the kids?
* Passports that are current – seriously, out-of-date passports have happened too many times for it to be funny anymore
* Magazines, books and a bunch of fun colouring pens.
* Lots of snacks!
What’s the most memorable holiday you’ve had with your family?
We’re very rarely available to get away on family holidays, but last year (prior to opening our Hong Kong club) we managed to all crowd into a motor home and drive to Provence, France. I must admit, I was dreading the idea of being in such a confined space with four kids between the ages of 5 and 15, however, it ended up being surprisingly fun (especially once I got over the the close proximity of the toilets and the boys using them at the worst times!).
What’s on your family travel wish list at the moment?
Here’s our hotlist for the next family holiday: the Amazon, an African safari or kite surfing in Sri Lanka. That’s according to the kids, by the way. I keep pushing for Cornwall as an alternative, but nobody’s buying that right now.
Best family travel tip?
Don’t expect to have a relaxing time with kids – it never happens! Just embrace the crazy and book a separate holiday without them if you need to relax.
What are your family rules around technology and screen time?
It’s tough in this day and age, especially with teenagers whose homework is dependent on computers. We have always had a ‘no TV’ rule Monday to Thursday. On those days, the kids have to read or talk to each other. Gaming has always been limited, as I’m not a fan of PlayStation and all that comes with it, so the kids have always been cool with not playing these at home (though I can’t control what happens at their friends’ homes). They get phones when they go to secondary school and are travelling on their own, and have been allowed to use Instagram, but nothing else. We also have a ‘no selfie’ rule and this seems to be working. I do worry about this generation and what all this technology will bring with it.