BBC COUNTRYFILE LIVE: Castle Howard hosts the TV Show event in Yorkshire

BBC COUNTRYFILE LIVE: Castle Howard hosts the TV Show event in Yorkshire

I’ll admit I’ve never watched BBC Countryfile but I liked the idea of BBC Countryfile Live coming to Yorkshire where the whole family is actively taking part in a country-themed day out. 

We reviewed the popular event at its Castle Howard location in York, North Yorkshire… Here’s what we found: 

My daughters, my mum, my step-dad, my step-brother and his girlfriend and, I travelled in two cars to Castle Howard down the dreaded A64 (which can be a nightmare in the school holidays). 

Once we had worked our way slowly along the A64 we then had to endure another queue of traffic leading to Castle Howard (we really should have set off super early as recommended). 

It should have taken us an hour from Wakefield but it was over two hours in the end. 

Once we were parked up, we were relieved to see an event full of funfair rides, haystacks, stalls and food & drink. 

As the kids were ratty from the unexpectedly long car journey, we first got them a drink before tackling the rides – from bumper cars, a Ferris wheel and carousel to a tractor-themed bouncy castle and the opportunity to try out climbing and a paddle board. I was relieved to see that amongst the stages, outdoor furniture stalls, food and drink offerings, that there was space for rides and sheep and dog shows. 

It was a lovely sunny day so the outdoor activities worked really well and the grounds of the castle are simply stunning. 

We were glad to find a lawn area next to the Croquet that was being played. My kids, who are aged 4 and 7, enjoyed the wooden swings as well as taking part in the Maypole dancing. The space which is over the moat and overlooked the castle, is great to sit for picnics or to eat something from one of the many vendors. (From home-made ice cream galore to every cuisine you can imagine. Although my two opted for hot dogs which costed £10 for 2.). 

We spent a lot of our time on the lawn as there was an Opera singer performing and it’s a lovely space for the kids to let off some steam. 

Close by, the National Trust had a good range of activities too and there were plenty of photo opportunities in huge deck chairs. 

BBC Countryfile Live felt quintessentially British, I felt as if I had been transported into a Keira Knightley movie. 

It was a fun day out particularly catering for adults and older children. Unfortunately due to the heavy traffic in and out of Castle Howard we only had a few hours there. So we missed lots of highlights such as a Wildlife zone, canoeing and kayaking and, all the many shows and appearances that take place throughout. 

So make sure you give plenty of travel time to get there, so you can really make the most of it. For all the details of what goes on at BBC Countryfile Live, go to:


BACK TO SCHOOL: Buying shoes at Clarks inside Junction 32 Shopping Outlet – Review

BACK TO SCHOOL: Buying shoes at Clarks inside Junction 32 Shopping Outlet – Review

Believe it or not but the kids will be back to school before we know it, so we’ve been getting ahead of the game and buying school shoes from Clarks Shoes at Junction 32, well in time for the new term.

I have vivid memories as a child, sitting in Clarks shoes getting my feet measured before selecting my shoes. And this fondness of Clarks continued into my adult years as I have wide feet, I am very active and I like comfortable yet stylish shoes, so I have remained a regular customer.

back to school shopping junction 32 castleford clarks shoes xscape

I now have my own children to buy for as well and their feet seem to be rapidly changing, so I jumped at the chance to try out Clarks and get the kids fitted for some new school shoes (this fitting service is free of charge for all children).

Luckily for us, we live near a Clarks outlet store at Junction 32, opposite Xscape in Castleford.

If you’ve not been to Junction 32 outlet shopping village, I recommend a visit as there are lots of shops and things to buy at discounted prices (up to 60% off RRP).

I used to enjoy shoe shopping… until I had kids

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Believe it or not but #schoolpupils will be #backtoschool before you know it 👍🙂🙏 And we have a #schoolstarter and a #year3 student ready to get to class… so first things first is… shoes! 👌👌👌 We all know how important well fitted shoes are + getting ones that are good quality for all that running around in the playground 🏃‍♀️🏃🏾‍♂️🏃‍♀️ So we went down to @junction.32 to find our perfect #schoolshoes from our all time favourite @clarksshoes 🥿👞🥿 There the kids were fitted and got to choose their favourite pair of shoes, ready for September! Full blog coming soon on @mamameiblog #gifted #ad #clarkes #junction32 #castleford #shoeshopping #clarkesshoes #wakefield #familyyorkshire #westyorkshire #yorkshire

A post shared by Sophie Mei Lan (@yorkshirefamilies) on


Whilst I have frequented Junction 32 many times on my own or with a friend, it was with trepidation that I took along an irritable 4-year-old and an impatient 7-year-old.

But when we arrived my daughters spotted an interactive space station to play with which is available during the summer holidays (there’s lots of space-themed events too, I have listed them at the bottom of this blog). This is handily placed next to Clarks Outlet store (and to my delight, next to Starbucks too).

Anyhow, back to the task in hand… finding school shoes for my daughters. It’s never a particularly pleasurable experience taking my rabble shopping but luckily the staff at Clarks seem very used to lively children.

back to school shopping junction 32 castleford clarks shoes jasmine hale

Clarks offers a free fitting service by their fully trained Kids fitters, to measure length, width and depth of your children’s feet

First off, we went to the back of the store to have my daughters Jasmine and Arianna’s feet fitted.

The expert fitter was really patient and the manager presented us were some spare socks to borrow (yes, parent fail moment when you realise you’ve brought your children shoe shopping in sandals and with no socks on!).

Jasmine and Arianna both have wide feet so it was good that they got their sizes right so that they weren’t just cramming their feet into shoes that were too slim fitting.

back to school shopping junction 32 castleford clarks shoes yorkshire families

Once we had their sizes written on a card, they could then go explore the school shoes, which prices start from £26.

After much deliberation and patience from the staff, Jasmine and Arianna tried on a range of pairs (and the shoe fitter checked the fit of each shoe when they were wearing the pairs).


Eventually, they settled on the same style of shoe. I couldn’t believe we’d managed all this within half an hour and they had ended up with well fitting and smart school shoes ready for the new term!

My mum who had driven us to Junction 32 in the car from Wakefield (there is also an X32 bus you can get there), also had time to buy some new sandals and a bag from Clarks. I also had my favourite Starbucks Frappuccino!

back to school shopping junction 32 castleford starbucks

A quieter experience 

We had a great experience in store and it didn’t feel threatening or intimidating like a lot of shops can when you bring kids inside.

I love the fact too, that they have an autism-friendly environment. My little brother has Autism and shopping can often be over stimulating and too noisy for him, but Clarks have a space at the back of the store.


Families are welcome to use this space, have a quiet area and a 1 to 1 fitting experience away from the hustle and bustle.

This service is available now and to secure your space, you can call or email the centre management team using the details below:

Call: 01977 520153


back to school shopping junction 32 castleford clarks shoes kids fitting

What’s on for families at Junction 32 Shopping Outlet?

Here are the family-friendly Space-themed activities on this summer:

  • Saturday 10th August – Space Craft

Rockets, rovers, satellites and stations this week! It’s Space Cadets with Space Craft. There will be space slime and space junk model making, not to mention the fabulous photo opp for proud Space Cadets to show off their ‘Out of this World’ space makes. Their faces can then go in the Space Hall of Fame alongside other famous master makers of Space Craft.

  • Saturday 17th August – Space Race

The Space Race is on and you’ve got to be in it to win it. We will look back at races already won… to space, to the moon, and to Mars. Celeste Craft and Astro Bob will be on the lookout for space cadets who’ve got the speed and skill to break new records. Don’t miss this super-fast, speed of light space sensation of a session. There will be walking in space races, rocket races, around the sun and back races. On your marks…

  • Saturday 24th August – Alien Invasion

Visitors from outer space are on their way to Earth.  Are the space cadets under attack? Are these alien invaders friends or foe? Meet some Martians and work out the motivation for their Earth mission, and get ready for defending or befriending.

  • Saturday 31st August – Zero Gravity Disco

Time to party like there’s nothing holding you down. Oh, hold on! There is NOTHING holding you down! Who turned off the gravity? Find out what dance moves look like in space when everything goes slow-mo in zero G. It’s the interstellar dance championships and you’re all invited to throw some shapes to celebrate graduating from space cadet training.

For more information, go to:

DISCLAIMER: We received two pairs of shoes for the purpose of this review. All views are our own. 

LEEDS PLAYHOUSE REVIEW: Be My Baby features a lead role for an actor with learning disabilities

LEEDS PLAYHOUSE REVIEW: Be My Baby features a lead role for an actor with learning disabilities

All-female ensemble company perform in final production in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up Theatre which tells a story of a maternity home for young, unmarried women who have ‘made one mistake.’

Anna Gray who stars in the show is a resident artist with Mind the Gap theatre company – one of the country’s largest learning disability theatre companies that has championed learning-disabled arts for 30 years.  The production is presented in association with Mind the Gap and this project is a continuation of a longstanding relationship between them and Leeds Playhouse.

In 2018 Leeds Playhouse took part in Staging Change, a Mind the Gap initiative that encourages access for learning disabled actors, creatives, and audiences.

“As a direct result of Staging Change Anna was asked to audition for Be My Baby – we knew immediately that we wanted to work with her. She’s a skilled actor and in casting her we highlight the contemporary approach to the play.”

Director, Jacqui Honess-Martin said: “For the final production in the Pop-Up theatre our ensemble is joined by Anna Gray who plays Norma. Anna is an actor with learning disabilities, and sometimes learning names is a challenge, to help her not feel too much like the new girl we are all wearing named t-shirts (as pictured in featured photo) – we’ve had a great time personalising them!”

What’s the show about? 

19-year old Mary is seven months pregnant when her mother delivers her into the charge of St Saviours. As Mary, Dolores, Queenie and Norma bond over records and romance, they begin to understand what it means to give their children to the Welfare Service and Mary realises she must fight to take her baby home.

Whilst there are nods to the 1960s by use of key props and snippets of song, Jacqui and the creative team have shaped a piece that comes without an era thus opting for a contemporary and resonant approach. The set is stark, the costumes unspecific in fashion, and the piece is fully captioned at every performance.

The female Ensemble Company is Tessa Parr fresh from her role in the critically acclaimed Hamlet, she is joined by Anna Gray as Norma Jo Mousley as Mrs Adams, Crystal Condie as Queenie, Simona Bitmate as Mary and Susan Twist as Matron.

Tessa Parr (Dolores) in Be My Baby. Photography by Anthony RoblingReview By Mel Neale, CoActive Charity which supports adults with learning difficulties. 

Good things about this play; the cast, the performances were all strong and there was a clear affinity between the performers, I got the impression they had enjoyed working together. Susan Twist who played Matron was a touch of class. Anna Gray, who has previously trained and performed with ‘Mind the Gap’, is a strong addition to the company. The use of live singing throughout the piece was engaging and tender.

Unfortunately, despite these elements, overall, I was disappointed. Stories of abortion practices in the 1960’s are poignant and important to tell, however, I found this play told the story without managing to evoke investment in the characters stories, or even in their relationships to each other. I felt distant from them, and at times confused by their stories, and even bored. I found Norma’s story, played by Anna Gray, very confusing, I did not know if a central part of the character was that she had a learning difficulty or not. Whichever the case there was a missed opportunity in clearly representing the additional challenges faced by a woman with a learning difficulty at this time.
Anna Gray (Norma) in Be My Baby. Photography by Anthony Robling.jpg

The main problem I had with the central story of Mary Adams, played by Simona Bitmate, was that I thought the pacing of the play stripped her story of drama. There was a part of the play in which Mary and her room mate Queenie plan to leave together and move to the coast, but no sooner than the plan is made, it is abandoned and given no time for the audience to invest in the plan or to feel the loss of it.

I would have enjoyed this play significantly more if I could have seen a stronger development of the characters throughout the play.

Be My Baby plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, from 11 May – 1 June.

Be My Baby, Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre

11 May – Sat 1 June,

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online

IMPROVISED THEATRE: Showstoppers Kids! The show at Lyceum Theatre Sheffield – Review

IMPROVISED THEATRE: Showstoppers Kids! The show at Lyceum Theatre Sheffield – Review

I never dreamed that I would enjoy a story about a cow’s poo marrying a naughty Red Riding Hood.

But that was just one part of the weird, wonderful and totally bonkers storyline that was created live on stage this weekend at The Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield. Whilst The Lyceum is large and stunning it can feel somewhat intimidating for kids, but that all changed after being invited to review The Showstoppers Kid’s Show. An improvised theatre experience where the kids rule!

I was expecting multiple choices to help direct the improvised musical, but instead it was totally improvised based on the children in the audience’s ideas from start to finish.

Rather than the usual controlled “audience participation,” this was brilliant and free with the cast regularly interacting with the audience as part of the show.

To me this is what theatre should be about.

When I was part of a theatre company as a child we were always taught that it was our job to engage the audience, and if they weren’t engaged that was our problem not those who were attending.

I always keep this idea in my head as i think as actors and performers we can become used to people just sitting and watching and if they don’t then they are “not polite.” When really it’s because we as performers are not engaging them in whatever way.

So this simple yet clever idea of creating a musical along with the audience and capitalising on the open minds of children is just brilliant. It throws away the shackles and rigid conventions of some performances and it actually encourages the children’s imaginations to run wild.

This leads to a silly, funny and surprising show pulled together seamlessly by a very talented cast.

I loved this juxtaposition of silliness on stage and in the audience in stark contrast to the tense silence across the way inside The Crucible theatre as the Snooker World Championships were underway at the same time.

I highly recommend this show. My eldest daughter may have thrown a tantrum as she wanted the show to start in Space rather than in a Castle on A Field… But by the end she had been up on stage flossing and then colouring in some pictures.

So I can’t guarantee you no tantrums but for once you’ll feel at ease and comfortable in the theatre whether your kids play along for all of it or just some of it. Tjhere’ll be a lot of giggles by the end.

Showstoppers Kids! The show – What is it? The official lowdown

If your children could create their very own magical musical adventure, what would it be?

The Showstoppers’ Kids Show takes all the talents of The Showstoppers and makes them do it all for kids – every insane suggestion, every inspired idea, every joyful noise will get used to create a bonkers, brilliant and hilarious show.

The audience decides where the story is set, what happens next and who the characters are. And for those who fancy it, there are always plenty of opportunities to join in the fun!

* We received tickets for the purpose of this review. All views our own.

WIN A FAMILY MEAL FOR 4 PEOPLE: Dining with the kids at Abdul’s Indian Restaurant in Yorkshire

WIN A FAMILY MEAL FOR 4 PEOPLE: Dining with the kids at Abdul’s Indian Restaurant in Yorkshire

It’s often hard to find good food in family-friendly venues, unless you’re happy with a dried out carvery. But my luck was in last Saturday night when I took my daughters to review a meal out at Abdul’s Indian Restaurant in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

There are two Abdul’s in Wakefield one on Broadway in Lupset, and the one we went to opposite Trinity Walk on Jacob’s Well Lane on the outskirts of the city centre. There’s also an Abdul’s in Pontefract too.

I’d only ever heard of well-known Indian restaurant Abdul’s as a take away so I was unsure what to expect when dining in.

Eating out at Abdul’s in Wakefield

As soon as we entered the venue bustling with customers, we were pleasantly surprised. It’s smart, bright and simple decor is inviting as well as it being spotlessly clean.

I was surprised to see exciting looking dishes served in large steel pans rather than the normal plastic containers.

It is casual dining at its best.

Abdul’s reminded me of the eateries back in Malaysia where some of my family live.

The menu is extensive and it also tells the story and values of Abdul’s.

There’s lots for spice lovers and for kids too. I went for the creamed Masala Mushrooms to start with. And a spicy mixed vegetable curry for mains.

The kids went for the burger and fries meal deal. And we took out a lamb kofta wrap for my husband who had to work late.

The food was tasty, spicy and home-made. It was some of the best Indian food I have eaten since moving to Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The staff were really polite and very attentive, they couldn’t do enough for us. They didn’t even seem fussed when my kids inevitably made a mess with their fries!

It was a really nice atmosphere with a constant stream of customers and we know why as the food was great value and authentic.

We will definitely be returning as a family to eat in and take out.

And if you need an excuse to go…


We’ve teamed up with Abdul’s who have kindly agreed to giveaway a meal for 4. Just go to our facebook page using this link, like our page and comment on the post, tagging at least one person you’d like to come with you.

Good luck!

** We received a free meal for the purpose of this review but all views are our own.

Giveaway closes 01/05/19 at midnight. Winners must use prize by 1/7/19 at any Abdul’s in Wakefield or Pontefract.

Dear Zoo live on Stage in Yorkshire: Watch Rod Campbell’s children’s book in Wakefield, Bridlington, Rotherham and Harrogate

Dear Zoo live on Stage in Yorkshire: Watch Rod Campbell’s children’s book in Wakefield, Bridlington, Rotherham and Harrogate

Rod Campbell’s best-selling classic lift-the- flap book Dear Zoo, has been brought to life in a new stage production which is coming to Yorkshire.

Dear Zoo live on stage!  will be coming to theatres in Bridlington, Rotherham, Harrogate and Wakefield this year. So Yorkshire Families will get to make the most of the classic children’s book live on stage.

As we’re so excited for the show (we’ll be heading to Theatre Royal Wakefield to see it), we wanted to share this rare interview with Dear Zoo Author Rod Campbell…. 

Rod Campbell

“I wrote to the zoo

to send me a pet.

They sent me an …”

And so begins Rod Campbell’s famous book, Dear Zoo.

However, it is my solemn duty to inform you that we were almost living in a world without Dear Zoo! Rod Campbell’s immensely successful children’s book, which has sold an eye-watering eight million copies in twenty different languages, nearly failed to see the light of day.

If that had happened, we would also have been deprived of the very exciting prospect of the first ever stage show of Dear Zoo. The bestselling book has been adapted by Rod into a play, entitled Dear Zoo Live on Stage, which is touring the country this spring – more of which anon.

dear zoo by rod campbell book cover

When we meet at his publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books, Rod, who is as charming and as likeable as his most famous book, takes up the story. “When I was younger, I tried to make it as a painter.

“I had no money. I lived in friends’ attics, and moved ten times in eight years. I made ends meet by doing painting and decorating. It was like La Boheme.”

For the decade before the book’s publication in 1982, Rod did a very passable impersonation of a starving artist. Determined to make it as a painter, he had no thought of being a children’s author.

dear zoo by rod campbell book

“Then someone whose sister worked at a children’s publishing house saw some of my drawings. I was introduced to them and asked to illustrate some simple books for the under fives. This act of kindness started me on a career in children’s books – serendipity, one could say.”

Rod recalls that, at the time, “One voice in my head was saying, ‘But you’re an artist with a capital A. You can’t possibly do that.’ But another voice in my head was saying, ‘Why not? It looks like great fun.’ The second voice prevailed, thank goodness.”

Thank goodness, indeed. Soon afterwards, the publishers Blackie expressed an interest in his work, and the rest is children’s-book history.

dear zoo by rod campbell book

The delightful story of Dear Zoo – in which a child writes to the zoo asking to be sent a pet – has become a publishing phenomenon and celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2017 with a unique partnership with London Zoo.

Now, having established himself as one of the best-loved and most successful children’s authors in the UK, at the age of 72 Rod is entering a brave new world.

Produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by Michael Gattrell, Dear Zoo Live on Stage will appeal particularly to children aged between 2 and 6 years.

Realised through wonderfully child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, it will immediately attract families and children who are already fans of the book. But it will also act as a splendid introduction to those discovering the story for the first time.

The show which toured successfully in 2018 will be touring the country once again in 2019 tis spring, opening on Sunday 3 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn. The tour features more than 72 scheduled dates around the UK, with more to come. Full details are available at

Dear Zoo Live on Stage will bring the timeless magic of the book to life in an unforgettable way. Children – and of course their parents – will be able to experience the wonder of…

Dear Zoo live for the first time.

Rod has found the process of writing a play quite an eye-opener. He admits that the job of transferring his story to the stage was, at times, challenging.

But the author emerged from the process with a tremendous sense of pleasure at having mastered an entirely new skill. Rod declares that, “It’s been a wonderful experience.

“I have really enjoyed solving problems, and it’s been a great delight to learn something new. I’ve learned a whole new language, including phrases as simple as ‘upstage’ and ‘downstage’. When I wrote, ‘exit stage left’, a frisson ran down my spine!”

Above all, in creating the play, Rod was anxious to remain as faithful as possible to the essence of his widely adored book. To that end, Dear Zoo Live on Stage elicits the same excitement as the book.

The author explains that, “The stage show will play on the thrill of opening the crates.”

“Children up to the age of six love the animals and they also love the guesswork – ‘What’s in the box?’”

It is that curiosity, Rod believes, which has ensured that the book has remained so popular. “Children have a great curiosity about what’s behind the flap. They love to open the flaps again and again.

“Of course, they know what’s behind each one, but every time they approach it as though they don’t. For every child each time is like the first time. The payoff in the play is that inside each crate is an animal that speaks.”

“The other thing children adore about Dear Zoo”, Rod adds, is that, “After the first time, they know that the book is

completely safe. There is nothing in it that will bite them. So they can luxuriate in pretending to be scared by it.

“And of course, it ends with a puppy. That is the present at the end. You’ve gone through several unsuitable animals, and then you get to the perfect animal at the end. It’s a reward.”

Rod is hopeful that audiences will leave the theatre having had a very happy experience at Dear Zoo Live on Stage and that the show will bring many children into the theatre for the first time.

Even today, 35 years after it was first published, people still rush up to tell Rod how much Dear Zoo means to them. The author says, “I remember one parent telling me, ‘My 18-month-old daughter loves it. She walks around all the time with the book under her arm.’ Or they say, and this is the killer, ‘My child loves this book – and I loved it when I was a child, too.’ That sort of reaction is deeply touching and you’re forced to think that Dear Zoo is something that connects.”

I’ll say.

So I think we can safely conclude that at least 8 million of us remain very grateful that three and a half decades ago, Rod chose to write books for young children over his love of fine art.

Full details about the Dear Zoo Live on Stage tour are available at

Dear Zoo text extract © Rod Campbell, 1982

dear zoo by rod campbell book

“I’m absolutely delighted that Dear Zoo is being brought to life on stage for the very first time!” Rod Campbell, author and illustrator

  Dear Zoo live on stage!  will continue to delight audiences when it opens on 4 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn.    With 73 scheduled dates around the UK, full details are available at:

Celebrating 35 years in 2017, Dear Zoo, published by Macmillan Children’s Books, the story of a child who writes to the zooasking them to send a pet, continues to delight each new generation of children as they lift the flaps in search of the perfect animal.

“The whole production was full of energy and cleverly pitched at its audience…”   Bury Free Times

Written by Rod Campbell, produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by                                   Michael Gattrell, Dear Zoo live on stage! is suitable for children aged 2 – 6 years. Brought to life through child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, the show immediately appeals to families and children who already love the book and will serve as a wonderful introduction to those coming to the story for the first time.

Rod Campbell is the master of interactive storytelling and an expert in early learning for pre-schoolers. As a trusted household name, his books have stood the test of time and continue to be a staple addition to the family bookshelf and a popular choice for early years’ teachers. The creator of more than 200 books for children, Rod Campbell’s unique ability to be both fun and reassuring encourages children to discover and delight in the world around them.


Commenting on Dear Zoo live on stage! Rod Campbell said “I can hardly believe that Dear Zoo has celebrated its 35th anniversary and I really am enormously touched and delighted that successive generations of young children continue to love Dear Zoo – their obvious pleasure when interacting with it is so gratifying to see, and for me is the very greatest of compliments!”


Date Venue Box Office/Website Time
Monday 4 February –

Wednesday  6 February

Shrewsbury,                  Theatre Severn

01743 281 281

1.30 /3.30
Thursday 7 February

Friday 8 February

New Brighton,

Floral Pavilion

0151 666 0000

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 9 February

Sunday 10 February


Coronation Hall

01229 588 994

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Monday 11 February

Tuesday 12 February

Lancaster, Grand

01524 64695

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday 14 February

Friday 15 February

Wycombe Swan

01494 512000


10.30 /1.30

Saturday 16 February

Sunday 17 February


Theatre Royal

023 9264 9000

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 19 February

Wednesday 20 February

Thursday 21 February


The Atkinson

01704 533 333


1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00


Friday 22 February

Saturday 23 February


New Wolsey Theatre

01473 295900


1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 13 March

Thursday 14 March

Stevenage,                         Gordon Craig Theatre

01438 363200



Friday 15 March

Saturday 16 March


Woodville Halls

0844 243 9480

1.30 /3.30                       11.00 /2.00
Sunday 17 March

Monday 18 March

Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre

01323 412000

1.30 /3.30


Tuesday 19 March

Wednesday 20 March

Basildon,                    Towngate Theatre

01268 465465


1.30/3.30                       11.00 /2.00
Thursday 21 March

Friday 22 March

Saturday 23 March

Chipping Norton Theatre

01608 642350



11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 9 April

Wednesday 10 April

Bridlington Spa


01262 678258

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday  11 April

Friday 12 April

Saturday 13 April

Sunday 14 April

Birmingham Hippodrome

0844 338 5000


1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 17 April

Thursday 18 April

Harrogate Theatre

01423 502 116

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Friday 19 April

Saturday 20 April

Sale, Waterside


0161 912 5616

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Sunday 21 April

Monday 22 April

Wakefield,                       Theatre Royal

01924 211 311

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 23 April

Wednesday 24 April

St  Albans,                             Alban Arena

01727 844 488

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday 25 April

Friday 26 April

Peterborough, Key Theatre

01733 207239

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Sunday 28 April

Monday 29 April

Bromsgrove, Artrix

01527 577330

1.30 /3.30


Wednesday 1 May

Thursday 2 May

Folkestone,                   Leas Cliff Hall

01303 228600

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Friday 3 May

Saturday 4 May

Winchester                   Theatre Royal

01962 840440


11.00 /2.00

Sunday 5 May

Monday 6 May

Hastings,                  White Rock Theatre

01424 462288


10.30 /1.00

Tuesday 7 May

Wednesday 8 May

Harlow, Playhouse

01279 431945

1.30 /3.30


Thursday 9 May

Friday 10 May

East Grinstead, Chequermead Theatre

01342 302000


10.30 /1.00

Wednesday 15 May

Thursday 16 May

Durham, Gala

0300 026 6600

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 18 May

Sunday 19 May

Lincoln, Theatre Royal

01522 519999

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 22 May

Thursday 23 May

Maidstone, Hazlitt

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 25 May

Sunday 26 May

Rotherham, Civic

01709 823621

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 28 May

Wednesday 29 May


William Aston Hall

0844 249 1000

1.30 /3.30


Thursday 30 May

Friday 31 May

Darlington, Hippodrome

01325 405405


11.00 2.00

Saturday 1 June

Sunday 2 June

Leamington Spa, Royal Spa Centre

01926 334418


11.00 /2.00



THEATRE REVIEW: How does TV Show Benidorm Live translate to the stage?

THEATRE REVIEW: How does TV Show Benidorm Live translate to the stage?

By Nicola Macmillan for via Blog Up North

Benidorm Live is the follow on from the hit TV show Benidorm. Set in the hotel Solana, the plot of the show is based around the lovable characters that people have come to know and love, when they hear that they are at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t impress an undercover inspector. I won’t go into the plot too much because I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but needless to say, hilarity ensues as they try to impress whoever the inspector might be.

I must say that going in to it, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. I had no idea how well it would translate from screen to stage. I was definitely very pleasantly surprised by how well it all came together, and what an amazing show it was. It was well written, well acted, and from start to finish it was extremely funny. In fact it was so funny, that at times even that cast had a hard time keeping a straight face, especially during a small but spectacular wardrobe malfunction when one person’s trousers just wouldn’t stay closed.

The sets and costumes were absolutely perfect, and so in keeping with the show that it really helped to create the feeling of an amazingly, wonderfully, terrible hotel that you can’t help but want to visit. The writing by Derren Litten was funny, dirty, and of course without it, none of the amazing actors would have been able to deliver such a funny and heartwarming show.

As fans of the programme will already know, it definitely isn’t suitable for the whole family. It’s fairly racy, with some crass and extremely adult jokes, but honestly, they are what made it so funny. It’s unapologetic in it’s humour, and I absolutely love that. It isn’t high brow theatre, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s a show for people who perhaps wouldn’t usually consider going to the theatre. My mum has never been one to go see a play or a musical, but I would definitely take her to see this, because it’s so funny and accessible, even if you didn’t watch the TV show.



The entire cast was absolutely amazing, and I’ll go more into that in a moment, but I just want to take a second to mention my personal highlight of the show. That was the interactions between Kenneth, the flamboyant hairdresser played by Tony Maudsley, and Liam his assistant, played by Adam Gillen. Both of them played their roles perfectly, and the relationship between the two characters was equal parts hilarious and sweet. They have some touching moments interspersed between a whole host of comedy, and I found the pair to be such a joy to watch.

Another great pairing in the show was Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline, and her friend Gay Derek played by Damian Williams. An extremely unlikely pairing admittedly, but the characters were as similar as they were different, and they worked incredibly well together, creating some truly unforgettable moments. Some of the innuendo and saucy conversations between the pair, especially when they’re talking to unsuspecting holiday makers Ben and Sophie.

Tricia Adele-Turner and Bradley Clarkson played the accidental guests of the hotel, Sophie and Ben. They were absolutely amazing as the uptight wife and her potentially fun loving Husband who just doesn’t really get to have fun. They are at the centre of the plot at times and do have some moments with all of the hotel staff members and other guests, which, were it a real hotel might give you pause, but in the show were a cause of some fantastic jokes at their expense.

One scene between Ben and and Jacqueline is particularly funny, and leads to even more laughs later on as a misunderstanding leads to the joke being very much at Sophie’s expense.

Jake Canuso delivered in fine form as lothario Mateo. From seducing wives to flamenco, he was absolutely great, and no, I’m not just saying that because he was wearing budgie smugglers, although it certainly didn’t hurt. Sam and Ricky were also great characters, played by Shelley Longsworth and Will Jennings, their parts were funny but understated in the first half; however by the second half they were definitely more in the limelight and they were both wonderful. As were the ensemble cast of Solana staff and holiday makers, dancing between scenes and singing with Asa in the musical numbers.

And of course last but by no means least, the wonderful Sherrie Newson as the slightly less wonderful (but extremely funny), Joyce Temple-Savage. Giving orders to staff to impress the undercover inspector by whatever means necessary, constantly calling a staff member Diego when his name is actually Ricky, and being generally slightly offensive to everyone around her. She may not have been the one to make all of the dirty jokes, but she was certainly the one who set things in motion to bring them about.

The second half of the show was much more music focussed than the first as it centred around karaoke in Neptune’s bar, including the wonderful Asa Elliott. The karaoke was ‘interesting’ to say the least, and even throughout the night of entertainment at Neptune’s there were still plenty of laughs to be had. The whole thing ended to a well earned standing ovation after a fantastic finale of Viva Espana, which definitely left me wanting to head to sunny Spain, and of course the whole crowd joined in.

Overall, I had an amazing night of fun in the sun, it was hilarious from the first line to the final bow.

For full details, go to:

BUTTERFLIES AT SHEFFIELD THEATRES: A play about feeling butterflies in your stomach: Review

BUTTERFLIES AT SHEFFIELD THEATRES: A play about feeling butterflies in your stomach: Review

Three friends embark on an exciting adventure to chase their butterflies away. They cross new seas to uncharted lands on a journey filled with discovery. The only trouble is they’re all a bit worried about it!

During their voyage the group ride the waves, walk high bridges, skirt deep caves and climb to the sky, before reaching dry land braver than ever before.

An uplifting tale of friendship, courage and facing your fears.

butterflies hsow at the studio sheffield theatres

My daughters and I were invited to The Crucible’s studio theatre to review a show called Butterflies by Tangled Feet and Half Moon.

I had wrongly assumed it would be a show all about butterflies that fly and there would be lots of characters acting as butterflies. But instead what we discovered was a much deeper show about what it feels like to be worried and having butterflies in your belly.

Helping children understand worry through drama

The show was simple in its setting with a stage made up of material and rope, not your normal colourful children’s set. But that didn’t matter as the simplicity allowed for the real values of the production to shine – the tale about the importance of friendship and courage.

It was a great piece of physical theatre with the character capturing the audience’s imagination through their brilliant acting and clever interaction.

Overcoming the butterflies in your belly

I think all too often we teach children about their physical health when their mental health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked. So butterflies in your stomach is a great way to describe and demonstrate what feeling worried can feel like.

The show is suitable for ages 3 – 8 and even my lively three-year-old Arianna sat and was engulfed into the world of proper good theatre, how it should be.

The End

The result of this slick 45 minute performance was incredible when Arianna turned to me and said: “I felt butterflies in my belly when I got a letter about starting school. I want my friends at nursery to go to the same school as me.”

Somehow, the show had managed to explain a complex feeling to my young daughter and enabled her to express her feelings.

To finish off a lovely show inside the intimate studio theatre, the characters handed out butterflies to all the audience as it was their last show that weekend.


Bah Humbug! A Christmas Carol at Leeds Playhouse’s pop-up theatre – Review

Bah Humbug! A Christmas Carol at Leeds Playhouse’s pop-up theatre – Review

By Blog Up North’s Gemma Whelan, a freelance drama practitioner.

The Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up theatre is delightfully intimate and a perfect performance space for this beloved classic. Our adventure begins as we locate this tucked away gem, when we discovered the entrance we were immediately transported on to a Dickensian street. The smell of mulled wine filled the air, and the audience hustled and bustled on the cobbled street or found a quaint little corner to sit in. On entering the theatre itself I was enchanted; The set design, lighting and costume were magical. As I sat in expectation for the performance to begin I realised I was a little nervous; like many of us, this story holds a special place in my heart and I am protective of it. However, the story was placed in very safe hands. Deborah McAndrew’s northern adaptation did us proud.

Robert Pickavance as Ebenezer Scrooge with the company of A Christmas Carol. Photography by Andrew Billington (2)

The stage opens in song as our vibrant ensemble bring the victorian setting to life. This talented  chorus seamlessly morph from character to character as they weave the tapestry of the story. Throughout this telling there is a dark undertone, the fragility of life is never far away and the impish chorus of spirits are a reminder of the ever present afterlife. However, the excellent  performances of Hull truck theatre and Amy Leach’s direction, meant that laughter, joy and hope are also ever present. In one moment we might be in the otherworldly enchantment of the ethereal ghost of Christmas past, in the next the tenderness of the Cratchit home, and in the next being entertained in musical hall style by the fabulous ghost of Christmas present.

Robert Pickavance as Ebenezer Scrooge and Lipalo Mokete as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. Photography by Andrew Billington

This enchanting, funny and musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol cannot fail to get you in the Christmas spirit.
The official Low-Down 

The production’s Tiny Tims are played by young local actors Lipalo Mokete from Leeds and Seb Smallwood from Harrogate. Cast following an open call-out in September which saw over 50 young people audition for the role, Lipalo and Seb have spent their half terms rehearsing with cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Robert Pickavance (Europe, Leeds Playhouse).

The full company are made up of the Leeds Playhouse Ensemble with Bob Cratchit being played by Darren Kuppan (Morocco in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) and Mrs Cratchit played by Jo Mousley (Katia in Europe, Leeds Playhouse).
Taking us through Scrooge’s dreams are the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, played by Tessa Parr (Adele in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) and Elexi Walker (Airplays, Leeds Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds) respectively.Joining them are Joe Alessi (Fret in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) who plays the infamous tormented ghost Marley; Susan Twist (Airplays, Leeds Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds) as Mrs Fezziwig; and Dan Parr (Berlin in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) as Fred.

A Christmas Carol is adapted by award-winning, West Yorkshire born playwright Deborah McAndrew, directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (RoadRomeo & JulietKesThe Night Before Christmas, Leeds Playhouse) and designed by award-winning Hayley Grindle (RoadRomeo & Juliet, Leeds Playhouse).
​ A Christmas Carol is a Leeds Playhouse production in association with Hull Truck Theatre.

A Christmas Carol, Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up theatre
Tue 20 Nov – Sat 19 Jan, Press Night Fri 23 Nov, 7pm
Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online

VEGETABLE BOXES REVIEW: Is it worth having fruit, vegetable & recipe boxes delivered to your door from Yorkshire suppliers?

VEGETABLE BOXES REVIEW: Is it worth having fruit, vegetable & recipe boxes delivered to your door from Yorkshire suppliers?

Several years ago, when I was living alone and working, I treated myself to weekly fruit and vegetable boxes, delivered from the local farm right to my door. But as soon as I had acquired more responsibilities such as a family and less disposable income, I put a stop to “luxury” items such as my fruit and vegetable boxes. 

But was that the right choice? Was I choosing thrift over health? 

These days the market for such boxes seems to have become even bigger as us millennials are becoming well aware of the importance of organic produce, cooking fresh and from scratch, but the one caveat is time. 

In our 2.4 family household these days we have tried all kinds of recipe boxes such as Muscle Food (lots of meat for my sport-loving hubby) and The Spicery (a gift subscription of spices for me).

But when it comes to fresh produce and locally sourced produce, what are the options? 

Greengrocers to your door

Earnshaws of Horbury – Vegetable and Fruit boxes for households and businesses

One of only two surviving greengrocers in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Earnshaws of Horbury is having to diversify the way in which it serves its customers. 

Owner Simon Fishwick, said: “We can no longer rely on people coming to us in our local shop, but we need to be going to them which is why we deliver fruit and vegetable boxes to people’s doors as well as businesses.”

Simon started with delivering boxes to customers throughout Horbury but has now expanded his customer base of people and businesses to the Wakefield District. 

He said: “We have a diverse range of customers and people are seeing the benefit of locally sourced organic produce, but the issue is cost and convenience.” 

And whilst Simon has addressed the convenience issue, he understands that price is difficult with so much competition in the fruit and vegetable market. 

“Even pound shops are selling fruit and veg now and, we simply can’t compete on price but we can on quality as well as being plastic-free where possible.” 

Simon also points out that by this Summer 40 per cent of the world will shop online so he too plans to launch a new site soon so that he can serve his customers in store and further afield. 

“People love what we do and we get some of our produce from as nearby as Newmillerdam Country Park (a village and suburb of Wakefield).

“But we have to make our business viable too, so we hope the online element of ordering fruit and veg boxes takes off.” 

What’s in the box? Anything… depending on your budget 

Just as you can select anything which is on offer in-store, this goes for the boxes too so you still get that personal touch. 

I opted for a “surprise and colourful selection” of a box worth £25 (see photo). 

The produce was delivered by a colourful van and it was noticeable how fresh and big the vegetables were as well as, no plastic. 

It was about a week’s supply of vegetables (and we eat a lot of veg in our house). It was more than what the same items would cost in a supermarket but for me it’s a small price to pay to support the local economy and to help improve my family’s health.

 A farmer’s crop to your door 

Riverford Organic Farmers – Fruit & Veg boxes and Recipe Boxes

Guy Watson, Riverford

Riverford has four farms including Home Farm at Newby Wiske, North Yorkshire where organic vegetables are grown and supplied for boxes to be delivered across the North of England.

North Yorkshire’s Home Farm grows seasonal veg including potatoes, parsnips, courgettes, broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, asparagus, beetroot, chard, broad beans, runner beans, French beans, garlic and leeks.

Riverford was originally founded when Guy Singh-Watson started growing organic veg on the family farm in Devon, with a wheelbarrow and a borrowed tractor in 1987.

His pioneering veg box scheme now sends out around 55,000 boxes a week to a loyal band of customers who share his commitment to fresh, seasonal food, produced with respect to customers, staff, farmers, livestock and the environment.

Riverford’s offer includes veg and recipe boxes as well as fruit and salad boxes. Customers can also choose from its online meat, dairy and farm shop. Everything grown or sold by Riverford is organic.

From the start,  the business has minimised its environmental impact, from the way  food is grown through to how it is packed and delivered. You won’t find crazy supermarket-style cosmetic specifications; just beautiful, often wonky veg, that is grown for flavour.

Having been badly treated by supermarket buyers himself, Guy agrees prices with farmers in advance, and gives them a guaranteed market for their produce.

Twice voted BBC Farmer of the Year, Guy is a veg expert and writes about sustainable farming, the politics of food production and better ways of doing business. The Riverford veg box was also named Ethical Product of the Decade by The Observer.

Who owns what at Riverford?  

Riverford became employee owned on 8 June 2018.

74% of the company has moved into an Employee Trust, benefitting all Riverford employees equally. Guy retains 26% and a very active involvement in the next phase of Riverford’s journey.

How much does a box cost? 

Prices vary depending on the content of the box. A medium veg box is £14.45. Recipe boxes start from £11.20 for a meal for two.

Recipe Box PR image


Whilst your weekly food budget would need to increase if you’re used to buying cheap supermarket produce. The prices are similar between Earnshaws and Riverford, both of whom support local producers. Obviously, Earnshaws is hyper-local whereas Riverford is national.

I think that if you budget correctly and cut down on meals-out or takeaways, you’d definitely benefit from the “treat” of healthy food through your door. 

As soon as the veg boxes arrived, my kids were excited and quickly began munching on the large locally-grown carrots and asking about all the different types of fruit and veg, which for me is well worth the extra cost.  


  • Please note we received the boxes free-of-charge for the purpose of this review.