Summer Family Day Out: Charity Canal Challenge

Summer Family Day Out: Charity Canal Challenge

Everyone’s welcome at local health charity, Leeds Cares’ Charity Canal Challenge on Sunday 14th July!.The event, in partnership with Canal & River Trust is encouraging people of all ages across Yorkshire to lead healthy and active lifestyles in support of a great cause. 

river and canal trust Leeds cares charity challenge

Who are Leeds Cares?

As charity partner of Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Leeds Cares brings caring people together to inspire change. Our vision is a healthier world where everyone can access exceptional healthcare – here in Leeds, across Yorkshire and beyond.

Our collaborative approach with the NHS focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery, encouraging people to be healthy and active throughout their lives but ensuring exceptional healthcare is always there when needed.

river and canal trust Leeds cares charity challenge

The Family Track

Leeds Cares is all about helping children get a healthy start in life and encouraging local communities to lead active and fulfilling lives. For the littlest legs, strollers and wheelchairs, the ‘Family Track’ is the most accessible route, a 4-mile fun family stroll from Kirkstall Forge to Leeds.This wheelchair and buggy friendly route is perfect for families with children of all ages, and there’s even a ‘Challenge Pack’ for under 12s with activities along the way!

river and canal trust Leeds cares charity challenge

Get your walking boots on!

Registration is now open and tickets for a family of four cost just £22. All participants will be encouraged to fundraise for Leeds Cares, helping to raise as much as possible to support the work of our hospitals right here in Yorkshire.

Northern Rail is supporting the event with 50% off rail travel via their app, allowing participants to take the train one way, either before or after the event.

Sign up now at


For more information about Canal & River Trust and to download a free guide to the waterways on your doorstep visit:



FREE FAMILY DAY OUT: Exploring Kirkstall Abbey (and Abbey House Museum)

FREE FAMILY DAY OUT: Exploring Kirkstall Abbey (and Abbey House Museum)

I have seen pictures online of Kirkstall Abbey of various events popping up from cinema screenings to markets, all at the 12th century ruins. But other than events, what was there to offer for a family in Yorkshire with young children?

We had been invited to review Abbey House Museum (the gatehouse of Kirkstall Abbey) and Kirkstall Abbey itself by Leeds Museums and Galleries, so we went along in the school holidays to explore.

We drove from Wakefield and I was surprised at how close Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House Museum (which are across the road from each other) are to the motorway and tucked around the back of Kirkstall Rd where I have previously worked for TV channels. Kirkstall Abbey is just 4 miles from Leeds City Centre (bus details are at the bottom of this post).

Vlogging at Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House Museum in Leeds / Yorkshire Families

Even from the car park Kirkstall Abbey is staggeringly beautiful and is thought of as one of the most complete Cistercian monastries in Britain.

But the kids being kids were more interested in the playground next to the car park. Anyway we managed to bribe them into Abbey House Museum Cafe aka The Gatehouse for some lunch before exploring Kirkstall Abbey and then inevitably, ending up back at the playground.

We had a peek inside the museum which is made up of Victorian Streets (but you have to pay to get in and we didn’t have time to do both, we should have scheduled a full day trip out). Abbey House Museum’s The Gatehouse cafe and toilets are aptly themed too with plenty to learn even whilst sat on the toilet!

The cafe, like the museum, is stunning in terms of the architecture of the building. It was a sunny day when we visited so we opted to sit outside overlooking a vast array of plant beds and Kirkstall Abbey across the road.

There’s also a picnic area too or you can choose a range of drinks and hot and cold food from a simple menu of sandwiches, jacket potatoes and other hot meals.

The food is fresh and nice but basic, so it was perfect for the kids but a little plain for us adults.

We finished off with ice creams before crossing the road to Kirkstall Abbey. Other than the visitor centre it is all outdoors so make sure you wrap up warm and bring an umbrella, unless you drop on like we did and have sunny weather.

Kirkstall Abbey is FREE to enter

There’s also a nice field for children to play on too and well built paths to help you explore the circumference of the Abbey.  On appearance you can tell it was built by monks from Fountain’s Abbey as there are a lot of similarities in its appearance.

As The Cistercians in Yorkshire writes: “The history of Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire, begins with its foundation in 1147, when a group of twelve monks from Fountains Abbey, under the guidance of their prior, Alexander, colonised the site at Barnoldswick. In 1152 the community relocated to the present site of Kirkstall, and remained here until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539. The abbey buildings escaped the wholesale destruction and plunder that occurred elsewhere; most were left standing and used for agricultural purposes; this is perhaps why Kirkstall is now the most complete set of Cistercian ruins in Britain. While the abbey is now embedded in the industrial quarter of Leeds and the site bisected by the A65 Kirkstall Road, during the Middle Ages – and up until the late eighteenth century – this was a secluded spot in a rural setting. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the main thoroughfare to Leeds actually ran through the nave of the church.”

My family and I made our way around the Abbey before realising how to actually get in to the Abbey through the visitor centre.  

The kids loved running around the site and playing hide and seek. Also there’s often activities on in the visitor centre during school holidays.

I also couldn’t resist taking endless photos of the stunning site for pleasure and for instagram of course.  


The kids also found a mud kitchen to play in. It was great to see them use their imaginations to move around the areas rather than give them lots of pre planned activities.

Make and Move: Jasmine and Arianna exploring Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds / Yorkshire Families 

As the weather started to turn, we then made our way back to the playground as we had promised we could go there too.

We had only given ourselves a few hours to visit but I could have easily spent longer there. There is so much to do for the whole family young and old and easily a day out if visiting both places in tandem. 

For other ideas for free days out in Yorkshire, go to: 

How to get to Kirkstall Abbey

Visitor information:






Opening Hours

Mondays: Closed – Open Bank holidays: 10:00 – 16:00

Tuesday – Sunday:

April to Sept 10:00 – 16:30 Last admission 16:00

October – March 10:00 – 16:00. Last admission 15:00


General admission is free

Venue Details

Visit one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in the country and step back in time to see how the monks lived. Refreshments are available from the Gatehouse café across the road at Abbey House Museum.


Baby change; Toilets; Visitor centre; Picnic area; Cafe; Education facilities; Play area

Telephone Number

0113 3784079


For information on access at this venue, please visit our Access page


A large free car park is situated opposite Kirkstall Abbey, on Abbey Walk. This includes disabled access parking.

Public Transport

Bus numbers 33, 33a and 757 travel from the city centre to Kirkstall Road.

The nearest train stations are Kirkstall Forge (1 mile away) and Headingley (1 mile away). Contact Metroline for up-to-date travel information on (0113) 245 7676.


Getting to Abbey House Museum

Visitor information:


Abbey Walk




Venue Details

Wander the beautifully created authentic Victorian streets for a glimpse of life in 19th century Leeds.

Telephone Number

0113 3784079


Public Transport

Bus numbers 33, 33a and 757 travel from the city centre to Kirkstall Road.

The nearest train stations are Kirkstall Forge, c.1 mile away, and Headingley, a 1 mile walk. Contact Metroline for up-to-date travel information on (0113) 245 7676.

By car: If you are using a route planner, our postcode is LS5 3EH.


For information on access at this venue, please visit our  Access page


A large free car park is situated next to Abbey House Museum on Abbey Walk. This includes disabled parking. There is an additional disabled access parking space immediately outside the museum entrance.

Opening Hours

Mondays: Closed (Open Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00 – 17:00)

Tuesday – Friday & Sundays: 10:00 – 17:00. Last admission 16:30.

Saturday: 12:00 – 17:00. Last admission 16:30.


Baby change; Cafe; Shop; Education facilities; Picnic area; Play area; Toilets; Parking

Admission Adult


Admission Child

£2.65 Children under 5 years – free.

Admission Concession


Admission Family


Admission Group


Admission Leeds Card

  • Leeds Card Adult £4.15,
  • Breezecard child £2.10,
  • LeedsCard Family £8.80.
  • Leeds Card Extra £3.15 Please make sure you have your card with you.

Admission Max Card

General admission is free

Admission Membership

Admission is free to members of the Leeds Art Fund, Friends of Leeds City Museums, the Museums Association and the National Arts Collection Fund.



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

LEEDS WELLBEING WEEK: Five Ways to Mental Wellbeing

LEEDS WELLBEING WEEK: Five Ways to Mental Wellbeing

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is in full swing so we thought we would share the five ways to wellbeing by New Economics Forum (published by the government). Whilst we all don’t have mental illness, all families have mental health that needs to be looked after.

Evidence suggests that a small improvement in wellbeing can help to decrease some mental health problems and also help people to flourish.

Here are 5 actions to improve personal wellbeing:

  • connect
  • be active
  • take notice
  • keep learning
  • give

So why not kick off with one of the actions this week? Comment below with how you and your family are going to do one of these actions!

Leeds Wellbeing Week is also running during Mental Health Awareness Week and it is a great way to connect and inspire people.

Try New things and get your dose of inspiration during Leeds Wellbeing Week

Here is a bit of inspiration by Lucile, Founder of Leeds Wellbeing Week.

When I arrived in Leeds in 2016, I arrived in a new city, a new county and a new country where I had not a single contact – I followed my husband who had a job opportunity. We got married, I quit my job and I left France within 3 weeks. Crazy? Slightly!

Having no job and no friend in a new city was exciting on paper, yet challenging in real life. The first few weeks were spent finding a place to stay and doing all the lovely administrative bits, and then what? I was on my own in an empty house with no phone and no Internet connection. I was also recovering from a very intense job where I almost burnt out. Lovely!

It was hard, but one thing helped me to find my feet in Leeds and feel comfortable (I now LOVE Yorkshire): trying new things! It was my route to recovery. I tried various Dance classes at Yorkshire Dance and Northern School of Contemporary Dance, I went to networking events and meet ups, I even tried Thai Boxing! [Painful. Very painful. I never went back.]

The three benefits of Trying New Things:

  • It makes you smile: There is an adrenaline and a dopamine rush in your brain when you try new things, so the stress hormone is combined with the happiness hormone. For the best! Yes, it might be stressful at first to get out of your comfort zone. But 1. You have nothing to lose and 2. You might actually find something that you really like and that would become part of your life afterwards!


  • It creates memories: The Thai boxing experience made me realise that Thai boxing was not for me. But this experience makes me laugh still! I felt so terrible and it was so painful that I had to laugh! I remember it to this day, and it is a very funny memory still.
  • It gets you to meet new people: the famous sentence says, ‘if you always do the same actions you will always get the same result’. Well, if you always attend the same events or go to the same places, you will always meet the same people. Trying new things gets you to meet people with different stories, backgrounds, passions, habits… and to connect with them. And connecting is actually one of the 5 ways of wellbeing mentioned by Action for Happiness.


View this post on Instagram

This is a real life padded cell where psychiatric patients, like me, would have been locked up not so many years ago 🥺🥺🥺 I wrote this today as I spent the day at Fieldhead #MentalHealth hospital but for something positive & creative… These words came to me whilst inside there (sorry if they sound crap and childish) ✍️✍️✍️ Creativity is thinking outside the box. When you experience mental illness, healthcare services always try and put you in a box. It used to be a padded room and these days you're a drugged up tick box. But creativity transcends all of that and allows you to connect on a much deeper level. It allows you to flourish, think and thrive outside of the box. It helps you to escape society's shackles and gives you a real reason to be. For just a moment creativity helps me to escape from crisis, it helps me to escape from my past trauma and for those moments, I am free. ❤️❤️❤️

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

I was able to try so many new things thanks to all the great events happening in Leeds. Without them, I would most likely have been stuck at home.

I then created Leeds Wellbeing Week to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones as well and try something new.

Leeds Wellbeing Week is a yearly wellbeing festival, and the next edition is 13-18 May 2019, during Mental Health Awareness Week. The goal of the festival is to get Leeds’ people to experience wellbeing in many ways, at various times and in various locations. Wellbeing is EVERYWHERE, can be EVERYTHING (from walking to gardening) and for EVERYONE!

For this edition of Leeds Wellbeing Week, there are specifically 3 events designed to inspire people in Leeds:

This 45min workshop is a series of short exercises which will enable you to understand the basics of Wellbeing. Focusing on your own reactions to stress and the specific challenges of your day to day job, you will build your own healthy coping mechanisms and end up with your ideal ‘healthy week balance’ you can refer to in the future.


Join Natasha McCreesh AKA The Joy Bringer, for a breakfast with intention. She is inviting you to enjoy a fresh, nutritious breakfast and through guided reflection get clear on what brings you joy.


Join Nat in the Sweaty Betty studio for a thought-provoking wellness workshop on the topic of growth and overcoming limiting beliefs. Nat will provide practical techniques and learnings on how best to deal with stress and enhance confidence.


Among many other events that you can browse here:

We are looking forward to seeing you there, trying new things!



About the Founder of Leeds Wellbeing Week

Lucile Allen-Paisant is the founder of Leeds Wellbeing Week and Director of Mind It Ltd. Former Marketing Director of a fast-growing business, with a wide range of responsibilities and passion for her job, Lucile almost experienced burn-out herself and is now an advocate of burn-out prevention through wellbeing activities. She created Mind It Ltd to MAKE WELLBEING EASY and help organisations to take care of their staff using easy, impactful and powerful tools. Mind It provides lunch & learn workshops, training and consultancy.

SNOZONE CASTLEFORD: Sledging at Xscape Yorkshire – Review

SNOZONE CASTLEFORD: Sledging at Xscape Yorkshire – Review

Who knew you can sledge all year round in Castleford, West Yorkshire?

When SNOZONE contacted me about reviewing an experience at Xscape I assumed it was just skiing.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area

But far from it, they offer snowboarding, sledging and have a café-cum-play area on site too.

As I had a day planned with my two daughters (aged 4 and 7) and my little brother who’s autistic along with his girlfriend, sledging seemed like a great way to try out Snozone for the first time and was something that the whole family/our clan could do all together.

Here’s what we got up to:

Arriving at SnoZone

We were instructed to arrive 30 minutes early to get ready in time for the sledging, which you definitely need to do if you’re hiring clothing  and it gives you time to choose a helmet and sledge.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area

We were warmly welcomed by reception who provided us with the right sized clothing and snowboots so that we could stay warm and protected.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area

The clothing was really padded so the receptionist helped us to the changing rooms as i struggled carrying all that for my two daughters and I.

We got changed before putting our possessions in the lockers provided (these are located either inside the changing rooms or the shared changing area).

We then selected a helmet and a sledge just in time to start our session. It was super busy due to it being a Saturday so I was worried it might be sensory overload for my little brother Oscar.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield

There is a small section cordoned off for sledging which is right next to the ski lifts.

Oscar was fine knowing that he had all his safety gear on and that there was a process of queueing up the slope to then be able to slide down at your leisure.

Surprisingly my youngest Arianna got really scared of sledging, I think it was the fear of sledging on her own and with lots of new people around.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield

But after a few attempts, Arianna got into the swing of it.  My eldest Jasmine however took straight to it and couldn’t get up the slope and down again fast enough.

We had 45 minutes sledging which was plenty of time despite the crowd of people. And actually part of the fun was dodging the other people as we slided down the slope.

I was really glad we had the hired clothing wear on too as this meant we were all snug and protected and it was even more fun getting covered in snow!

Afterwards, we all felt like we had done a bit of a work out so we headed upstairs to the Alpine Kitchen and Free Soft Play area.  

Eat, Drink and Play

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area

It’s a great space to watch people ski, sledge and snowboard through the glass windows.

As we had come on a special open day we were treated to free face painting and a live musician.

We had a great day out and it was a great introduction to Snozone. My brother is looking forward to returning for a bespoke session as they offer special assistance and training to people with additional needs.

I am also looking forward to roping some of my grown up friends into a snowboarding lesson soon!

For more on Snozone and our other top places to go in Yorkshire, check us out in the Yorkshire Evening Post here.

How to get to SnoZone

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area

SnoZone is located inside Xscape at Junction 32 of the M62 in Castleford. The full address is:

Xscape Yorkshire

Colorado Way



WF10 4TA

We tend to travel by public transport and as I was coming from Sheffield with my little brother we caught a train to Castleford and then a bus from Castleford Bus Station to Xscape (the bus station is really close to the train station).

When travelling from Wakefield, there is a new x32 bus that runs every hour and it’s a lot quicker than previous services which tended to stop at every possible bus stop on your way to Xscape.

Snozone Castleford Xscape Yorkshire Wakefield Children's soft play area
DISCLAIMER: We received the sledging free of charge for the purpose of this review. But all views are our own.

YORKSHIRE EVENING POST: Meet the Yorkshire Family behind Yorkshire Families Magazine Blog

YORKSHIRE EVENING POST: Meet the Yorkshire Family behind Yorkshire Families Magazine Blog

Yorkshire Families editor Sophie Mei Lan and her family are regularly featured in Yorkshire Evening Post so we thought we’d also share their favourite things to do in the region.

Sophie Mei Lan is a multi-award-winning vlogger, blogger and film-maker – she runs Yorkshire Families magazine, (a family and mental health blog) and Evoke Media Group – an all female video production and influencer marketing company Blog Up North.

Sophie, 31, lives with her husband Chris Hale of three years, 32 and their two daughters Jasmine, 7, and Arianna Hale, 4.

Family of the Week – as featured in Yorkshire Evening Post

What are your top tips for getting
children to do what you ask?

I try to be as positive and a gentle parent where possible. So I try to explain things and reason with them. But sometimes if they’ve kept me up at night I loose my rag!

Bribery and rewards normally do the job too.

What family task takes you the longest?

Getting ready for school and nursery, we have endless troubles over what to wear and how wrinkly their tights are.

What’s the weirdest thing your children
have done/brought home/done to your house?

My eldest Jasmine loves art and regularly comes out of school with enormous box models made out of rubbish. We always look odd as I don’t drive so have to try and get the kids and a huge sculpture of rubbish home, I’m like Buckaroo. Jasmine’s very precious about keeping them as well.  

Have your children ever really, really surprised you? How and why?

We both have our own YouTube channels. I vlog about mental health and attachment parenting at and they have their own Make and Move channel. And they have taken to presenting and vlogging so naturally they instantly say: “Hi guys, comment down below, subscribe and give this video a thumbs up.”

What’s the most bizarre thing you have found yourself saying since having kids?

My daughter was at the bus stop for me and begging for an apple and all I had was chocolate in my bag. The other people at the bus stop looked disgusted at me.

What’s the funniest thing your children have ever said/done?

They told their teacher in a careers class that their mummy is a professional footballer for a living (because they’ve seen me play football a few times… I love it but no-one would ever pay me to play it!).

Mini moan – what really gets your goat?

Judgemental people! You really don’t know what battle or toddler someone is facing. So just don’t judge and try empathise.

What’s your favourite family day out?

We’ve always loved the free crafts at The Hepworth Wakefield and now we run The Hepworth Cafe there, so we’re there all the time.

We had a lovely day out at Kirkstall Abbey recently and it’s free to enter.

Image India Hobson / The Hepworth Wakefield

What hobbies/pastimes do you enjoy as a family and separately?

We all love going to Xscape in Castleford, from bouncing on trampolines in Gravity to learnming to snowboard in SnoZone, there’s loads to do. We also love trying out climbing walls and love the new one at Meadowhall in Sheffield. I also love dancing, vlogging and shopping at Victoria Gate, Kirkgate Market and Trinity Walk in Wakefield.

What’s the hardest thing about being a parent?

It can be relentless and trying to reason with kids mid tantrum is hard.

What’s a typical evening for the grown-ups once the children are in bed?

I co-sleep and breastfeed, so there’s no such evening without kids for me.

What is Leeds’ most family-friendly restaurant and why?

We like trying out different places inside The Light or Trinity Leeds. In Wakefield we love going to Abdul’s Indian or Pizza Express.

What’s the best thing about weekends and why?

No school runs and reviewing lots of family-friendly places for my blog and magazine.

What is your most treasured memory?

My daughter nearly died when she was 3 months old. And the Leeds Intensive Care Unit loved her back to life. I’ll never forget the moment that she started breathing again.

What’s the number one thing you would change about Leeds?

The transport! Lack of parking, awful trains and the ring road.

What’s the children’s favourite food/meal?
They love a good Sunday Dinner with lots of gravy.

What’s your top penny-pinching tip?

Take a range of snacks around with you.

One family member’s proudest achievement?

I was a semi-finalist bellydancer on Britain’s Got Talent and my husband Chris Hale was a quarter-finalist on BBC’s MasterChef.

What one item can you not live without?

My gym kit, phone and liquid eyeliner.

What can your children not live without?

YouTube and my phone.  

Child’s favourite book and author

We went to see Dear Zoo recently at Wakefield’s Theatre Royal and they loved that by Rod Campbell.

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.

FREE DAYS OUT IN YORKSHIRE: Where to go and what to do with the family

FREE DAYS OUT IN YORKSHIRE: Where to go and what to do with the family

From West Yorkshire to South Yorkshire and North Yorkshire to East Yorkshire, here are some of our top free days out for families in Yorkshire.

Let’s begin our journey in…

West Yorkshire

      1. Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds: A real gem just off Kirkstall Rd in Leeds. Explore the Abbey ruins and the stunning lush grounds. There’s also a free car park and playground next to it. Abbey House Museum and Cafe is just across the road from the car park.

    2. Leeds Galleries and Museum are free to enter, for a full list, go to:

    3. Leeds Dock has free water taxis: Their water taxis run everyday Mon-Fri, 7am-7pm and Sat–Sun, 10am-7pm. Twee & Drie (the boats) ferry passengers between Granary Wharf & Leeds Dock. The trip takes 12 minutes which is on a scenic canal route and all journeys are free of charge. To catch a ride on a yellow boat… Exit Leeds Train station via the New South Entrance or walk under the arches to Granary Wharf and the Doubletree by Hilton hotel. The taxis are on the lower water level, hidden out of view – just across the lock bridge in front of Bar Brasil. Hop on!

  1. The Water Taxis run every 15 minutes from either stop. Look out for a yellow flag with water taxi written on in black.


  1. 4. West Yorkshire History Centre has a free exhibition and free family activities, check out their facebook page for the latest.
  2. 5.The Hepworth Wakefield is free to enter (although parking is £5 for the day but it is a short walk from Wakefield Kirkgate station).
  3. The Barbara Hepworth inspired gallery has a range of free crafts on during the school holidays and on weekends.There is also an outdoor playground and UK’s largest public garden is currently being built outside the gallery next to The Calder building. There’s also stunning views from the The Hepworth Cafe over the River Calder and The Chantry Chapel (which has free heritage open days on select dates).6. National Science and Media Museum in Bradford is open daily 10am-6pm. Free Entry. For more details, click here.
  4. 7. Angler’s Country Park, near Wakefield. It’s free and there is a fabulous Room on the Broom trail.Anglers Country Park is dominated by a lake, surrounded by grassland, woodland and a wetland area known as the ‘Pol’. At one time this was the deepest open cast coal mine in the country, reaching a depth of 250 feet.Anglers has been awarded Green Flag status – recognising it as one of the best parks in the country.

    8. Pontefract Castle is a hidden gem in West Yorkshire with outdoor ruins and an indoor visitor centre. Make sure you take time to visit the dungeons on a tour (these cost however, £3 per person at the time of writing).

    9. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a fabulous day out to explore “art without walls” (with some indoor galleries and creative spaces and cafes).

    Parking is £10 for the day. There’s also a new Damien Hirst Sculpture which is part of Yorkshire Sculpture International festival (which is a free festival over 100 days at YSP, Leeds Art Gallery and The Hepworth Wakefield) and a new restaurant and gallery building. Visitor and local creative Darren Johnson, said:

    1. South Yorkshire

10 . Experience Barnsley inside Barnsley Town Hall is a lovely little visitor experience-cum-museum which is free to enter and there are fountains outside.

It’s also a short walk away from Barnsley indoor market if you want to buy some cheap scran from the food court.

11. Clifton Park in Rotherham has parks, gardens and sport, rides and games and even a museum.

12. Sheffield Museums and Galleries have a whole host of free-to-enter exhibitions on from Sheffield Millenium Galleries which is connected to the tropical indoor Winter Gardens and the nearby outdoor Peace Gardens which is particularly wonderful in the warmer weather for picnics and running through the water fountains if you wish.

13. Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield is great for stunning walks and has a lovely visitor centre too.


14. Millhouses Park and Graves Park in Sheffield are located close to each other and well worth a visit. Millhouses has a great big play area and outdoor gym and Graves Park has a mini farm and plays host to a range of family-friendly events.

North Yorkshire

15. Harrogate’s Valley park with an outdoor paddling pool and stunning pavilion.

16. Fewston and Swinsty reservoirs near Harrogate: “Walking, cycle pump track, barbeque picnic spots. A very beautiful place in all seasons,” recommends Janet of a Falcondale Life.

17. Sutton Bank National Park in North Yorkshire: “We would highly recommend North Yorkshire to anybody who is into cycling. The ability to find trails suitable for the children or take on a challenging ride ourselves in the same area made it the ideal place to spend a few days. We’ll definitely be back again in the future to take on some tougher trails as the children’s cycling skills improve,” said Natalie Ray who blogs at Plutonium Sox.

18. York Railway Museum: “I have fond memories of going on a trip to York Railway Museum when I was a little girl. It was free when I was a child, and so it was always a favourite place for Mum and Dad to take my brother and I when we were younger. My brother was a bit of a train spotter in his youth. But I was more into the romance than the engineering. I loved the history of some of the older trains,” says Jo Boyne of A Rose Tinted World.

York Railway Museum is open from 10am to 5pm daily in winter, and 10am to 6pm in summer.

The museum has plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities. There are picnic tables and also several places to eat, including a tea room in a restored railway carriage and an Edwardian-style restaurant. There are two shops full of railway souvenirs and gifts for enthusiasts of all ages.

19. York City Walls

20. Scarborough: “I love just wondering round from North Bay to South, Peasholme Park, paddling in the sea and playing on the beach and the view from Oliver’s Mount,” said Amy Downes from A Mum Full of Dreams.

 East Yorkshire

Kirsty Holden aka The Money Saving Mum recommends:

21. Humber Bridge foreshore

22. Museum Quarter in Hull inc Maritime Museum and Hull Minster too.

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