A MULTI-CULTURAL FAMILY: A new Yorkshire theatre production explores cross-cultural families

A MULTI-CULTURAL FAMILY: A new Yorkshire theatre production explores cross-cultural families

At Yorkshire Families we want to represent ALL families who live or want to experience the region regardless of background and any barriers whether it cultural or financial etc. Our founder Sophie Mei Lan aka Mama Mei comes from her own unique background which has been/is full of lots of challenges but with a passion for the county! So we’re excited to see that there’s a new theatre production exploring cross-cultural families coming to Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Missing People by Pinter Prize-winning playwright Brad Birch explores the similarities and mistranslations of a Japanese and British family thrown together by a cross-cultural marriage. This is the first co-production between Leeds Playhouse and Kani Public Arts Center Japan, opening in Leeds from 12-21 March, following its Japanese debut at the New National Theatre in Tokyo and at Kani Public Arts Center. 

Missing People is co-directed by Leeds PlayhouseAssociate Artist Mark Rosenblatt and Kani Public Arts Center Associate Director Nobuhiro Nishikawa. The production is the centrepiece of a creative relationship shaped over two decades, sharing working practices for staff and artists across cultures and offering an insight into each other’s sector-leading organisations.

Rehearsal images show British actors Ishia Bennison (Romeo And Juliet, Royal Shakespeare Company) and Simon Darwen (Skellig, Nottingham Playhouse) alongside Japanese actors Susan Hingley, Hiroki Tanaka, Yutaka Oda, Yuri Eikawa and Natsumi Nanase.

This new play focuses on a multi-cultural family who are not as serene as they first appear. Sakiko, a Japanese woman, and her English fiancé Dan have returned to her hometown of Kani, a commuter town near Nagoya, to introduce Dan and his mother Linda to her parents so they can plan their wedding. However, under the calm surface is a family in crisis, struggling with the loss of Sakiko’s brother. As she seeks the truth about her brother, Sakiko is forced to confront her own past, her own ‘disappearance’ to live in the UK, and where her own choices have led her.

The Missing People creative team includes Rumi Matsui, a Tokyo-based set designer and scenographer; Japanese artist Rie Nishihara, who has designed the costumes; lighting designer Elliot Griggs; sound designer Matt Padden; movement by Sachi Kimura; script translator Keiko Tsuneda;and translator in the room Mikiyo Usui.    

The production is part of a series of official public events that make up the Japan Season of Culture, which aims to build public support ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad was originally launched in 2017 with a ceremony in the city’s Nihonbashi district featuring performances fusing traditional arts with modern technology.  

Missing People is supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

Missing People, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

12 – 21 March, Press Night Mon 16 March, 7.45pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

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LEEDS CITY MUSEUM AND LEEDS ART GALLERY: A cultural day out in Leeds City Centre for all the family – Review

LEEDS CITY MUSEUM AND LEEDS ART GALLERY: A cultural day out in Leeds City Centre for all the family – Review

We rushed around early Saturday morning to purchase the last item on our shopping list before the crowds flocked to Leeds City Centre, we then felt smug with shopping bag in hand as we made our way in to Leeds Art Gallery for a bit of respite before heading on to Leeds City Museum. 

Leeds Art Gallery

I’m ashamed to say that despite growing up in Yorkshire, I had never looked around the gallery which is based on The Headrow, just a 10 minute walk from Leeds Train Station.

As soon as we entered the hustle and bustle of the City Centre was behind us and we spotted the stunning Tile Hall Cafe which is on the left as you enter. 

I clocked it as the aim of finishing off a busy morning. The next striking feature of the entrance hall was the stunning stair case with a colourful wall. 

leeds art gallery galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families

Enter the light filled entrance hall and take in the bright and beautiful work of Lothar Götz.

The entrance hall is home to important works from the collection including Alexander Calder and Antony Gormley.

Götz’s stunning wall painting Xanadu links the lower and upper galleries, leading up to the light-filled space above. Both colourful and contemporary it is juxtaposed against the Victorian architecture of the gallery.

 

Ironically (after a busy morning shopping), the current exhibition is entitled Slow Painting as it includes works of art from artists “who take their time” and the gallery encourages visitors to do the same. 

art space at leeds art gallery exhibition galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families

It was fascinating looking around the different themed galleries and I loved the break out Artspace where families can play, draw and create. It was a decent sized space catered for all ages to stop and get creative. 

A world of art in the heart of the city.

Leeds Art Gallery presents a dynamic exhibition programme and holds a significant collection of modern and contemporary British art.

leeds art gallery exhibition galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families

I then headed up the staircase to see the Upper Galleries. The most striking gallery was the Central Court which was commissioned as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International. You can walk under the structure in the light airy space or you can sit and look at it. 

 Unveiled during the restoration project of 2016, the Central Court forms a large light filled space in the upper galleries.

Ayse Erkmen’s Three of Four (2019) was commissioned as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International in response to the historical architecture of the gallery. This is the first time a work has been specifically created for the space, responding to its hidden history and architectural changes throughout the life of the building.

leeds art gallery exhibition galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families sculpture ysi

It’s a brilliant space to stop, think, ponder and be mindful. 

After exploring the other galleries, we were then keen to head back down to try the Tiled Hall Cafe. 

It felt as if we were in a movie setting with the stunning blue and green tiles adourning the walls with marble columns and even a grand piano. We opted for a quick coffee and drink and enjoyed basking in the atmosphere the large cafe creates as we sat on a comfortable leather sofa. 

tile hall cafe at leeds art gallery

Once replenished, we made our way on to Leeds City Museum which is a real family-friendly treat.  

Leeds City Museum

Six galleries and a programme of family friendly exhibitions in the heart of Leeds

Leeds City Museum is based at Millenium Square in Leeds so just a short 5 minute walk from Leeds Art Gallery. 

Again, we hadn’t visited Leeds City Museum, which is also free to enter, before.  

They have a range of events on from Etsy Craft Markets to regular art sessions… it’s a stunning versatile venue which has much more to it than I had realised. 

leeds city museum galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families hall venue hire

We didn’t have long so first off we headed into the Voices of Asia exhibition. This is a rich colourful exhibition celebrating dance, music and culture from across Asia and Leeds’ connection to the continent.

leeds city museum galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families voices of asia

On the same floor there is also The Collector’s Cabinet which is home to a huge Moa skeleton (one of the world’s largest birds). 

Upstairs is The Leeds Story and then on the third floor is Ancient Worlds 

Discover the fascinating history of Leeds including our surprising inventions, sporting accolades and incredible textile heritage.

From the first archaeological finds to changing displays reflecting people’s lives in the city today, Leeds is a city of stories. Find out how Leeds has shaped, and been shaped by, its landscape and people.

Find out how the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks lived their lives and paved the way for the world as we know it in the Ancient Worlds gallery.

Visit the final resting place of Nesyamun, the 3000 year old Leeds Mummy, and the only known mummy known to hail from the 20th Dynasty. Discover clues to the past in art and architecture, objects in the earth, ancient writing and burials.

Also on the third floor is a City and It’s Welcome…

Many people have come to Leeds to start a new life, including those escaping famine in Ireland in the 1800s, those seeking work opportunities, and today’s refugees arriving in our City of Sanctuary.

A City & its Welcome tells the stories and experiences of those who have made a home in Leeds over the past three centuries and how they have helped shape the city that we recognise today. Come on a journey with us to see the differences between their hopes and expectations and the realities of life in a new place, plus treasured objects brought from afar.

We then ventured to Life on Earth exhibition… 

The story of how the natural world is more astonishing than you ever thought.

Life on Earth is home to some of the most remarkable specimens in Leeds’s collection of 800,000 animals, vegetables and minerals. From fearsome tigers to prehistoric beasts, rainbow-feathered birds and fascinating fossils, there’s so much to discover.

We could have spent a good hour in here or more as the open plan exhibition is a feast for the senses. There’s so much for the whole family to interact with from children’s dressing up to exploring fossils and animals. This alone is worth a visit and it is right next to the cafe if you need refreshments. 

leeds city museum galleries and museums city centre yorkshire families millennium square

Cafe and play area at Leeds City Museum

The Corner Cafe at Leeds City Museum is lovely and light with windows overlooking Millennium Square. There is also a small play area which is perfect for little ones as well as space for buggies. 

There’s a range of hot and cold food and drinks on offer as well as sweet treats. 

 

Verdict: Leeds City Museum and Leeds Art Gallery

Both Leeds City Museum and Leeds Art Gallery warrant a day out to Leeds in their own right. We’d say Leeds Art Gallery is perfect for families with older children or for adults and Leeds City Museum is perfect for little ones. But they are both so different and we would recommend seeing both places in one day. They are right in the heart of the city centre too so can act as good places to have some respite. They’re free to enter and have a range of free crafts and family events. 

For more information, go to: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk

 

HUDDERSFIELD PANTOMIME: Sleeping Beauty at the Lawrence Batley Theatre – Review

HUDDERSFIELD PANTOMIME: Sleeping Beauty at the Lawrence Batley Theatre – Review

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a trip to the Pantomime… and Huddersfields’ favourite Panto is back at the Lawrence Batley Theatre for the 4th year running. This year’s Christmas panto is Sleeping Beauty, Oh yes it is and, they just keep getting bigger and better with sumptuous costumes, brilliant foot-stomping tunes and an outrageous Dame, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Blogger Amy Downes went to review the show for Yorkshire Families… 

With just a week left until Christmas, things are really getting busy and between the school plays, festive parties and gift shopping it’s easy to forget to have some fun with your family!

So, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty last week. My little boy is 3 years old, so I wasn’t sure if he is old enough yet for the evening performances and much-loved storyline, but there really was something for all of us to enjoy.

Harry was engrossed by the songs and the dragon, 3-month-old James by the lights and colours and Mummy and Daddy couldn’t help but chuckle at ‘Nanny Fanny’ (Robin Simpson). When my other half laughs at a joke, you know you’ve hit the nail on the head with the Dad jokes.

sleeping beauty lawrence batley theatre huddersfield

Director Joyce Branagh has written four pantomimes and lives in West Yorkshire, while playwright Andrew Pollard specialises in writing for families (he also appeared as John Bune in Emmerdale!). Henry Filoux-Bennett, Chief Executive and Artistic Director oat the theatre said of the duo:

‘I’ve heard so much about our audiences’ fantastic reaction to previous productions and this is set to build and excel upon their previous triumphs.’

The opening performance from the cast of Sleeping Beauty was stunning.

From the moment the curtain lifted there was a proud Yorkshire theme which helps set this story apart from the huge offering of pantos that we have on offer every year. From Hester the Jester (Nicola Jayne Ingram) with her thick local accent to the references of nearby towns and suburbs.

The songs too made this a high-quality show, from amazing routines choreographed around well-known hits like Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’, to originals by like ‘When We Grow Up’ and ‘I’m Stuck on You.’

Nanny Fanny’s ‘Yorkshire Haka was the highlight of the show for me!

Finally, pantos are known for their corny jokes, but my inner feminist is all too often prickled by the uncomfortable stereotyping of larger women, the transgender community and ‘damsels in distress’. Happily, Sleeping Beauty defied this with a cast of strong female leads who stole the show and a challenge to typical parenting roles.

Nanny Fanny’s ‘Yorkshire Haka was the highlight of the show for me!

King Herbert the Hesitant (Richard Hand), who was left as Princess Aurora’s primary caregiver after her mother passed away, was dishing out parenting jokes, Aurora (Alyce Liburd) was seen practicing football in between her lessons, and Hayley Russell was sensational and strong as the evil Belladonna Bile.

Luke, Harry, Baby James and I had a wonderful family evening which got our Christmas celebrations off to a fun start.

We walked out into the rain with smiles on our faces and festive cheer in our hearts, chuffed to have made memories to add to our first Christmas as a family of four. Nanny Fanny will always be a part of that!

Luke, Harry, Baby James and I had a wonderful family evening which got our Christmas celebrations off to a fun start.

So, if you’re looking for something to do with your kids over the next few weeks, this panto is on until Sunday 5th January. The perfect Christmas gift for you all to share is some time together to remember forever.

With thanks to The Lawrence Batley Theatre and Bonner and Hindley for the gifted family ticket.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Festive family show for young children at Leeds Playhouse – Review

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Festive family show for young children at Leeds Playhouse – Review

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Leeds Playhouse with its fun festive family show, The Night Before Christmas, perfect for young children. 

Yorkshire Families went along to the Courtyard Theatre in Leeds Playhouse for the latest production at the new facilities.

After marching through the hustle and bustle of Leeds City Centre at Rush Hour, we were relieved to be able to escape into the stunning purpose-built building that is Leeds Playhouse’s new home. The city facing entrance helps to make the theatre feel more accessible. The bright lights were a welcome aim in the darkness.

We made our wait into the Courtyard Theatre to review The Night Before Christmas, perfect for 3-6 year olds (there’s also Snow Mouse on at the moment for 0-3 year olds and The Wizard of Oz for older children).

My friend and I had brought along our there kids straight from school, so we were all a bit stressed and rushed as we took to our seats.

But within moments, we were transported to the gentle land of Carol and Elf at home on Christmas Eve.

The show is all in sign language and rather than it be an addition it is an integral part of the characters;’ communication on stage, which was great to see.

All the stresses of Christmas seemed to whirl away into the twinkling stars above Carol’s house.

Lladel Bryant (Elf) and Alexandra James (Carol) in The Night Before Christmas at Leeds Playhouse. Photographs by Anthony Robling (2)

The setting is simple and the show features two main characters who communicate through sign language, speech and “Elvish.” I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to such a calm production but surprisingly they were engulfed into the beautiful friendship between Carol and elf.

There were nice touches of dancing and costume changes too as well as lovely parts where the characters came into the audience.

As the snow settled on Carol’s house ready for Christmas Day, we too felt relaxed and in the Christmas Spirit for the big day.

The Official Lowdown

Production images give a glimpse of the twinkly Christmas Eve sky above the small, neat home of Carol (Alexandra James) as she prepares for another ordinary day in her ordinary life. But then something extraordinary happens. Elf (Lladel Bryant) drops in – literally – and turns her world upside down, leading to rooftop adventures, ice dancing, a search for Santa and, best of all, a firm festive friendship.  

The Night Before Christmas by Robert Alan Evans(Crumble’s Search for Christmas, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) proved a big hit with audiences of all ages when it was first staged at Leeds Playhouse in 2015. Now, director Amy Leach (A ChristmasCarol, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) has added a dynamic new dimension for Christmas 2019, introducing creative use of sign language to make every performance D/deaf friendly, while giving Carol the perfect tool to communicate with Elf, who only speaks Elvish.

The Night Before Christmas, Leeds Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre

30 November 2019 – 28 December. 

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online: leedsplayhouse.org.uk

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PANTOMIME: Red Riding Hood at City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PANTOMIME: Red Riding Hood at City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds

A very different format to the traditional Christmas pantomime, Rock ’n’ Roll Pantomimes mix traditional elements of audience participation and corny gags with a jukebox full of classic rock anthems and chart-toppers – performed live on stage at City Varieties in Leeds, by a talented cast of actor-musicians. Be sure to keep your wits about you though, or you may just get rocked by the legendary Boulder Battle!

Katia Sartini & Kenny Davies. RnR Cinderella 2018

In what will be his ninth year playing ‘The Fool’ in the legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime at City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds lad Kenny Davies reveals why he keeps coming back for more.

Kenny knew he wanted to be an actor from a very early age when his grandmother bought him a plastic guitar that he ‘played’ for family and friends. A pupil at Intake High School, he performed in most school plays and swapped his plastic guitar for a real one, also learning to play the keyboard and drums. He went on to study at Rose Bruford College, London, from where he graduated with a BA Hons Degree in Actor Musicianship. With stage and TV credits to his name, Kenny is best known in his home city for appearing in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime at The Varieties.

Kenny Davies. RnR Cinderella 2019

Q: This will be your ninth Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime – what keeps you coming back for more?

A: Apart from Yorkshire being the best county in the UK (!), one of the main reasons I keep coming back is because Leeds is my home town and I feel that I have a connection with The Varieties; I have been performing in shows at the world-famous venue since my first Youth Theatre appearance back in 2000. It’s a tradition now; when I think of Christmas, I think of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto!

Q: Why do you prefer Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime over traditional?

A: The reason I love to perform in Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantos over traditional ones is because you get two shows in one – as well as the acting and dancing, you also have the live music aspect. The thrill of being an actor-musician in a show like this is being able to play multiple instruments on stage in front of a live audience – I think this truly improves the experience as the band forms a connection with the audience; it’s organic.

Q: You always play The Fool who never gets the girl – do you not fancy playing Prince Charming to ensure your ‘happily ever after’?!

A: I love playing The Fool as I love slapstick and making people laugh. As for getting the girl, who knows, maybe this year will be my lucky year!

Kenny Davies & Grace Lancaster. 2018 Cinderella 2018

Q: What has been your favourite Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime to date? And for what reason?

A: I have loved all the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantos, I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite.

 

Q: What has been your favourite part to play? And favourite song to sing?

A: I’ve enjoyed every part I’ve played over the years, but I feel like Buttons has the edge. I’ve played Buttons twice (2012 and 2018), but both times have felt completely different because I’ve worked with a different cast each time. As for my favourite song, I loved singing I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) in Robin Hood.

Q: Can you share any funny stories?

A: When I played Buttons in 2018, I had to wear a yellow wig as part of my costume. In one scene I get bashed on the head and thrown in the well. All was going fine until in one performance, when, as I was bashed, my wig flew off my head and landed in an audience members lap. It was rather embarrassing for both me and the audience member who politely passed it back to me!

 

Q: Can you divulge any times when things have gone wrong?

A: Due to the nature of the part I play, there are lots of times when I must fall over, walk into a wall, get bashed on the head etc. During Robin Hood there was one scene where I get hit with a mallet – due to a spacing issue, instead of the mallet missing my head, it connected with my face and bust my lip – the show still went on!

 

Q: Any quirky pre-show rituals?

A: No rituals but I do love pre-show as we (the cast) get the chance to interact with the audience as they are taking their seats. It gives us an opportunity to fire them up and get them excited. We also get to tell the children to shout and be loud – and it provides a great excuse to pinch the audience’s sweets!

 

Q: And finally, what would be your dream role in any musical?

A: I would love to play the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera; it’s a role I could really get my teeth into.

 

Kenny can be seen playing Ruffles/Jack Frost in this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantomime, Red Riding Hood at City Varieties Music Hall from Friday 29 November 2019 to Sunday 12 January 2020.

“One of the secrets of its success lies with its cast of actor-musicians who waste no time in developing a great rapport with the audience in the intimate atmosphere of this historic old theatre. Full of audience participation you can cheer the goodies, hiss the baddie and shout until you are hoarse and that’s what pantomime is all about.”

(YORKSHIRE EVENING POST – Aladdin, 2017).

  • PLEASE NOTE: Rock ’n’ Roll Pantomime contains loud live music, smoke effects, flashing lights and ‘a barrage of boulders’, plus loud bangs from the ‘explosive’ action on-stage (!) We do not recommend this production to anyone under 4-years-old
  • Performances may last up to 2hrs 30mins (including a 20-minute interval)
  • Bringing a School Party? Theatrical workshops, based upon the traditions of Pantomime, are available for KS1 or KS2. The lively sessions will help pupils explore the different characters within the story, as well as the chance to create one of their own. Directly linked to literacy skills on the curriculum, it will make their visit to the theatre even more valuable and memorable

 

Creatives

Director: Rob Salmon; Musical Director: Dan de Cruz; Designer: Judith Croft; Choreographer: Sam Spencer-Lane; Lighting Designer: Jason Salvin; Sound Designer: Tom Blackband; Production Manager: Phil Clarke.

 

Cast

Lucy Keirl (Red Riding Hood); Ben Mabberley (Prince Florizel); Ben Stratton (Sir Jasper / Wolf); Simon Nock (Dame); Claire Greenway (Fairy Cherry Blossom); Laura Sillett (Miss Muffet); Lana Walker (Dodgit); Mike Slader (Bodgit); Rachael Garnett(Bo Beep).

 

All About City Varieties Music Hall:

City Varieties Music Hall holds the record for the longest running music hall in the country. Hidden up a cobbled side street just off Briggate in the heart of Leeds City Centre, it began life in 1865 as a room above a pub called ‘Thornton’s New Music Hall and Fashionable Lounge’. Founded by landlord and benefactor Charles Thornton, it was originally established for the working people of Leeds to be entertained; its affluent sister venue, Leeds Grand Theatre, was meant only for the higher classes. The name subsequently changed to the ‘White Swan Varieties’ and then ‘Stansfield’s Varieties’ before becoming the ‘City Palace of Varieties’.

In its early years the Varieties welcomed many weird and wonderful acts including the world-renowned escapologist Harry Houdini and singer, comedian and musical theatre actress Marie Lloyd.

In 1953 the City Varieties became home to the BBC TV Series The Good Old Days; a recreation of old-time music hall featuring Leonard Sachs as the alliterative Chairman and many well-known and less-well-known performers, including Les Dawson, Barbara Windsor, Bruce Forsyth, Eartha Kitt, John Inman, Ken Dodd and Barry Cryer. The TV programme ran for 30 years until 1983.

Book online at cityvarieties.co.uk or call Box Office on 0113 243 08 08.

PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

Ponderosa Zoo in Heckmondwike is a hidden gem housing over 120 animals from Lemurs to reindeers and reptiles. 

We went on our first trip to the West Yorkshire based Zoo, formerly known as Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, during the school holidays to experience a family day out. 

Visiting Ponderosa Zoo 

The zoo is located off Smithies Lane Liversedge, Heckmondwike WF16 0PN. I hadn’t realised it was there until recently as it is tucked away. 

 

We parked up before checking in at the wooden hut-come-gift shop. We were greeted and showed the treasure trail which was there for Halloween. As it was Halloween when we went you could also pay £3 extra to get a pumpkin carved. The zoo is very reasonably priced compared to larger zoos we have been to. 

ponderosa zoo pirate ship dand pit yorkshire heckmondwike  family blog.jpg

I hadn’t realised how much there was to do from visiting animals to an indoor playbarn, outdoor play area, zip wire and talks on animals. There’s also spaces to eat a picnic or there is plenty of food and drink available to buy on site.

The zoo is compact with lots of paths making it easy to get around. There’s also a sand pit, so it’s a good idea to wear wellies especially when the weather is cold and drizzly like it was when we visited. 

My daughters aged 4 and 7 enjoyed exploring the zoo and filling out the treasure hunt. My Step brother Oscar, who is autistic, also enjoyed the zoo which is off the beaten path and felt a lot more tranquil than other attractions we have been to. 

We sought shelter in the large Lakeside Cafe which is also an events and wedding venue. It’s a cafeteria style eaterie with hot & cold food and drink available to buy. I had a nice tomato sop whilst the kids opted for jacket potatoes. 

We then ventured back outside for a last look around at some of the animals, before picking up our pumpkin which had been specially carved for us, suing our drawings. The kids had a few last goes on the zip wire before we returned to the car. 

I hadn’t realised there was a small indoor play barn as well, so next time we will definitely try that too. 

fptbty

We had a lovely half-day at the zoo with friendly and accommodating staff. My mum and I really appreciated the emphasis on education, nature and endangered species. 

It’s a down-to-earth Zoo which is affordable and perfect for the whole family. 

ALL ABOUT PONDEROSA ZOO

Ponderosa Zoo (originally Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre) was created in 1991 by Maureen Cook with the aim to ‘bridge the gap’ between disabled and able bodied people through the care of animals as a form of therapy. At the time the centre held a variety of domestic animals including pigs, goats and cattle.

Since its conception Ponderosa Zoo is now home to over 120 animals from lemurs to reindeer. They are a dedicated team of hard working and passionate individuals who aim to promote animal welfare, in addition to educating the public on conservation efforts and the threats many species now face in the wild. In 2017 we took another step in journey by becoming provisional BIAZA members.

Although they are now a much bigger facility with their primary focus being on welfare, education and conservation, they still hold a ‘Bridge the Gap’ vision by ensuring our zoo is always disabled friendly and offering a variety of grounds keeping roles for disabled individuals to gain valuable work experience in a friendly and welcoming environment.

fptbty

DISCLAIMER: We received a free family pass for the purpose of this review.

 

PORTABLE NORTH POLE: A personalised video message from Santa – Review

PORTABLE NORTH POLE: A personalised video message from Santa – Review

As a child I would feel a surge of Christmas cheer over a generic letter from Santa arriving through the door, let alone a personalised video from Father Christmas! 

So you can only imagine my children’s excitement receiving a personalized video message from Santa via the Portable North Pole app. 

Gone are the days, of standard letters from Santa as this app and website helps you to create the magic of Christmas at home. 

What’s it all about? 

Portable North Pole (PNP) is an online platform used by Santa and his elves to send personalized video messages and calls to the people you care about most anywhere around the world. 

In just a few simple steps, you can help Santa gather all the information he needs about your loved one and create a tailor-made video message or phone call that is positively magical. But that isn’t all Santa and his magical elves have in store! To create truly unforgettable memories, you can even download a HD version of your video to keep for years to come.

The Portable North Pole is the original Santa messaging service that globally has sent over 220 million messages since its creation in 2008. 

The magic pass we’ve used costs £12.99. 

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How to use it? 

We tested out the personalised video message which you could create through the app or the website. So firstly, I downloaded the app from my App Store (Apple or google play). Then after logging in as a parent you can then submit your children’s details. You insert their name, age, school year and country. 

Within moments these details are used to create the message in video format with the standard video as a base. 

It’s quick and easy to use and a simple gift for my daughter who loved it! 

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DISCLAIMER:  We received a magic pass free of charge for the purpose of this review. 

 

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

With just a month to go, the cast of The Wizard of Oz are preparing to bring the spectacular tale of the magical land of Oz to Leeds Playhouse from 20 November 2019 until 25 January 2020.

These images give a first glimpse of the tremendous trio of Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion as they escort Dorothy and Toto through the poppy fields of Oz, ducking and diving from the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West, played by Polly Lister (The Worst Witch Live, Nimax/Northampton Theatre Royal/Kenny Wax/ Novel, Theresa Heskins; Boeing Boeing & Private Lives for Harrogate Rep).

 

When venturing into the land of Oz, Toto, Dorothy’s tiny but tenacious four-legged friend, will be magically brought to life by puppeteer Ailsa Dalling, under the direction of Rachel Leonard. Designed and created by Puppet Maker Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour), Toto has been crafted using a plywood skeleton with elastic hinge joints with a jaunty outer-layer of dyed hessian and 1930s-style patterned fabric to create that furry exterior.

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, young Dorothy and her little dog Toto are caught in a cyclone and whisked away to the magical Land of Oz in a technicolour production directed by James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunshine on Leith Leeds Playhouse) and designed by Simon Higlett (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Leeds Playhouse).

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment. Audiences now enjoy improved access into and around the building, contemporary seating in the Quarry, new hospitality areas and a dramatic new city-facing entrance opposite Leeds City Bus Station.

 

The theatre will host a sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting the audience to dress up, sing out and join in the fun. Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances will also be available, and there will be a selection of bespoke wrap-around and inschool activities led by the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.

 

The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre

20 November 2019 – 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

DIGITAL DETOX: A parent’s wellness retreat to Swinton Bivouac in North Yorkshire

DIGITAL DETOX: A parent’s wellness retreat to Swinton Bivouac in North Yorkshire

I recently stayed in a tree lodge at Swinton Bivouac and experienced their wellness retreat.  The retreat was a digital detox and the opportunity to spend time outside of my regular routine without having to think about a small human or our very naughty Labrador, writes Blogger Carley. 

I feel I need to start this with a description of myself as a mobile phone addict. As a family we do spend the occasional evening with no electronics, no phones, laptops or even a TV.  It is important to me that we spend time connecting and stepping away from screens. That said I don’t worry about screen usage and I think that it is a luxury that our generation have the ability to access the web in our hands.

To be able to capture precious moments on our phones, connecting with people and being able to work almost anywhere, sometimes in my pj’s, is amazing. I am addicted to my phone and it is an important part of my life.  It provides me with memories, connects me to the people I love and also is a big part of my business.   I don’t think my phone usage is anymore than my friends.

swinton bivouac digital detox estate

For me it is about balance and the break from my phone gave me some chance to reflect on my personal use.  There were so many times over the weekend when I went to reach for my phone, to add a reminder, to take a picture, to text my husband.  Having no phone to use focused my mind on the amount of times I pick up my phone.  It was much more than I would have thought. That said I was staying on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and there were so may beautiful things to photograph.  I remember when my daughter started school the teachers were clear that we should not be on our phones in the playground.  We need to be receptive to our children’s descriptions of their days not looking at something else.  This has stayed with me and I am always ready to hear about her day and have my phone away. I am not confident that had this not been raised that I would have been as disciplined at the school gates. Having clear boundaries around phone use and family time is really important to me and I need to keep checking in to make sure that my phone use isn’t affecting my parenting or interaction.

The Swinton Estate is the perfect location for a wellness break and there was plenty to do to keep my mind occupied without thinking too much about my phone.  After checking into the tree lodge we were treated to a sound bath with Gill McCreadie we spent some time getting to know each other over dinner before going aback to our lodges for the evening. The food was amazing and all locally sourced. It is lovely to have someone else do the cooking.

The second day started with a sunrise woodland walk with Faith Douglas. I was a bit apprehensive about the 6am start but the weather was kind to us and it was a great way to start the day. Hearing the birds and really taking time to look around whilst the sun came out was a good way to start the day. By the time we got back to the lodge we had our breakfast delivered before we were treated to a trip to the spa on the Swinton Estate. The spa is one of the leading spa destinations in the uk. I had not realised how big the spa was and the range of facilities including a large pool, thermal facilities and a range of treatments. For the brave there is an outdoor pool, which is bio-filtered, and oxygenated chemical free water – it was a little chilly for me but a good experience on an early autumn day. There are plenty of loungers all around the spa and all have a butler service! The thermal suite was full of areas to relax, a therapeutic foot spa, steam bath, salt steam room and Finnish sauna as well as an alfresco sauna. We spent two hours there on day two and then there is the opportunity to return at the end of the retreat.

Unlike other spas locally it was not crowded and felt really calming.  After another delicious meal we were back in the forest with Faith for a silent forest walk. I was quite worried about my ability to be silent for two hours – it was touch and go at times when I tripped and almost impulsively made a noise and on another occasion when we came across another group in the forest. The woodland and setting is perfect for deducting stress levels and soaking up the setting in mindful way.

To be out for a walk without having to worry or be responsible for anyone else. No naughty dog to call back or child to tell to be careful. It felt so tranquil and peaceful – the views were stunning!

After our evening meal we were went up to sit around a campfire and experience reiki drumming – I had never experience it before but would defiantly recommend.  On the third day there was an energising sound bath before leaving at lunchtime.

It would be much easier to have a digital detox if I was with my family.  The lack of communication was difficult for me.  Over the summer my daughter went on a camp with guides for three nights and that was equally difficult.  We are so used to being able to check in with one another.  Times like this are helpful to reflect on how me communicate.

The retreat was great to connect to nature, I really enjoyed the forest bathing and the silent forest walks.  There were several times that the view was so stunning I longed to be able to grab my phone and take a picture but I refrained.

Working on my devices for several hours a day I am always accessible, answering emails into the evening.  This break has made me think that I have to be able to find a balance. Not to get into a technology trap, to share fun experiences outside of technology both as a family and personally.

It can be hard to stop the reflex of grabbing my phone, I am going to be more mindful and teach my daughter what life without technology was like.  Spend time outside smelling the fresh air, noticing the sound of the trees and making connections.  As well as us having screen free time at home I am going to make it a priority to have phone free time when we are out.  I am a true believer in collecting memories and not things and need to remember that  sometimes it is ok to have memories in my head and no photos.

A digital detox has been interesting and I would love to do it again with my family.

The next wellness retreat is on the 21-23rd June 2020. Costs are £279.50 per person based on two people sharing.

Have a look at the website for a range of activities and events in the meantime.

https://www.swintonestate.com

Pop over to my blog to see more information about the Swinton Estate and some more photos of the retreat.

https://unicornpuffsandrainbows.com/ad-wellness-retreat-swinton-bivouac/

 

 

 

 

 

Pop over to my blog to see more information about the Swinton Estate and some more photos of the retreat.

https://unicornpuffsandrainbows.com/ad-wellness-retreat-swinton-bivouac/

FAMILY FITNESS IN YORKSHIRE: How to keep active with the kids

FAMILY FITNESS IN YORKSHIRE: How to keep active with the kids

There are so many active family days out to be had in Yorkshire, we’ve tested out a fair few of them this Summer from free activities to climbing and fitness challenges. Here are our child-friendly highlights…

Canal and River Walks 

We kicked off the Summer with a Leeds Cares Charity Canal Challenge which saw the kids and I walking along the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. 

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A lot of people will have a story to tell about their hospital and for us it’s @leedshospitals who helped save my daughter Arianna when she was a baby (as you may know) as we had to resuscitate her and then the Doctors and nurses cared for her and brought her back to life at #leedsgeneralinfirmary #lgi #intensivecareunit so when we were invited to promote the charity which supports the hospital at their canal challenge event, we jumped at the chance 💕💕💕It was a long but fun & scenic day walking along #leedsliverpoolcanal supporting the charity close to our hearts @leeds_cares in their #conquerthecanal challenge 💕❤️💕 Quite proud of myself for taking the two little ones on my own without a pushchair and completing the challenge! We had a few tantrums, some pit stops and bear crawling moments BUT we had such a lovely time together doing the #scavengerhunt, being active and making the most of the stunning outdoors @canalrivertrust @yorkshirefamilies @blogupnorth 👌👌👌

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The event was in aid of a great charity Leeds Cares which funds Leeds Teaching Hospitals work, something we as a family are grateful for as a family as they cared for my youngest Arianna when she nearly died as a baby. 

The day also gave us a chance to explore the Canal side which is simply stunning and free to walk our cycle along. We set off from Kirkstall Forge (we got the train there from Wakefield to Leeds station to Kirkstall Forge) and walked to Granary Wharf. It was a challenge taking the two kids on my own with no buggy or bike but it was well worth it and so scenic. We will definitely be exploring more walks with the Canal and River Trust as we haven’t been making the most of the canals near us. 

It was a free day out (other than the train journey) and we had a picnic along the way too. You can get straight back to the train station from Granary Wharf too. 

 

Travel To Tokyo 

 

It felt good to start the summer with an active challenge like the Canal Walk and we continued it with doing a series of free activities as part of the Travel to Tokyo Challenge to get families active in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics. 

By joining athletes on a virtual journey from London to Tokyo, participants will be in with the chance to win some fantastic prizes as young people work together to reach the December 2020 finish line. You can find out how to join here: https://yorkshirefamilies.co.uk/2019/06/28/families-and-children-wanted-to-join-olympic-and-paralympic-gold-medallists-in-travel-to-tokyo-in-the-run-up-to-tokyo-2020/

Swimming and Climbing 

My youngest daughter’s highlight of the summer was swimming at Disney-inspired sessions at Heeley Baths in Sheffield every Sunday. 

And my eldest loved going climbing at the Climbing Works – Mini Works centre where you can boulder and learn how to climb. 

Whilst in Sheffield, I also enjoyed some adult time going to Hot Yoga classes which are great for core strength and flexibility. 

 

Go Ape at Temple Newsam in Leeds 

I also really enjoyed going to Go Ape with my younger brother and step dad. It was so much fun swinging through the treetops and pretending to be Tarzan. We did the advanced course, but I will return with the kids to go back and do the mini course. 

Tough Mudder and Lidl Mudder 

I then took my step dad and my friend Katy to Tough Mudder which is an 8-10 mile course with 25 obstacles. We went to the one in North Yorkshire at Boughton Hall. My step brother cheered us along as spectators can come and watch for £10. We had so much fun and there was such a great feeling of camaraderie between everyone. 

I also saw that they now do a Lidl Mudder course for kids to take part… which I am sure would make the perfectly muddy family day out. 

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Have you taken on @tough_mudder challenge?! 🧗‍♀️💃🏃‍♀️ I’ve just completed my first #toughmudder experience and it was completely different than I expected… yes I guessed there’d be mud 😂😂😂 (and there was lots of that!) but rather than being a fierce competitive race… the camaraderie was just awesome. The obstacles were challenging but everyone was so friendly and cheered each other on. And somehow people managed to help me and my hips get over some huge walls, under some barbed wire and through a lot of muddy water 💦 I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. It was the best way to spend a Sunday… with great friends old and new @mrleefurness @katypadam … who’s up for joining my team for the next one?! @blogupnorth @yorkshirefamilies 😜😜😜Plus it all finished in Mudder Village with coffees, food, protein shakes and beers 🍺 👌🥤@jimmysicedcoffee @arladairyuk @snickers @brewdogofficial @lidlgb 💕💕💕 Now for a cup @yorkshiretea & a hot bath (the ice bath obstacle didn’t do it for me 😂) Thanks so much #toughmudder2019 – it’s been epic 💋💋💋 #GIFTED #yorkshire

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Community Health 

To finish off on a high… have you checked out what’s on in your local community? Whether it be council run activities in your local park or community open days.. We’ve been making the most of what’s on in our local area. 

We’re lucky to live in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and there are lots of family friendly walks to be had around Angler’s Country Park, Pugney’s Country Park and Sandal Castle. Also at Pugney’s and at Thornes Park there are outdoor gyms to play with too. 

I also taught dance at a community open day held by Inspiring Communities in Portobello, Wakefield – and they had weekly activities on for the whole family. 

Or maybe organise your own game of rounders, football or some indoor dancing and playing games such as twister. 

 

What are your favourite ways to keep active as a family?