Tuesday 30 January 2018

February Half Term Fun with WayWord Family Arts Festival at Storyhouse, Chester - 17th to 24th February

If you are looking for something fun to do with the kids this February Half Term (17th to 24th Feb), then the multi award-winning Storyhouse Chester have recently revealed a fantastic line-up of events for families to enjoy.

Family arts festival, WayWord, is now in its 5th year and is a week long festival that is dedicated to families and children. For seven days, Storyhouse in Chester will have a programme, featuring performances, workshops, children's illustrators, writers and discos.

Alex Clifton, artistic director at Storyhouse said: "We are so excited to be bringing our family festival to Storyhouse for the first time. WayWord is a celebration of ideas, of playing, being creative, learning and having fun together."

Gruffalo Illustrator Axel Scheffler will be coming to Chester on the 22nd February to talk about his latest book with Smartie winner Julia Donaldson - The Ugly Five. Waterstones Children's Book Winner, Jonny Duddle will also be returning to the festival to discuss his latest adventure in the pirate world Scurvy Sands.

There will be performances for families to enjoy in Storyhouse's theatre - Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs based on the bestselling picture books will be on stage on Tuesday 20th February and beatboxer Lee Gibling will perform and give a workshop on Saturday 17th February. Musicians, Kabantu return to Chester to perform a concert followed by a music-making workshop for ages 4+. There will also be lectures on the Science of Doctor Who and Star Wars.

New for 2018 is WayWord Flicks - a selection of family favourite short films, screened on Storyhouse's Big Screen located in the art deco foyer. Price includes a ticket, headsets for audio and a snack.

Workshops will feature throughout the week: Storyhouse's in house dance theatre company Fallen Angels are doing a dance workshop for all the family on Monday 19th February. Creaters of Wallace and Gromit  Aardman Studios will lead a session on clay modelling. Acapella singer James Sills will do a workshop on performing songs from musicals, followed by a performance in the Garret. There will also be a hip-hop dance workshop, plus code a drone, Lego stop motion and computer game design.

The return of 'play in a day' on Saturday 24th February, sees participants work with theatre makers to write, rehearse and perform a play in a day. Storyhouse's Atrium will welcome families to dance together at the Silent Disco and Artful Playground will perform with their swing band.

Festival favourite Den Building returns for its 5th year and families will come together to create incredible hiding spaces. Storytelling is at the heart of the programme with sessions daily in Storyhouse's children's library - The Den. There will also be Caveman parties, a puzzle/board game library, puzzle room - like a children's Crystal Maze and free themed arts and crafts including kite, dreamcatcher and puppet making.

Storyhouse's independent cinema will be screening kids movies: Aardman's latest film Early Man, plus documentary Jane and classic reissue Doctor Dolittle.

Tickets start at only £4. To find out more and to view the full schedule of events, please visit the Storyhouse website or visit their social media pages which can all be found here:

Storyhouse website - www.storyhouse.com
Twitter - @StoryhouseLive
Facebook - StoryhouseLive

Sunday 28 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - Gangsta Granny at Storyhouse, Chester on the 11th-14th April

David Walliams' comic creation Gangsta Granny will soon be heading on a madcap adventure, to steal all of the laughs at Storyhouse Chester this April.

Birmingham Stage Company - the acclaimed producers of Horrible Histories, George's Marvellous Medicine and Tom's Midnight Garden - are bringing their hugely successful stage version of David Walliams' Gangsta Granny to Storyhouse from the 11th to the 14th April 2018.

Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben and his grandmother. It's Friday night and Ben knows that means only one thing - staying with Granny! There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake, and Ben knows one thing for sure, it's going to be so boring. But what Ben doesn't know is that Granny has a secret - and Friday nights are about to get more exciting that he could ever imagine as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny! "All you can do in this life is follow your dreams. Otherwise you're just wasting your time" Gangsta Granny.

Walliams, one of the judges on the popular Britain's Got Talent TV Show and creator of the ground-breaking comedy series Little Britain and Big School, is now the best-selling author for children in the country.

He began his publishing career at Harper Collins in early 2008 with his debut novel The Boy in the Dress. Then, after writing two other popular stories, he published Gangsta Granny in 2011, which was shortlisted for both The Red House Children's Book Award and for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. The book also soared straight to number 1 in the children's book charts and his books have been translated into no fewer than 50 languages.

At Christmas 2013 a TV version of Gangsta Granny was shown on BBC One with an all-star cast including David Walliams himself.

David Walliams said at the first night of Gangsta Granny from the stage at Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre: "What a fantastic show! It's truly brilliant! And so much better than the book!"

Photo Credit: Mark Douet
Gangsta Granny is a must for all families as the show will be enjoyed by everyone from 5 to 105! It's both laugh out loud funny and thrilling but also features some very moving and truthful things to say about family relationships. Having premiered in 2015, the show has been touring the UK ever since and has also enjoyed a West End season throughout Summer 2017.

Tickets are on sale now with all the listing details you need below:

Listing Details

Show - Gangsta Granny
Venue - Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, CH1 2AR
Date - Wednesday 11th April to Saturday 14th April
Times - Evenings 7pm / Thursday, Friday & Saturday Matinees at 2pm
Ticket Prices - From £20.50. Children's tickets from £16.50.
Box Office - 01244 409113
Website - www.storyhouse.com

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Friday 26 January 2018

Becoming Nature Detectives with The Woodland Trust

We are regular visitors to our local woods at Wepre Park, which is packed full of wildlife, adventure and history. Based in Connah's Quay in Flintshire, we find it a great place to go for a few hours at the weekend as there is always plenty to see and do, as well as it being a completely free activity for us to enjoy as a family. The ancient woodland is extensive and a long winding path leads you through the trees, past the red rocks and up to the ruins of Ewloe Castle. We often finish our walks through the woods with a trip to the visitor centre for an ice cream and my children enjoy some time on the park. We always have a great time on our trips to Wepre, however last weekend it was made even more enjoyable with the help of the Woodland Trust.

The Woodland Trust are the UK's largest woodland conservation charity, that currently boasts over 500,000 members. The charities aim is to protect woods, restore ancient woodland and create new native woodland that all helps to benefit wildlife and people.

We became aware of their Nature Detectives membership scheme for children, which helps them to discover more about woods and trees, as well as the wildlife that depend on them. For the very reasonable price of £1.50 a month (and an extra £1 for each additional sibling), members receive a lovely Nature Detectives welcome folder that includes the following:

  • An action-packed activity booklet
  • Stickers
  • Nature Detectives Passport
  • A bookmark
Nature Detectives then receive a new pack every season, posted directly to members four times per year, with each set containing more new fun activities to enjoy. The Woodland Trust also keeps members up to date with details of family-friendly events, as well as regular updates full of fun facts and fresh ideas.

Emma, Ben and Riley each received their welcome pack through the post and the first thing they all picked up was the activity booklet. The opening page had a space for a tree photo diary, which I thought was a lovely idea. Basically you choose your favourite tree, stand next to it and smile. Then simply print the photo out and place it in the space provided. Each time you receive a new activity booklet, you just repeat the process and then you can look back on how both you and the tree have changed over time. The welcome page also provides you with details of the website where you can go online to download some activity sheets. We managed to get some great ideas off the site including bark rubbing, pine cone painting and even how to make a simple birdfeeder.

The booklet also contained a colouring page and lots of fun facts. When you complete the activities you can award yourself a sticker, which you then place in your Nature Detectives passport. Emma absolutely loves art so this was the first activity she chose to complete and awarded herself the Arts & Crafts sticker. Some fun games were also provided in the book including the Wild Woodland Race, a Tree Wordsearch, Caterpillar Maze and a fun Who Am I? quiz. The last couple of pages gave us lots of ideas for building an outdoor den using long sticks and branches, as well as leaves, grass and moss for the roof. Unfortunately it was a bit too wet the day we visited the woods, but den building is definitely something we will try on a drier day.

We took our booklets and Nature Detectives passports out with us on our most recent visit, as well as some handy Woodland Trust Swatch Books which are available from the Woodland Trust online shop here for £4.99 each - Woodland Trust Shop

The swatch books we took with us were Minibeasts, Leaf Identification and my boys favourite which was Poos & Clues! As soon as we got to the woods, we set about being nature detectives and looking for clues that we could identify. It didn't take long for us to spot our first clue thanks to a dog owner who was obviously caring enough to take their dog for a walk, but not kind enough to pick up their business after them! With the most obvious clue out of the way, we wanted to focus more on the wildlife and so we walked down towards the waterfall and stream as we knew this would probably be a good place to spot some footprints in the nearby mud.

As we made our way to the waters edge, we spotted some scratch marks on a tree that looked very similar to the badger scratches in the swatch book. A few people had spotted us looking for clues and two very nice ladies stopped to ask us more about what we were doing and to ask where we got the books from. They also pointed us in the direction of where they had seen badgers before and gave us suggestions of where we may find some setts that we could spot from a safe distance.

We continued our search along the muddy woodland path and found some very small footprints that we think could have possibly belonged to a rat or large mouse. We also found what we think was possibly a fox footprint (the boys are convinced it matched the picture in the book) but with so many dogs around it could have quite have easily been a paw print. If you look slightly to the left of the centre in the image below, this is the print that they found. What do you think?

As I mentioned previously the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website also features lots of fun ideas to try. These are all really cost effective ways of keeping the kids entertained and they are also categorized into age groups so it makes it easy to find something age appropriate for your child. You can also filter your activity results by season, key stage, activity type and topic, meaning that there is always something different to try no matter what time of year.

If you would like to find out more about Woodland Trust Nature Detectives then you can visit their site here to obtain further information - www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/. The Nature Detectives Membership targets three age groups which are 0-2, 3-5 and 6+ so even the youngest members of the family can join in the fun.

Alternatively you can find out more about joining here: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/join/form/

If you are unsure where your nearest woods are, then there is also a handy map tool here, where you can just enter your postcode and it will tell you where woodland around your area is located.

Overall we had a fantastic time becoming Woodland Trust Nature Detectives and my children found the activities we tried, really fun and interesting. My youngest son has asked to visit another local park in the next couple of weeks so that we can have a look around some new woodland surroundings, which I think is a great idea. We are now also going to make a habit of downloading a new activity sheet each time we visit some woods, so that we always have something different to enjoy. I think that the membership fee of only £1.50 a month is great value and also helps to contribute to the charity and their efforts to help protect the UK's woodland and wildlife.

Disclaimer: My children were provided with the initial welcome pack, along with some additional swatch books for the purpose of this review. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Making my money go further with the January Sale at B&M Stores

With Christmas out of the way, January brings another two expensive events for our family as my son Ben has his birthday at the beginning of the month, followed by my other son Riley a couple of weeks later. This means that we really need to budget well over Christmas and throughout January, to make sure we can afford everything to make our boys birthdays special.

One thing that really assists us with this is the January sales, as we are able to pick up some great bargains that can help us to save money and prevents us from having to spend too much. One of our favourite stores to go bargain hunting in is B&M Stores as we have a huge shop just less than a mile away from our home and there is always plenty in store. We particularly love their homeware range and toys selection as there is a great choice to choose from, which helps to make a shopping trip enjoyable.

My youngest son Riley absolutely loves building, this can be anything from constructing vehicles, to creating little houses. He will use anything he can find to do this including building bricks, wooden blocks or even cardboard boxes that he quickly takes from me when any post arrives! I therefore recently visited my local B&M Stores to look for some construction toys that I could add to his birthday present collection. There was certainly no shortage of items to choose from! After a good browse around, I found some fantastic bargains that were just perfect for what I had in mind. For less than £20, I managed to pick up this fantastic haul:

Firstly I noticed the Brick by Brick Police Mission set on the top shelf. I saw the £14.99 price sticker, but underneath there was a large mega value label on the shelf stating a price of only £6.99. I thought this was actually an error as it seemed so cheap, so I grabbed one of the boxes and took it to the till to have it price checked. I couldn't believe it when the shop assistant confirmed the price.

The set contained a humongous 487 pieces which gave you the opportunity to build all the following items:

  • 1 x Police Station
  • 1 x Police Helicopter
  • 1 x Police Transporter
  • 1 x Police Motorbike
  • 1 x Police Car

The set also came complete with 6 individual figures and a set of instructions. It also stated on the box that it was compatible with other brick brands, so this meant that Riley could combine these bricks with his existing toys and that sounded like a winner to me!

On my return to the toy aisle, I noticed that there were some different sets in the same range. Realising that this was a bargain not to be missed, I had a look at the other choices that were available. One of them consisted of a dinosaur and some vehicles and the other was of a construction yard. I decided to opt for the construction set as Riley loves diggers and again I was very impressed with what the box included.

The Brick by Brick Site Crew Collection contained 448 pieces which allowed you to build the following:
  • 1 x Building
  • 1 x Scaffolding
  • 1 x Crane
  • 1 x Excavator
  • 1 x Heavy Load Transporter
Again this box also included six figures and a set of instructions to help with the building process. This meant that for only £13.98 I had managed to purchase over 900 building bricks. Bargain!

I also wanted to buy some large base plates for Riley to build on, I wasn't sure if B&M would sell these, but I soon found them located a little further down the same aisle.

These base plates were only £2.99 each and were ideal for Riley to be able to build his creations on. We have only had smaller base plates previously, but these were really large and meant that he would be able to build several buildings on them with ease. I opted for two different colours just for some variation and again I was pleased to see that these were compatible with other building block brands. This took the total price for all of thes items to only £19.96 which I think is excellent value for money!

B&M is now one of the leading variety retailers in the UK and it is easy to see why. Stocking a great range of both value and top brand products, there are now an incredible 560 stores across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you aren't sure where your nearest one is, then you can use this handy store finder tool that is available on the B&M Stores website.

As you can see I chose to make my money go that bit further by purchasing some toys that I know Riley will love. However, B&M also have some amazing products across all their ranges in the January Sale and you can view some of these online on their website, or keep up to date with the latest offers by following the B&M Social Media Channels which are:

Website - B&M Stores
Facebook - facebook.com/bmstores
Twitter - @BMStores

*Disclaimer - This is a collaborative post with B&M Stores. I received £20 vouchers to purchase items of my choice for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Let's Go PJ Masks DVD Review & Competition

If you are a regular reader to the blog, then you will know that Riley is a huge PJ Masks fan. I am pretty sure he has seen all the current episodes and he also has a great collection of figures and toys. In addition to this, he also told me that he regularly plays PJ Masks with his friends at school, where they pretend to be the different characters and "Go into the night, to save the day!" whilst running around the playground.

Last October we reviewed the PJ Masks Time to be a Hero DVD which has seen plenty of use over the last couple of months. Riley was therefore delighted to receive the brand new Entertainment One (eOne) PJ Masks DVD in the post this weekend called Let's Go PJ Masks. Our previous DVD was packed full of crime-fighting and adventurous fun and so we were looking forward to watching the PJ Masks trio solve some more mysteries and work together as a team.

We had been busy building dens in the living room hidden away from the pouring rain outside, so Riley's special delivery came just at the right time as I handed him his parcel from the postman. With the den, blankets and snacks at the ready, it was the perfect setting for enjoying some superhero fun!

If you are unfamiliar with the series, then PJ Masks depicts the tales of Conor, Amaya and Greg who by day are three normal school kids but by night, if the city is in danger the trio put on their pyjamas and activate their animal amulets. They magically transform into their superhero alter-egos: Catboy, Owlette and Gekko and together make an unstoppable team.

The episodes featured on this DVD are:
  • Gekko & the Snore-A-Saurus - Luna Girl turns a sleep-walking Cameron into her very own human puppet. It's up to PJ Masks to save the day...but Gekko has to stop messing around first!
  • Catboy and the Shrinker - Romeo and Night Ninja team up to shrink the PJ Masks with Romeo's shrinker invention. When Catboy gets shrunk, he forgets that even a little guy can save the day...if he can use his small size to his advantage.
  • Blame it on the Train, Owlette - When the new Fairground Flyer Train goes missing from the fair, Owlette is determined to get it back quickly. But if she wants to defeat Romeo's new super train, she'll need to learn that a little patience goes a long way.
  • Looking after Gekko - When Night Ninja steals the school bus and converts it into his very own super-vehicle, it's up to our heroes to stop him in his tracks. But for that to happen, Gekko needs to learn that asking for help doesn't make you weak.
  • Catboy's Tricky Ticket - Catboy only has two tickets to the Jayden Houston concert and has to decide which of his best friends to take to the show. Owlette and Gekko offer him presents to sway his decision and Catboy's newfound greed could ensure Luna Girl ruins the concert for good.
  • Clumsy Catboy - Romeo plans to use his newest device to make everyone in the world so clumsy that they can't stop him from taking over the world. But when agile Catboy is the first to be "clumsified", he can't admit it and tries to save the day without any help.

With a running time of 72 minutes, it is the perfect length to keep little ones entertained (whilst also allowing us parents a few moments of peace)! It has a U rating, so it is suitable for all the family to enjoy and I must admit that I quite like watching the episodes too.

Riley's favourite character is Gekko, so as I read the list of episodes to him, he was excited that the first episode was all about Gekko and the Snore-A-Saurus. The title alone captured his attention and so we lay in the den together to begin our PJ Masks episode marathon. One element of the show that I particularly like is that there is usually an underlying message in the episodes that not only teaches the PJ Masks trio some valuable lessons, but also gives children watching the programme something to think about. 

Riley thoroughly enjoyed all the episodes and as well as finding the DVD entertaining, he thought some parts of the show were really funny too. His favourite episode was Looking After Gekko, which he asked to watch again several times after the full DVD had finished. Featuring vibrant and loveable characters, it is easy to see why PJ Masks is so popular with young children. The episodes on this DVD are great fun and packed full of adventure and excitement that I know Riley will want to watch over and over again.

If the action-packed DVD itself isn't enough, then children will also love the fun free stickers that are enclosed. These are great for making a little PJ Masks picture or could even be used to decorate the DVD case and add a personal touch.

The DVD is available to purchase and download from 5th February, with Amazon currently offering buyers the chance to pre-order it for only £7.99!

If you are feeling lucky however, then why not enter our fantastic competition below, for your chance to win your very own copy of the DVD. Simply have a read through the T&C's and then enter using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Let's Go PJ Masks DVD

Terms & Conditions
  • There is 1 (one) prize of a Let's Go PJ Masks DVD.
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or older.
  • Competition closes on Sunday 11th February at 12 noon. The winner shall be drawn at random and contacted by email within two working days.
  • The winner shall have 14 days to reply to the winning email notification to claim their prize, before an alternative winner from the remaining eligible entries is drawn.
  • No bulk or third party entries.
  • The winners details only shall be shared with the promoter, for the purpose of prize fulfilment.
  • Please allow up to 28 days for delivery.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary copy of the DVD for review purposes. This post contains an affiliate link. Price of £7.99 correct at time of writing 23/01/2018 but may be subject to change.

Monday 22 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment - Liverpool Echo Arena 11th-15th April

When my children and I visited Liverpool's Echo Arena to watch Disney on Ice presents Frozen back in 2016, my four year old son Riley was mesmerised by the bright and beautiful characters, elegantly skating across the ice. It is an event that he regularly still talks about and I can completely understand why. There was definitely something very magical about listening to Let It Go, whilst watching the performers on the ice. We were therefore over the moon to discover that Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment, will be skating back into the Echo Arena this April featuring a whole host of Disney character favourites.

Rev up for non-stop fun with four of your favourite Disney stories when Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment comes to Echo Arena Liverpool from Wednesday 11th April until Sunday 15th April. This action-packed ice spectactular showcases beloved characters from Disney•Pixar's Cars, Toy Story 3, Disney's The Little Mermaid and the Academy Award®-winning Frozen. Plus, don't miss the chance to warm up alongside Disney On Ice stars at the Fit to Dance pre-show!

Get ready to enter a dazzling world of Disney Magic, live on ice where Lightning McQueen, Mater and the crew of Disney•Pixar's Cars perform high-speed stunts and race across the ice like you've never seen before! Be amazed and join Ariel as she dives into the underwater kingdom of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie and other favourites from the Toy Story gang as they try and escape from Sunnyside Daycare in one of their most daring adventures ever from Disney•Pixar's Toy Story 3 - proving that the toys are back in town! Then enter the wintery world of Arendelle with sisters Anna and Elsa from the BAFTA and Academy Award® winning, number one animated feature film of all time, Disney's Frozen. Join Anna as she embarks on an epic journey with the hilarious snowman Olaf and rugged mountain-man Kristoff to find her sister, the magical Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.

Even before this magical journey begins, Disney fans will get moving and shaking alongside Disney on Ice stars during the new, high-energy Fit to Dance pre-show to get the crowd fit and active whilst having fun!

"Worlds of Enchantment connects classic and new Disney stories," says Producer Kenneth Feld. "Audiences will be blown away in Radiator Springs when they encounter the unforgettable crew of animated cars, built to scale and live on ice. They will will see their all-time favourites like The Little Mermaid and discover the world Arendelle in Frozen."

From wheels to waves, icy wonderlands to infinity and beyond, see some of your family's favourite Disney moments come to life in Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment!

Listing Details

Show - Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment
Dates - Wednesday 11th April to Sunday 15th April
Times - Wed, Thurs, Fri: 6:30pm / Sat & Sun: 10:30am, 2:30pm, 6:30pm
Venue - Echo Arena Liverpool, Kings Dock, Liverpool, L3 4FP

Tickets - £18 to £43*
Family packages are also available.
* Plus booking fee

For the complete list of tour dates, please visit www.disneyonice.co.uk

You can also keep up to date with the latest developments on social media by visiting the following channels:

Facebook - www.facebook.com/DisneyOnIceUK
Twitter - @DisneyOnIce #WorldsofEnchantment
YouTube - www.youtube.com/DisneyOnIce
Instagram - @DisneyOnIce

Sunday 21 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - Cinderella at St Helens Theatre Royal - 24th March to 15th April

Boot-scoot on down to St Helens Theatre Royal this Easter as Regal Entertainments are egg-static to announce that Steps pop-group member Lee Latchford-Evans will play the role of Prince Charming in their panto, Cinderella.

Guaranteed to be Steps above the rest, the show will be on stage from Saturday 24th March to Sunday 15th April, and tickets are on sale now.

Best known as one fifth of pop-phenomenon Steps, Lee has and still is achieving incredible success with the Brit award-winning band, selling in excess of 20 million records worldwide with famous hits such as Stomp, It's the Way You Make Me Feel, 5, 6, 7, 8, and recent iTunes Number 1 single Scared of the Dark. The band recently released their fifth studio album, Tears on the Dancefloor last April which also hit Number 1 on the UK iTunes chart and has since gone Gold. Steps recently completed their Party on the Dancefloor UK tour selling out 22 arenas across the UK & Ireland.

No stranger to panto, Lee has starred in Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast amongst others. The star has also appeared on the St Helens Theatre Royal stage as love lothario Bob, in Regal Entertainments' 2015 production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too! Other stage productions include Bill Kenwright's All Creatures Great and Small, and the West End production of Grease the Musical.

Lee said: "I'm really excited to be back performing at St Helens Theatre Royal. I received such a warm welcome from audiences when I was there in 2015 in Rita, Sue and Bob Too! This time I'm playing Prince Charming, I absolutely love pantomime it's a great fun way to give the audience some escapism and the atmosphere is always incredible."

"What makes it that little bit more special, being from Ellesmere Port, it's like performing to a home-town crowd. I cannot wait! I'll be seeing you at Easter, St Helens!"

Chantelle Nolan, Theatre Manager added: "I am delighted to announce Lee Latchford-Evans is playing the role of Prince Charming in our magical Easter Panto this year. We can't wait to hear his fantastic voice, and see some of those classic dance moves he's been showing off on tour this last year!"

The rest of the show's STEP-tacular all-star cast will be announced in the coming weeks, so Lee will soon know who will be playing his Dancing Queen at the Grand Ball.

Cinderella tells the story of a beautiful girl who is reduced to a life of servitude by her 2 ugly step-sisters, but that will all change when an invitation to a grand ball at the palace arrives. With a bit of magic and some help from her friend Buttons, Cinderella is transformed into the belle of the ball. But what will happen at the stroke of midnight?

Enchanted pumpkins, glass slippers, a sparking fairy-tale carriage and lots of fun to entertain the whole family, be sure to book tickets early. It would be a tragedy to miss it.

Cinderella runs from Saturday 24th March to Sunday 15th April and tickets are on sale now!

Listing Details

Show - Regal Entertainments Ltd presents Cinderella
Dates - Saturday 24th March to Sunday 15th April
Times - Performance times vary, so please visit the website for the most up to date information.
Venue - St Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St. Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ

Tickets - From £13*
*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat transaction fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

Box Office - 01744 756000
Website - www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Twitter - @TheatreRoyalStH
Facebook - www.facebook.com/St-Helens-Theatre-Royal

Saturday 20 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - The Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal from 13th-18th February

Get ready to go on a magical adventure over the rainbow with Regal Entertainments and their enchanting February Half Term pantomime production of The Wizard of Oz. The show will be heading to the St Helens Theatre Royal from Tuesday 13th February to Sunday 18th February and will be sure to delight the audience with a great selection of brilliant songs and show-stopping choreography.

After the show's success whilst touring last year, which included playing to packed-out auditoriums in Stockport, Southport, Rhyl and Liverpool, it is now coming back to St Helens due to a huge demand.

Starring BBC's Pitch Battle star Maddie Hope Coelho as Dorothy, this magical show is sure to put a smile on the faces of even the meanest of munchkins. Maddie trained at Laine Theatre Arts, West End MT and the Royal Ballet School. Her theatre credits include Fairy Goodapple in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Mary Margaret in Singin' in the Rain as well as appearances in Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin.

Click your heels together and join X-Factor's David Heath as the Scarecrow, the brilliant Philip McGuiness as the Tin Man, the loveable Si Foster as the Cowardly Lion, and the adorable little dog Toto, as they follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Merry Old Land of Oz to meet the Wizard so he can make their dreams come true.

David Heath was a contestant on ITV's The X Factor back in 2006 as a member of boy band Eton Road. Since his time on the show he has turned his talents to theatre with credits including Billy in Wag -The Musical, as well as pantomime leading men including Aladdin, Prince Valentine in Snow White and Prince Valiant in Sleeping Beauty.

Guaranteed to give an oil-slick performance as the Tin Man, the charming Philip McGuiness is a panto regular, having previously played Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

Finally, Si Foster is no stranger to the St Helens Theatre stage, or to a panto, he is back as the Cowardly Lion, searching for courage from the Wizard.

The Wizard of Oz is a firm family favourite which tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto as they embark on a wondrous adventure over the rainbow in the magical land of Oz. So why not join Dorothy, Toto and all their new friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion as they journey down the Yellow Brick Road to The Emerald City om search of the Wizard of Oz who can make all their dreams come true.

Wizard of Oz Producer, Chantelle Nolan said: "We are so excited to bring The Wizard of Oz back to the theatre for February half term. The show was a roaring success, not just in St Helens, but on tour too. I know that people are just as excited to see the show again as I am, so get your tickets soon, before they sell out!"

Listing Details

Show - Regal Entertainments Ltd presents The Wizard of Oz
Dates - Tuesday 13th February to Sunday 18th February 2018
Times - Tues: 1pm / Weds - Sat: 1pm & 5:30pm / Sun: 1pm
Venue - St Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St. Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ

Tickets - From £14*
*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat transaction fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

Box Office - 01744 756000
Website - www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Twitter - @TheatreRoyalStH
Facebook - www.facebook.com/St-Helens-Theatre-Royal

Thursday 18 January 2018

Shrek the Musical at The Palace Theatre, Manchester - A Review

What better way to shake off those January blues, than with a vibrant, hilarious and thoroughly entertaining musical production, that will have you grinning from ear to ear right from the very start. Suitable for audiences of all ages, Shrek the Musical delivers the perfect mix of adventure, romance and comedy that provides plenty of full on belly laughs throughout the show.

Based on the Oscar® winning DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek the Musical tells the tale of the giant green ogre Shrek, who with his new found friend and loyal steed Donkey, embarks on an adventure to save the beautiful Princess Fiona from her Dragon guarded tower. Having watched the film many times before, my family and I were very keen to see how this could be portrayed as a musical and we were therefore delighted to attend the show last night to see this for ourselves. We had somehow managed to resist all temptation of watching snippets of the show online, so the entire production was something completely new to my family and I, with no idea of exactly what to expect.

The opening scenes provided us with a short background on Shrek, which was smartly done in storybook form using clever stage techniques and lighting. This provided a gentle start to the show, which immediately drew audiences in as the storybook closed and we were transported to Shrek's home in the swamp accompanied with the catchy and upbeat opening song of "Big Bright Beautiful World".

Steffan Harri in the role of Shrek, has a fantastic stage presence with a wonderfully loud and clear singing voice that we were immediately captivated by. His charismatic charm helps to make his character immediately loveable, but lets face it, who could not fall in love with a larger than life, giant farting ogre?? It was evident from the beginning that Steffan Harri was really comfortable in this role and suited it perfectly. With an accurate representation of the Shrek we have come to know and love, we were definitely not disappointed with his portrayal.

Before long Shrek's swamp became inhabited by an abundance of fairytale characters and despite Shrek being a large and powerful figure, this didn't seem to take any of the attention away from the other members of the cast, which was great. We were able to focus on each one individually and it was at this point that my daughter commented how amazing the costumes all were, which is something I would definitely have to agree with. From Pinocchio to the Wolf and the Three Little Pigs to Little Red Riding hood, the detail in the costumes was just incredible and it was immediately possible to identify who each character was. The Three Little Pigs provided the first big laugh for me and I would have liked to have seen them more throughout the show as they definitely gave us a good giggle.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
The next couple of scenes saw the introduction of Donkey, who is our favourite character in the film version. We really enjoyed watching the unlikely friendship being created, and Marcus Ayton in the role of Donkey, certainly brings his own individuality to the role. It is a great skill to be able to take a well known character and make it your own, but Marcus Ayton certainly has no trouble with this and his energy came across really well to the audience. His witty one-liners, exciteable stage presence and confident personality shine bright throughout the performance and teamed up alongside Steffan Harri as Shrek, they definitely make a highly entertaining duo.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
Our surprise of the night however, came in the form of Lord Farquaad who soon became our main source of laughter throughout the evening. Samuel Holmes plays this character to absolute perfection and the comedy value he brought to the show was just wonderful. Providing the ideal combination of family friendly humour, along with a couple of cheeky innuendos for the grown ups, he quickly became our firm favourite of the night.

Samuel Holmes' past credits are both extensive and impressive and the person responsible for his casting in this role should be commended. Performing on stage to several musical extravaganzas whilst on your knees is certainly no easy task, yet Samuel Holmes not only makes this look simple, but also provides comedy and laughter in abundance. Every scene he appeared in was just so much fun and even when he wasn't speaking or singing, his facial expressions alone provided plenty of laugh out loud moments.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
Princess Fiona is being played by Laura Main who is most well known for her role in all six series of Call the Midwife. My family and I really enjoyed her performance of 'I Know It's Today' where she was able to display a whole range of emotions from excitement to anger, whilst still telling her story beautifully through song. Another favourite (especially with my children) was the duet with Shrek in the second half of the show, with the song 'I Think I Got You Beat' which both children and adults alike found really funny. This is where Fiona's ogre personality was really emphasized, with a burping and farting competition at the end of the song being a particular highlight for my son, who could not stop laughing throughout.

A special mention must also be given to Lucinda Shaw who was the voice of The Dragon. Her tone was very powerful yet elegant and it was a delight to hear her sing. The voice matched the style and the movement of the on-stage dragon perfectly, which was gracefully manoeuvred around the stage by four puppeteers. I especially liked the fact that although The Dragon was large in presence, it wasn't particularly scary in appearance, which meant that some of the younger members of the audience had no reason to be afraid. My four year old son is very sensitive to 'scary things' such as dragons or dinosaurs and although he did not come to the show with us, I feel confident that he would have been quite comfortable.

It is particularly clear that this whole production is a superb team effort and whilst the four main characters each deliver their performance exceptionally well, the support from the ensemble is commendable with a great variety of amusing choreography, skilled acting and phenomenal voices. The orchestra were also wonderful and a delight to listen to, the character costumes were vibrant yet detailed, the make up was spot on and the stunning sets have clearly been well thought out in the design process. Collectively everything just seemed to go so well together which is a credit to not only those on stage, but also everyone working hard behind the scenes.

The overall production was outstanding and although I was sad when it came to a close, it certainly had the most uplifting and enjoyable ending to any musical I have seen. The atmosphere in the Palace Theatre was electric with excitement, as audience members began to sing and dance along to the finale number of 'I'm A Believer'. The production also left a great impression on my children who have not stopped talking about it since. My daughter is now more keen than ever to get involved with theatre and is determined to perform on stage in the future. This therefore shows that not only is this production a giant fun-filled shrek-tacular, but that it can also be inspirational to children too. In short, Shrek the Musical provides laughter in abundance, an exceptional cast and magnificent music, that is sure to deliver an enjoyable experience for all.

Listing Details

Show - Shrek the Musical
Venue - Palace Theatre Manchester, 97 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6FT
Dates - Tuesday 16th January to Sunday 28th January
Times - Show times vary, so please visit the website for the most up to date information.
Ticket Prices - Ticket prices range from £18.00 - £56.00 (plus £4.00 booking fee)
Box Office - 0844 871 3019 (calls cost 7p per minute, plus phone company's access charge).
Website - www.atgtickets.com/shows/shrek/palace-theatre-manchester/

*Disclaimer - We received complimentary tickets for this show for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. This post contains an affiliate link.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - Jack & the Beanstalk at The Epstein Theatre starring Ray Quinn

Fe-fi-fo-fum - get ready for some panto fun! This GIANT panto will be coming to the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool this Easter and LHK productions have now announced that Liverpool's very own Ray Quinn, will be leading the all-star cast.

This egg-cellent production will be scaling new heights at The Epstein Theatre from Thursday 29th March to Sunday 8th April and tickets are on-sale now. With a beanstalk reaching the heavens, golden geese and hungry giants, this show really is too big to miss.

Ray is a multi-talented singer, dancer and actor, who first came to attention in 2000 playing Anthony Murray on Channel 4's Brookside, and won the hearts of the nation in 2006 on ITV's The X Factor where he went all the way to the final, finishing runner-up. Following the success of The X-Factor, Ray's debut album Doing It My Way entered the charts at number 1, selling over 300,000 copies without even releasing a single.

He then skated to victory not once, but twice on the ITV show Dancing on Ice as Series 4 champion in 2009, and then again on the All Stars series in 2014. Ray is also no stranger to the theatre stage, having appeared in some of the biggest hit shows, including Grease, Dirty Dancing and Legally Blonde. Most recently he starred as Glen, in the UK tour of the smash hit musical The Wedding Singer.

On joining the cast, Ray Quinn said: "I am absolutely thrilled to be coming home to Liverpool and appearing on The Epstein stage. There is no better feeling than playing to an audience in your home town! Panto is great fun, I always have a great time and I can't wait to be back. I'll see you at Easter Liverpool!"

LHK Productions Managing Director Lee Kelly added: We are delighted to have cast Ray as Jack for our Easter panto. He is a local lad, audiences from Liverpool know and love him! He is a true professional, and has appeared in some of the UK's biggest stage shows, so I know he will be a great addition to the show!"

The full cast who will be joining Ray to tell this epic tale will be announced in the coming months, so watch this space!

Important Note: Ray Quinn will not be appearing in the show on the 6th,7th & 8th of April.

Listing Details

Show - Jack and the Beanstalk
Dates - Thursday 29th March to Sunday 8th April
Times - Performance times vary so please visit The Epstein Theatre website for further details.
Venue - The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ

Tickets - Adults £16.50 / Concessions £15.50 / Family £54
Groups - £14 each and 1 in 15 free.
There are also a limited amount of £11 tickets available on select performances.
*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy.

Box Office - 0844 888 4411
Website - www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk

Tickets can also be booked in person at the theatre box office (open 2pm-6pm Mon-Thu & 12pm-6pm Fri-Sat)

Alternatively you can book tickets via TicketQuarter by calling 0844 8000 410 or visit www.ticketquarter.co.uk.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Dates for your Diary - Crafty's Creepy Castle at The Epstein Theatre & Competition

There is always plenty going on in Liverpool to keep families entertained during the school holidays and this upcoming February Half Term will be no exception. On Saturday 10th February, Crafty's Creepy Castle will be heading to the stage of the Epstein Theatre with a fun, spooky and musical adventure!

Brought to audiences by Honalee Media, help Crafty the Crow and Sally the Scarecrow solve the mystery of the castle's ghostly goings on, hunt for the hidden treasure and find out why Pirate Harry is making things go bump in the night!

There will also be an opportunity after the show for a Meet & Greet with the cast, and every child will receive a special present from puppet star Crafty the Crow.

The team from Honalee Media have a proven track record in top quality children's entertainment. Marty MacDonald's Farm has been a huge hit for almost five years of national tours and features the voice of Cbeebies' Justin Fletcher AKA Mr Tumble as one of the farm's puppet characters Pongo the Pig. There has also been Easter Bunny's Eggs-ellent Adventure, and their sell out Santa Shows!

Writer Martin Parsons explains: "Crafty's Creepy Castle is an interactive musical mystery for all the family, especially 2-7 years old, with the emphasis on spooky fun rather than proper scares - our castle may be creepy but it's more funny than scary and it's great to be writing the further adventures of the characters from Marty MacDonald's Farm. This time they're joined by Pirate Harry, so children who love a swashbuckling pirate story won't be disappointed!"

Producer Kate Ashmead is also looking forward to seeing some of the audience dressed up: "Children love fancy dress, so if they (and the grown-ups!) want to come in their most frightening costumes we would love to see them - in fact, they can help scare away Pirate Harry in the story too!"

The music for the production is written by acclaimed children's composer Barrie Bignold (Justin's House, Gigglebiz, The Sooty Show) and includes children's favourites such as Ghostbusters; Dingle, Dangle Scarecrow; The Hokey Cokey; Hickory Dickory Dock; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; I Hear Thunder; and many more.

Audiences are in store for some (not very!) frightening fun - in this happy, action packed adventure.

Listing Details

Show - Crafty's Creepy Castle
Venue - The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ
Date - Saturday 10th February
Time - 2pm
Ticket Prices - £13*
Box Office - 0844 888 4411
Website - www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk

*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy.

We also have a fantastic competition for our readers, to give you the chance to win a family ticket to see Crafty's Creepy Castle at The Epstein Theatre on Saturday 10th February. If you would like to enter, then please read the terms and conditions & submit your entry using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Family Ticket to see Crafty's Creepy Castle at The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

Terms & Conditions
  • There is 1 (one) prize of a family ticket to the 2pm performance on Saturday 10th February 2018 at The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ
  • A family ticket is for 2 adults and 2 children, or alternatively 1 adult and 3 children.
  • The winner shall be required to collect their family ticket from the box office, prior to the show.
  • Tickets are non-transferable and there is no cash alternative.
  • There will be no contribution made towards travel.
  • Tickets are valid for the date/time/venue specified only and cannot be used on an alternative date or time, or at a different venue.
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or older.
  • Competition closes on Saturday 3rd February at 12 noon. The winner shall be drawn at random and contacted by email within two working days.
  • Due to the time restrictive nature of the prize, the winner shall have 48 hours to reply to the email to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before another entrant from the remaining eligible entrants is drawn.
  • No bulk or third party entries.
  • The winners details shall be shared with the promoter, for the purpose of prize fulfilment.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Looking Back at 2017 - Our Travel Favourites

Whilst we are looking forward to all our planned adventures for 2018, it is also great to look back and reflect on the travel opportunities we had last year. I therefore wanted to share with you, some of our travel favourites from 2017.

January - Our year began with a trip to the fabulous Bluestone National Park Resort, in South Wales. Although we live in North Wales, we had never actually ventured to the South before and after a very scenic four hour journey to Narberth, we enjoyed a lovely few days in a beautiful lodge and enjoyed the wonderful Blue Lagoon and some other local attractions. Bluestone is a stunning holiday resort, set within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It has 345 luxury lodges set amongst 500 acres of spectacular countryside. It is marketed as an all year round short break holiday destination, where fun can be enjoyed in all weather conditions and offering guests the chance to enjoy a relaxing break, or an adventure fun-packed holiday. As Bluestone offers so much, it is suitable for families, couples, or groups of adults and caters for all ages, with over 100 activities to enjoy. You can read all about our visit to Bluestone in our review here.

February - This month saw our first overseas trip of the year, where my family travelled to Silvaplana in Switzerland to attend the World Ski Championships being held in St Moritz. This trip actually came about as a result of a competition that my husband had entered on Twitter and we couldn't believe that he had won the family such an amazing opportunity. During the trip my family travelled on the Glacier Express taking in some wonderful sights, enjoyed the fabulous opening ceremony, watched some skilled skiers taking part in the championships and also had the opportunity for a skiing lesson and some sledging fun. You can read more about Silvaplana here.

March - In March my husband and I enjoyed a weekend break at the Shibden Mill Inn for my husband's birthday. This was our first and only time away without the kids throughout the year as I really don't like going away without them, but it was a relaxing time with delicious food. The suite we stayed in was stunning and had been tastefully decorated with a great combination of both modern and traditional furnishings. You can find out more about our stay here.

April - We travelled to a few places in the Easter holidays during April. The first was to Somerset where we visited some wonderful local attractions that included Puxton Park and the Wookey Hole Caves. On our return to the North, we enjoyed a stop at Drayton Manor where Riley had an amazing time in Thomas Land. We also travelled to Yorkshire for some cliff top camping in Filey, where we also spent the day at the fabulous Alpamare Waterpark in Scarborough and had an absolutely splashing time!

May - In the May half term we travelled to Salou in Spain, where we stayed at Sanguli Holiday Park with Al Fresco Holidays. This was an absolutely wonderful break and we spent our days between the onsite Africa themed resort pool and the sandy beach located a short walk away. This holiday resort certainly ticked all the boxes for us and you can read all about our stay here.

June - June saw us head to Shropshire where we enjoyed a weekend break with my parents in Ironbridge. Whilst there we travelled back in time to the Victorian era and visited Blists Hill Victorian Town. My children absolutely loved it here and we had a great experience. You can read more about our time at Blists Hill here.

July - The school summer holidays began in July and we started the six week break off, with a trip to the Lake District. This really is a stunning part of the world and we had a wonderful week exploring and visiting some fun attractions. Some of our favourites included a day out with Windermere Lake Cruises, spending some time at Old Hall Farm and finding out more about transport at the Lakeland Motor Museum.

August - In August we spent two days in Hamburg, Germany thanks to the Come to Hamburg scheme. We only spent a short amount of time here, but managed to fit so much into only two days. The Miniatur Wunderland was magnificent and Hagenbeck Tierpark provided the opportunity for my children to feed some elephants, which is definitely an experience they will never forget. Whilst in Hamburg we stayed at the Appartello Smarttime Living hotel, which offered fantastic apartments with plenty of room for the whole family.

September - In September we had the chance to visit France and stayed with Al Fresco holidays at the La Croix du Vieux Pont holiday park in France. The park offered so much for families that we didn't get the chance to see it all, so it is definitely on our list of places to return to in the future. Ideally situated only 90 minutes from Disneyland Paris, it also meant that we could enjoy a magical day out together before the return back to school!

October - The October half term saw us return to Somerset, where we stayed with John Fowler Holidays at their Sandy Meadows Lodge Park. There is so much to do both onsite and in the local area and we had a lovely day out at Bristol Zoo Gardens whilst here.

November - As the end of the year approached we spent the majority of November and December staying local as there was just so much on offer throughout the North Wales and North West areas. We are very lucky to live right on the North Wales/Cheshire border so this means that we have the lovely North Wales coast twenty minutes in one direction and the great cities of Manchester & Liverpool 40 minutes in the other. Some of our favourite events and days out during November were going to see The Snowman at the Manchester Opera House and meeting Santa at Bridgemere Garden Centre.

December - Well we definitely enjoyed a month of family fun throughout December, with my personal highlight being the Dick Whittington pantomime at the Manchester Opera House. I have never laughed so much at a panto and at one point I was actually crying it was so funny.

My youngest son Riley also had a lovely experience of a theatre production at Waterside where we saw the beautiful performance of The Bear.

Topped off with a family evening of fun at Winter Wonderland and a trip to Dunham Massey to see their stunning festive lights, December was certainly a month to remember.