Old MacDonald's Farm

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Old MacDonald's Farm's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Old MacDonald's Farm is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Managing Director Joseph Manning
(right) receiving an award
A family friendly
Based in Brentwood, Essex, Old MacDonald’s Farm is an
amusement (and educational) park for children and families.
What makes the park particularly unique is that it combines
an incredibly fun and engaging experience with genuine learning
opportunities for children – something for which it has won
recognition from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.
It caters primarily for toddlers, but its ultimate goal is to
provide an experience that’s enjoyable for the whole family.
From a business perspective, it’s also worth noting that the
company rose to considerable success from a difficult situation
14 years ago. Upon taking over from this situation, Joseph
Manning, current Managing Director, transformed the site into
a thriving venue of entertainment and education. Joseph tells
TheParliamentary Review
how this transformation occurred.
Getting started
Fourteen years ago, I could immediately tell that Old MacDonald’s had a potential
which it was not meeting. At the time, it was not sufficiently entertaining for both
children and parents. For me, the goal was clear: this had to be a place that could
provide an entire day of fun for whole families. To help realise this goal, the first
actions I took were installing leisure attractions such as rollercoasters, a carousel,
pony rides and other similar amusements. This, of course, runs alongside the core
of Old MacDonald’s Farm, which is the presence of animals. In this respect, too,
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1994
»Based in Brentwood, Essex
»Service: Leisure attraction
»No. of employees: 20
Old MacDonald’s Farm
Highlighting best practice
we’re distinctive, as we feature more
than just farm animals; we also have
zoo life such as wallabies, meerkats,
Asian otters, llamas and alpacas.
Animals are a great source of
entertainment in their own right, but
they can also provide educational
experiences for the children. In
recognition of this fact, we are
often visited by children undergoing
Key Stage 1 and 2 aspects of their
education. Not only do the children
learn about the animals and their
characteristics, they also get to learn
about what’s involved in a farm – such
as the nature of growing of plants.
We do all of this in a way that’s both
accessible and enjoyable.
This commitment to providing
educational experiences is reflected in
our having been granted recognition
by the Council for Learning Outside
the Classroom. All of this is helped by
the fact that we have carefully chosen
staff who are genuinely enthused
to work here – which is particularly
important for an amusement park. No
one, after all, wants to see miserable
employees, as that itself can dampen
the whole experience.
Moving forward
We’ve developed the site to such an
extent that we’re now one of the main
attractions in Brentwood. When I first
took over, people were staying for
perhaps an hour or two, but now it’s
routine to see visitors stay for half the
day, if not the entire day. Year upon
year, attendance is increasing, as are
repeat visits. It’s for this reason that
we have introduced seasonal passes,
meaning our customers get value
Although we have a presence on
various media, including TV, we
receive a lot of our visitors through
recommendation and word of
mouth. All in all (and at the risk of
exaggerating), 99 per cent of the
changes we have made have been
successful – the whole journey
has been, and continues to be, an
Obstacles along the way
Of course, this is not to say that our
successful journey has been without
difficulties and challenges. We always
have to recognise the fact that
competition is never far away. There
are other attractions in the area that
are always trying to develop their
ability to attract customers. Part of our
job, therefore, is to keep abreast of the
situation and make sure we don’t just
keep up, but exceed the competition.
It’s also important to mention
that business rates are becoming
uncomfortably high – indeed, they have
close to doubled over the years. Add
on top of this the generally uncertain
economic climate we’re currently in,
and it’s clear that the government has
a fair bit of work todo.
We also have to keep up with the
important regulations that relate to
the animals we keep. Because many of
the animals we have are exotic in their
origin, we have to be sure that they
Hands-on experiences
Animals are a
great source of
in their own
right, but they
can also
experiences for
the children
are properly maintained in this new
climate. More generally speaking, we
have to be concerned for the welfare
of all our animals and ensure that
their surroundings are conducive to
their well-being. This is not just a legal
matter, nor is it just an ethical one;
rather, happy animals make for happy
children. It’s therefore imperative that
we get this right across the board.
Ethos and values
All of this also feeds into our value
system, which is increasingly orienting
itself around sustainability and
friendliness toward the environment.
What’s also important to us is giving
back to the local community. In this
regard, I have given away in excess of
worth of free tickets to the
farm. These tickets are then provided
to help with fundraising activities for
marathon runners, school raffles,
football clubs, children’s nurseries and
many others. All of this, in turn, raises
funds for many deeply worthwhile
causes, including those relating to sick
or terminally ill children.
We’ve also helped with conservation
efforts through our large donations
to the Big Cat Foundation via the
International Otter Survival Fund,
as well as through our adoption of
abused and unwanted animals.
The farm’s chosen charity is the
Starlight Children’s Foundation (for
terminally ill children). I have agreed
that any “Starlight child” and their
family can go to the farm for free any
time they want. Last but not least,
the contents of the farm’s wishing
well have also raised several thousand
pounds for charities.
Restless development
As mentioned earlier, we have a lot
planned for the future – indeed, we’re
always on the move. We have a new
rollercoaster planned for arrival, and
there are all kinds of seasonal changes
we plan to implement. More play areas
will also be added to the site, with
each having a unique and interesting
attraction. This, we hope, will augment
what is already a wonderful and
exciting experience for our visitors. In
other words, we expect to continue
replicating the sort of successes we’ve
so routinely achieved in the past.
This commitment
to providing
experiences is
reflected in our
having been
recognition by
the Council for
Learning Outside
the Classroom
A wealth of entertainment
A fun and educational


This article was sponsored by Old MacDonald's Farm. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister