In the depths of Harrod’s celebrated Toy Kingdom, an intimate gathering of toy experts, journalists and toy manufacturers met for the unveiling of the second annual Slow Toy Awards winners.
The event, revealing this year’s triumphant Slow Seven, celebrated a range of toys selected by a panel of judges for their dedication to traditional and imaginative play among children.
Although the early start meant that the sun hadn’t long been up, spirits were high among the small audience that populated the coffee and croissants stand, as Asobi’s managing director and founder of the Slow Toy Movement, Thierry Bourret took to the stage.
Telling the audience of tales from his childhood, the toy enthusiast welcomed and congratulated the room for their contributions to traditional toys with a heartfelt, nostalgic speech.
"I wanted us to remember a time I often like to think back to," he enthused.
"A time when toys were simply engaging, like the ones I played with as a child at my grandmother’s house in France.
"I am so overwhelmed by the success of this year’s event, I could cry."
Bourret announced each of the Slow Seven in turn: Dolls Pram from Moover, The Activity Cube from East Coast, The Tiny Trike from Galt, Haba’s My First Play World Fire Brigade, The Multi Models Set from Meccano, Twig from Fat Brain Co and Bigjigs’ Around the World Train Set.
An impressive selection of traditional toys, made from enough wood to keep a small family of beavers occupied for weeks, and of course each embodying the ethos of Bourret’s movement.
Knowing Bourret couldn’t maintain this crouch position (above) forever, ToyNews took the chance to catch up with the Asobi MD.
"Oh it’s fantastic," he told ToyNews of the success of this year’s awards.
"It has gone fantastically well and we are very lucky to be here."
Bourret explained that the ceremony was gathering a momentum and recognition that already had him looking to next year’s awards.
"Look at the number of people here this year, it is double the number we had last year. It is definitely gaining recognition.
"We don’t know for certain where we will be next year, but we are in talks with Harrod’s to be holding it here again, they seem very interested so why not?"
Recognised for its classic design and simplicity, Galt’s Tiny Trike sits atop its winner’s podium.
"This ceremony is great for toys, and great for Tiny Trike to be recognised for its classic design," Galt Toys’ Blake Coleman told ToyNews.
"This design proves there is nothing quite as powerful as a child’s imagination. It is nice to be appreciated, there is not enough classic design going on in the toy world."
The only non-wooden toy to be selected by judges, the Meccano 15 Multi Model Set, was chosen for its traditional play values and experiential qualities in children’s play pattern.
Twig from Fat Brain Toy Company proved a real talking point of the day, predominantly ‘What on earth do you do with that? Damned if I know, but give it to a kid and they’ll love it.’
While the Fat Brain Toy Co. weren’t available to explain the machinations of their award winning product, renowned children’s author and Slow Toy Award judge, Liat Hughes explained that the toy’s mystery was its greatest strength.
"I absolutely love Twig. It’s not just another box of bricks. The way they’re designed they were used by the children in so many different ways," she said.
"They are absolutely the epitome of slow toys. The difference between an adult and a child is that a child will know exactly how to play with this product."
Moover’s Doll’s Pram – made from sustainable wood – was commended for blending traditional crafsmanship with contemporary style.
Despite being called the Slow Toy Awards, the pace of the event was anything but (to which this slightly blurred picture can attest). The Activity Cube from East Coast was celebrated for its intricacies, proving Slow Toys do not have to be minimalistic.
Haba’s My First Play World Fire Brigade even caught a giant bear’s attention with its vibrant play pieces and exciting design.
Haba manager, Martin Nield, told ToyNews: "We are very happy to have been selected. This is exactly where we are at. It’s a recognition that children still play with toys and they don’t just get given an electronic gizmo."
Completing the line-up is this good looking train set from Bigjigs, sat atop the centre podium as judges rewarded it for both its interactive and educational qualities.
So the awards were a success. And with over 100 entrants whittled down to this final Slow Seven this year, Bourret looks forward to doing it all again one year from now.
"We are just starting to gain momentum," he explained. "The awards are about recognising the smaller companies, and we have done that. We are absolutely thrilled," he concluded.