CHRISTMAS FAMILY ACTIVITIES: What to do in Leeds, West Yorkshire during the holidays

CHRISTMAS FAMILY ACTIVITIES: What to do in Leeds, West Yorkshire during the holidays

Christmas is coming and we are suddenly on a countdown to the holidays… so if you’re in Yorkshire, here are lots to things to do in Leeds alone, you can read Yorkshire Families for things to do all over the region too.

What’s on this Christmas in Leeds?

Abbey House Museum

 Visit Father Christmas

1, 7, 8, 14, 15 & 12 & 22 December, 10am-12pm & 2-4pm

A Christmas treat for all the family. Wander through the decorated Victorian Streets, listen to the carols, get creative with your Christmas list and visit Father Christmas in his winter wonderland grotto. Dress up, decorate a Christmas ornament and have a go at the Christmas trail. Make family memories to treasure forever and don’t forget to bring along your camera.

On 7 December from 9.30-11.30am there’s relaxed Santa visits for those who might find a trip to the museum a little daunting.

Please note that all grotto visits are priced at £4.50 + general admission.


Santa’s Little Helpers

19-20 Dec, 10am-12pm & 2-4pm

Join in with festive fun crafts and activities around the museum.


Twixtmas: Splat a Sprout!

27, 28, 29 & 31 Dec, 10am-4pm

Are you sick of Christmas already? Bored of board games? Well come along and take it out on the sprout! Join in with a series of sprout related family challenges in the Victorian Streets.


Kirkstall Abbey


Abbey Christmas

2 Dec-3 Jan

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Carol singers will be filling the abbey with festive sounds on 8 December from 2-3pm. The Heritage Singers will be joined by members of the Abbeylands parish, adding a spiritual note to the proceedings. After Christmas there’s more festive fun with a trail to track down Santa and his reindeer taking a nap in the abbey from 27 December-3 January.


Leeds Art Gallery



14 December, 11am-4pm

Head to Leeds Art Galleries family friendly Artspace and take part in festive fun activities inspired by the collections. Mash-up contemporary art and tradition and make festive decorations to take away and hang up at home.


Leeds City Museum


A Winters Trail

19 Dec-3 Jan

Jack Frost has been causing chaos around the museum so pop along and help them to track him down! Follow the clues on a merry museum trail to find out where he’s been and stop him from making any more mess.


Etsy Made Local Market

30 Nov-1 Dec, 11am-4pm

Etsy Made Local is back in Leeds for a 5th year. Spread across 5 days with 35 different makers and designers, this year’s event promises to be even bigger and better than ever. The Leeds Christmas Market will showcase the best creative talent and carefully curated products from sellers based in and around the Leeds area. This year it’s expanded to include a creative fun day on 29 November between 11am-4pm too.




The Christmas Experience

22 Nov-23 Dec

Wander along the magical 12 days of Christmas woodland walk and marvel in the winter wonderland at the North Pole with Santa and his elves. Make Christmas crafts and gifts in the Elf Village and enjoy the splendour of the house dressed in all its festive finery. New for this year will be the Lotherton Ice Rink, so skate along and don’t miss out on a magical Christmas at Lotherton!

For an extra special treat, the 12 Days of Christmas walk will be open until 5 January too!

Visit to for further information


Temple Newsam


Christmas at Temple Newsam

7, 8, 14, 15, 21 & 22 Dec

Throughout December you can discover how everyone gets ready for Christmas at Temple Newsam. Delight in the splendour of the festive preparations and see how the Tudors, Georgians and Victorians celebrated Christmas. Take part in Christmas crafts including wreath making in the Joiners Shop and pay a visit to Santa in his workshop to receive a free gift! Don’t forget to book a timeslot to avoid disappointment.

Santa visits are priced at £5 (under 1s are free). Please call 0113 336 7460 to book.

SLEEPING BEAUTY PANTOMIME: Huddersfield Panto is back at Lawrence Batley Theatre

SLEEPING BEAUTY PANTOMIME: Huddersfield Panto is back at Lawrence Batley Theatre

All the fun you could wish for this Christmas, as Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield presents its magical family pantomime Sleeping Beauty.

Go on a magical adventure with their new pantomime Sleeping Beauty!

In a castle high above Huddersfield, a wicked fairy has cursed Princess Aurora to sleep for 100 years. With the Princess watched over by her nursemaid, a kind fairy sets out to find a hero who can break the spell, but who will be the one to rescue our Princess?

Spun together by director Joyce Branagh and playwright Andrew Pollard the creative team behind the hugely successful Aladdin, Jack & the Beanstalk and Cinderella, expect thigh slapping, toe tapping, rib cracking fun from this year’s family show. Bursting with spectacular costumes, hit songs, audience participation (and in true panto tradition) it’s shaping up to be Huddersfield’s biggest pantomime yet.  (Oh, yes it is!)

Henry Filloux-Bennett, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the LBT, said:  “Having seen last year’s panto I am incredibly excited about SLEEPING BEAUTY – it’s my first pantomime since joining the Lawrence Batley Theatre and I am really looking forward to seeing packed houses full of families enjoying a fabulous, festive show full of magic and fun, throughout the run.”

 “We are delighted to welcome back Joyce and Andrew, the creative force behind some of the best pantomimes across the UK and we are very excited to see what magic they have created, together with our talented cast, for Sleeping Beauty.  I’ve heard so much about our audiences’ fantastic reaction to previous productions and this production looks set to build and excel upon their previous triumphs.”

Sleeping Beauty new V8

 SLEEPING BEAUTY brings together faces old and new for this fantastic production.  Robin Simpson (Aladdin, Jack & The Beanstalk) makes a welcome return as Nanny Fanny.  Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty),will be played by talented local actor and LBT favourite,Alyce Liburd (Aladdinand Unsung).  She will be wooed by handsome Sebastian Prince, ably portrayed by Thomas Cotran (Aladdin, Jack & The Beanstalk).  Also making a welcome return is Nicola Jayne Ingram (Aladdin,A Tiger’s Tale) as Hester the JesterandRichard Hand (Aladdin,The Ruck, Cinderella) returns in the role of King Herbert the Hesitant.  Gamely stepping in at the last minute, LBT is thrilled to welcome Esther-Grace Buttonas the fabulous Fairy Falalala -la-la-la-la-la, (The Sand House, Beauty & The Beast, Jack & The Beanstalk, Sleeping Beautyfor CAST)Making her LBT debut isHayley Russell (Vampires Rock(UK Theatre and Arena Tour)); and The Meat Loaf Story (UK Tour)as Belladonna Bile.  Hayley is also a professional singer and has worked all over the world on cruise ships for over 17 years, supporting artists such as Billy Ocean and Gareth Gates and even had the pleasure of performing for Oasis front man Liam Gallagher.   The professional cast are supported by a company of talented young performers, aged between 9 – 17 years old, from across Kirklees.

Director, Joyce Branagh, says: “We’re very excited about Sleeping Beauty and audiences can expect to be wowed by the cast, gorgeous sets, and amazing choreography bringing to life Andrew’s cracking, comical script.  Expect rousing songs, outrageous outfits and hilarious antics from the team. 

 “It’s a privilege to work with such a talented bunch and we’ve brought back some audience favourites as well as some new faces to the exceptional cast!  We have something special on order for families to enjoy and we can guarantee a great Christmas outing at LBT.

Joyce Branagh has been a professional director and writer since 1995 working with theatres across the UK and Ireland including Watford Palace Theatre and Salisbury Playhouse, where she has directed panto as well as productions at the Orange Tree Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and Oldham Coliseum. Based in Yorkshire, her recent stage credits include Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Rose Theatre), Boomtown Gals (winner of Manchester Theatre Awards best performance) and The Ruck. She lives in West Yorkshire, has written four pantomimes and is the co-author of the book Creating Pantomime.

Playwright and actor Andrew Pollard specialises in writing pantomimes and for families; he regularly writes, directs and appears as the Dame in Greenwich Theatre’s pantomime, where he is performing this Christmas in Robin Hood. He played Phileas Fog in the national tour of Around The World in 80 Days and previous credits includes working with Northern Broadsides, New Vic Theatre and in 2007, regularly appearing as John Bune in Emmerdale.

sleeping beauty lawrence batley theatre huddersfield

Since producing its first pantomime four years ago, Lawrence Batley Theatre is becoming firmly established as one of the top destinations to enjoy a traditional family panto in Yorkshire.

Tickets for SLEEPING BEAUTY are now on sale and are priced from £12.50.  A family saver of four tickets for £65 is also offered (conditions apply). To buy tickets contact the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s Box Office on 01484 430528 or online at


Produced by Lawrence Batley Theatre; Director: Joyce Branagh; Writer: Andrew Pollard.

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.”


  • 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



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.



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 or call Box Office on 0113 243 08 08.

YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

As the cast of The Wizard of Oz prepare to take audiences on a magical adventure along the yellow brick road at Leeds Playhouse this month, it’s time to meet Lucy Sherman and Agatha Meehan, who will star as alternate Dorothys during the festive run from 20 November 2019 to 25 January 2020.

These images show the young local actors with their new best friends, Doris and Scruff, who will be playing Toto, Dorothy’s faithful four-legged companion on her journey to the Emerald City alongside a stunning puppet designed and created by Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour).

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, 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 Munchkins and a number of ensemble roles are being played by local children in two teams – Team East and Team West.

James opted to cast a young ensemble and two real-age Dorothys to heighten the tension and ramp up the energy of this timeless tale: ‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.’

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment.

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.

There’s no place like home

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining talks about his fresh, dynamic take on The Wizard of Oz – and why it’s the perfect show to mark the theatre’s first Christmas in its newly redeveloped home. 

Why have you chosen The Wizard of Oz for the Playhouse’s first Christmas after its £15.8 million redevelopment?

‘The Christmas show in the Quarry at the Playhouse is a big event that attracts tens of thousands of people. For many, it’s a special occasion that marks the festive season, so we’re always looking for a show that can unite an audience in celebration.

The Wizard of Oz is a story of people triumphing over challenging odds. It’s full of peril, jeopardy, excitement and hope, but it should also make people feel inspired, positive and joyful.

‘Theatrically, it gives us the opportunity to make the most of the amazing space that is the Quarry Theatre. It’s a chance for us to stage a fantastic, affirmative theatrical event. The notion of ‘there’s no place like home’ is particularly interesting because, this year, we’re back in the theatre after our redevelopment. It’s brilliant to welcome people back with a show of this scale – it feels appropriate as a celebration of the monumental year we’ve had.’

What, for you, are the key themes of The Wizard of Oz? And what new elements are you striving to bring out?

‘The story is so well known but now, having worked on it so closely, I have found lots in there I hadn’t recognised or maybe had just taken for granted before. It really repays a fresh look.

‘It’s about a child who’s let down by lots of people, particularly adults, and isn’t having an easy time. She has to battle really hard to discover who she is and, in the process, she enables other people to discover who they are and what their positive and affirmative qualities are.

‘The approach we’re taking is to make it feel as inclusive as possible so that it represents a contemporary view of the world rather than an old-fashioned view. It’s a cherished story still very much set in its original time, but ours is a modern telling that’s very accessible to audiences.’

You’ve chosen two young local actors to play Dorothy – 12-year-old Agatha Meehan and 14-year-old Lucy Sherman – and have also cast a young ensemble. Why was this important to you?

‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.

‘Lucy and Agatha are working so hard. The show asks a lot of them, but they are really excellent. I’m so impressed with them; they’re both very skilled and talented and also have a wonderful open enthusiasm.’

Why is the character of Dorothy still so beloved by audiences?

‘Dorothy helps liberate people and communities by her actions, and her personality – she’s always completely without ego. She takes other people along with her, inspiring them to make a change in their own lives. The potential of a child to change the world is a really powerful idea. Adults can often be much more aware of risk, failure and disappointment. What I find interesting here is that you have a child who’s put into a position where she has to act beyond her years, and she achieves everything she sets out to do.’

What can people expect from Leeds Playhouse version of The Wizard of Oz?

‘All the classic elements will be there – the ruby slippers, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch – but there will be so much more besides. Aerialists, puppetry, real animals – our aim is to not only match people’s expectations but to surpass them. We’re also using projections to energise the aesthetic and bring a new dynamic element to the show.

‘For me, the yellow brick road is an interesting metaphor. It’s obviously a real thing in the story but it also represents a journey, growth and companionship. Also, for me, it represents faith; not in a religious way but in the possibility of achieving something that initially seems impossible. It shows how, if you set out with purpose in good company, you can achieve a goal that you never could have imagined achieving by yourself.’

What’s your personal relationship with The Wizard of Oz?

‘I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing, but when I was growing up there were films that seemed to be on the telly all the time, every year, andThe Wizard of Oz was one of them. The story has entered the national consciousness to a certain extent. There are certain lines in it that have become iconic, almost Shakespearean in their recognisability. Like “I’ll get you my pretty” and “I’m melting” – they’ve become part of popular vernacular.’

Has working intensely on The Wizard of Oz changed your view of the story?

‘Working so closely on it means I’ve got to know it really well. The Wizard of Oz is such a complex and interesting story that it has almost taken on mythological proportions, moving beyond its narrative and becoming a powerful emotional arc.

‘The technique of having a reality that is, in effect, in a dream world is something I’ve realised I’ve done quite a lot in my other work, in other shows, almost subconsciously referencing The Wizard of Oz as a source idea. The idea that there is a reality and then there’s an alternative reality based on that reality is a very rich, dramatic and incredibly neat structure to make a piece of work from.’

Who do you think Leeds Playhouse production of The Wizard of Oz will appeal to?

‘It’s tempting to say “all the family”, but it’s a story that reaches even further than that, to people who don’t have a family, to everyone in fact. It’s a great story that, as the Playhouse, we will deliver with an integrity, depth and warmth.’

What makes The Wizard of Oz in the Quarry special? What sets it apart?

‘For me, it’s not just about the songs and the spectacular elements, it’s about interrogating the story, and making it clear and gripping and exciting. I want to make it about something; about courage and friendship and the possibility of transformation and community.

‘We will, of course, deliver on the songs and the dancing and the spectacular elements, but with added dynamism and freshness. I want people to experience things they didn’t expect to see.

‘It’s a family show, but it’s also more than that. It’s a classic story, and we do classic stories very differently at the Playhouse. We respect the original, but present it in a way that feels fresh, modern and completely unexpected.’

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

An interview with the director


By L. Frank Baum

With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg

Background Music by Herbert Stothart

Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Peter Howard

Orchestration by Larry Wilcox as revised by Toby Higgins

Adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company

Based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros.

Leeds Playhouse opened nearly 50 years ago. It is a cultural hub, a place where people gather to tell and share stories and to engage in world class theatre. The Playhouse makes work which is pioneering and relevant, seeking out the best companies and artists to create inspirational theatre in the heart of Yorkshire. From large scale spectacles to intimate performance, the Playhouse develops and makes work for the stage, found spaces, touring, schools and community venues. As dedicated collaborators, Leeds Playhouse works regularly with other organisations from across the UK, and some of the most distinctive and original voices in theatre today. Through their Artistic Development programme Furnace, they develop work with established practitioners and find, nurture and support new voices. They cultivate artists by providing creative space for writers, directors, companies and individual theatre-makers to refine their practice at any stage of their career. The Playhouse’s sector-leading Creative Engagement team works with over 10,000 people aged 0 – 95 every year through a range of weekly workshops and exciting creative projects using theatre to open up possibilities, reaching out to refugee communities, young people, students, older people and people with learning disabilities. At the Playhouse there is always a way to get involved.


Leeds Playhouse’s Autumn/Winter 2019 season will take place back in the redeveloped theatre following a £15.8 million transformation. The new building will include improved access to and around the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre, the Bramall Rock Void. The full season consists of: FURNACE FESTIVAL 2019 returns showcasing a weekend of works in progress (13 – 16 November); Inua Ellams’ critically acclaimed BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES returns (20 – 23 November); celebrating 80 years since the iconic film THE WIZARD OF OZ  (20 November – 25 January) is the Playhouse’s Christmas spectacular; Leeds Playhouse presents THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (30 November – 28 December); the The Egg and The Travelling Light present SNOW MOUSE (10 – 21 December), and the Playhouse proudly celebrates 10 years of Relaxed Performances this Christmas-time, pioneered at Leeds Playhouse and now adopted as standard practice in theatres worldwide.

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. 


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. 


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.


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. 


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! 


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


WILLIAM’S DEN ADVENTURE ATTRACTION: Indoor and outdoor activity centre in North Cave, Yorkshire – Review 

WILLIAM’S DEN ADVENTURE ATTRACTION: Indoor and outdoor activity centre in North Cave, Yorkshire – Review 

As we drove through the pouring rain from Wakefield to Hull, I was unsure of what we would find to do at William’s Den on a rainy day. Needless to say we had two enthusiastic kids in the back of the car ready to play come rain or shine. 

As we turned into the adventure attraction just off the A1034 we pulled into a large car park and was glad to see an inviting indoor attraction as well as outdoor play area. 

After any journey the first stop was the toilets which are large and clean and well catered for families with my daughter loving the fact their were parent and child toilets inside some of the cubicles. 

We then checked in to reception who informed us we were just in time for pumpkin carving (as we had come for the last day of the Pumpkin Party which was part of the Den’s Halloween Half-term celebrations). But before doing anything the kids were hungry so we went to the restaurant which is complete with an ice cream parlour serving their own William’s Den Ice cream as well as a pizza oven and large menu. 

My mum (aka designated driver as it would have been hard to reach any other way) and daughters tried the Lasagne which was a hearty plateful including large wedges and salad. 

My eldest daughter also went for the Nutella Milkshake made with ice cream which was £5.50. 

After fuelling up, we then had a quick look outside. As it was pouring with rain the kids didn’t want to venture to the outdoor play area and pumpkin patch but I legged it in the rain with my youngest so that they could have a pumpkin each to take home. 

The outdoor area is spacious but not too vast either and on a good day you can see that the kids would love adventuring out in to the play areas. 

Once we had posed for some photos in the Halloween themed photo booth, we then ventured into the indoor play area. 

It is very spacious and made of wood with rope monkey bars, a sand pit, slides, a den with bean bags and lots of rope bridges. 

As my children are 4 and 7 year old they happily went off into the den together and played for a good hour and a half. There are nice wooden benches for parents and carers to sit on and watch. The place felt clean and all the wood and water gave it a really natural feel. Despite all the things to play on, my kids were happiest in the den area where they built walls out of the bean bags. 

It was hard to get them to leave and once they had had a quick look in the gift shop, we were back off in the car with our pumpkins. We had had a fun afternoon out and we could have spent the best part of the day there especially if the the weather had been nice. It’s compact with lots to do and lovely natural environment to allow the kids to learn and explore.

What is William’s Den? All about it… 



A unique indoor play space for children of all ages, constructed from responsibly sourced wood, and housed inside a huge barn, The Den has been designed and hand crafted by a team of highly skilled play experts.  From the Tree House to the Forest Glade and the Eagles Nest to the Rainmaker, The Den is sure to thrill.


We have wide-open spaces and wonderful views at William’s Den for children to explore to their hearts content and connect with nature. They can run wild, enjoy water and sand play, climb wooden structures, whizz on zip wires and spend hours building dens from scratch. Perfect for fun family adventures.

DISCLAIMER: We received free entry into William’s Den for the purpose of this review. All views are our own.