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Billy Elliot Live from the West End – Cineworld Leigh

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We love the theatre here at Mumsnet Wigan and Salford but being so far from the bright lights of London’s West End it can sometimes be a problem to find the time to get up to London to see our favourite shows and when you do you often need transport, hotels and extra costs associated with eating out and the inevitable shopping trips!

Theatre live at your local cinema opens up shows to a new audience, those who may have never been to a West End show, for who the costs or journey may have been previously something they were unable to consider or simply those who thought musicals were not for them and who might give it a try on a local evening out with friends or family.

Cineworld Leigh is in the centre of town and a short walking distance from the main shopping area and bus station.
It has seven screen, disabled access, disabled toilets and baby changing. The cinema sells a massive selection of sweets, snacks food, ice-cream and more lately a small selection of alcohol. When ever we have been the venue has been spotless and staff helpful and friendly. Recently they have introduced reserved seating, there has been mixed views on this but it does make it easier if you mind where you sit or you are in a big group to book in advance and know you can sit together.

Arriving for the theatre live event felt different from the normal cinema experience, there was a small red carpet area and staff greeting you at the screen door and a small program was handed to attendees. Within the screen there was just what you would expect at the theatre, sellers of icecream and snacks were available.

The actual show itself was fantastic, despite being a live link across the UK and several parts of the world there were very few blips and the sound quality was wonderful.

Billy Elliot is set in a North East Village during the crippling miners strikes of 1984-85. It is a true and raw representation of the hardship the miners and their families went through in an era where times and industry where changing and the working class were being hit the hardest by this, it is utterly heart wrenching at times but it is not all gloom, with music written by Elton John it is also as you would expect very very flamboyant, sometimes completely crazy and provides many many laughs. 11 year old Liverpool Boy Elliot Hanna was breath taking as Billy and the emotional performance of Deka Walmsley as Dad was beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measures.

There is a LOT of swearing in the musical but lets not forget this was a northern mining town in a dark period of time struggling to live and feed their families and is mostly in context. There were many small children in the screening and if you can see past the swearing it is a wonderful, vibrant and colourful show which children will love.

While it would not stop us from visiting the West End and seeing shows live it was such a pleasure to walk out of the theatre and be two minutes from home without having to trek across London or spend hours on the train and like a film it is nice to see these shows more than once, often you see things you missed first time round as so many things are happening on the stage at one time, for that reason we would love to see more of the main West End shows following the same path and from what we have seen in the press the one screening beat many headline films in box office takings last weekend so it would seem many more would agree!

Cineworld Leigh also provide Movies for Junior from £1 (if booked online) showing favourite children’s movies and Cine Babies which allows parents with babies under 18 months to see the latest movies with the sound and lights slightly dipped.

See website for details. http://www.cineworld.co.uk/cinemas/leigh

Billy Elliot the Musical will be available on DVD from November the 24th.

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Here’s One We Made Earlier

CATCH IT BEFORE IT CLOSES!

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin.

Once upon a time over ninety years ago someone in BBC Birmingham stumbled upon an idea to fill an empty hour of radio with a children’s story the whole family could enjoy. This continued until 1964 and was a much loved favourite with families across Britain gathering together to listen shortly before bedtime.

With the progress of technology and the invention and increase in population of television the BBC wanted to make shows which did not talk down to children while at the same time not scaring them, which educated them and which provided them with new experiences and entertainment.

Ninety years later it is doing just that, with medical programs such as Operation Ouch, wild life show Deadly 60, My Life which educates on the lifes of other children across the UK living different lifestyles whether through disability, religion or lifestyle and the infamous Newsround which never fails to tackle the big news issues of the day in a way children can understand and process.

Who can forget Blue Peter? How many of you have insisted Mum empty the rest of the washing liquid into a cup or pot so you can have the bottle for some Blue Peter inspired invention or craft? Of course they too have tackled some tough issues and raised wonderful amounts of money for charities across the world using everything from scrap metal, stamps and aluminium cans.

The exhibition is childhood. It has something for everyone, you will find yourself screeching to the children about Gordon the Gopher, Basil Brush, Bagpuss and the epic for the time Grange Hill much to their amusement or even Watch With Mother characters such as Andy Pandy and Muffin the Mule for the older amongst us while the Teletubbies, Strange Hill High and Wolf Blood and the brand new Furchester Hotel with Elmo and the Cookie Monster will entertain the children.

Of course things have moved on and children these days have access to all kinds of technology, with this the BBC have adapted with online games, twitter feed and even apps, in fact a new big brother to the CBeebies app for CBBC app is coming very soon!

Children’s TV has also hit a new target, parents and preschoolers in their droves turn out to see live shows of their favourite character and special appearances of Mr Tumble and Mr Bloom are usually a mob of people.

It is not hard to see why despite the invention of many new children’s channels BBC channels CBBC and CBeebies are still the channel of choice.

Here’s One We Made Earlier

THE STORY OF BBC CHILDREN’S BROADCASTING; PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.

Closes Sun 12 October at The Lowry Theatre FREE. Open daily until 5pm.

http://www.thelowry.com/event/heres-one-we-made-earlier

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In the Night Garden Live – Manchester

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Everyone remembers rushing home from school or nursery for their favourite TV show but the toddlers of this generation have even more, characters bursting onto stage in live shows with the chance to see their favourite character in brought to life in person.

In the Night Garden Live does just this. The Ninky Nonk show joins Iggle Piggle who has lost his blanket although there is another equally lovely story involving Makka Pakka washing everyone’s faces (Pinky Ponk show).  Situated in an amazing large inflatable dome shaped arena in the Trafford Centre car park the venue really was outstanding with raised seating ensuring everyone could see.

The stage itself was attractively set up with clever use of projected images that moved around the sides of the stage to create the feeling of moving scenery  really helping to keep even the smallest of children engaged and mesmerised by the lovely coloured projections something which can be difficult to do with a show aimed at such a young audience but children were engaged and plenty of dancing and singing was encouraged.

Beautiful music and imagery were used throughout the show that really brought the story to life with each character having a part of their and just the right length for the little ones watching at just over an hour long.

The facilities provided were very good inside the venue and production team had thought of everything to keep little ones and their parents happy with the toilets having children’s toilet seats and steps to the sinks, as well as baby changing facilities with a number of changing mats provided with free wipes and nappy bags, all of which were immaculately clean! They also have a buggy store at the front of the venue (as you come in) to leave pushchairs and prams as there is no facility to store them into the main arena.

Prices for tickets start from £25 each person (no matter what age) for premium seating and £14.50 for standard dependent on which dates and showings you choose. They are at the Trafford Centre from the 2nd August to 23rd August and there are four showings a day (2 showings of each story) so there’s  a showing to suit everyone’s availability.
Overall we were really pleased with the whole outing. The staff were friendly and accommodating and engaged with the children, the venue was well laid out and adapted for its young audience, and the show itself was fantastic with great use of actors, puppeteers, lovely music and eye catching imagery. A great time had by all – even the adults!

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Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain

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Reviewed for Mumsnet Local.

It is no secret that I love Horrible Histories, after seeing the Horrible Science tour some years ago by the Birmingham Stage Company and witnessing small children shouting back chemical compounds and scientific answers within minutes because it had been made FUN I am of the firm opinion of marching on Gove and asking them to take over the science and history elements of the curriculum, so it was with much excitement in our house when we were invited to attend the new Horrible Histories Barmy Britain Tour.

Sometimes it is a risk to attempt to translate a television show to stage especially one so popular as the Horrible Histories tv series. It is also some feat to cover from Boudicca, the vikings and Henry the Eighth through to World War One in a two hour period and keep the attention of an audience from small children to adults but you know what Barmy Britain does it.

The show provides just enough of the gore, toilet humour and scares that children love without being too scary while bringing the stories of the old into the present through a modern take with presentations such as Who wants to blow up Parliment? A Guy Fawkes take on Who wants to be a millionaire, the hanging of the cast of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and the no likey no lighty Take Me Out show for Edward 1. The Gory song of the Edinburgh body snatchers Burke and Hare will never allow me to listen to the Postman Pat song the same again!

With rapping and breakdancing Queens, Salford City Council traffic wardens and a smattering of jokes for the adult audience expect the excited screams of small children, much laughter and singing and audience participation from adults and children alike.

The falling of poppies was a sombre yet utterly beautiful moment magnified through the use of 3d and you could have heard a pin drop in an audience of mostly children who had been previously screaming and shouting throughout.

The show runs for almost two hours with a cast of four who are incredible.

Horrible Histories Barmy Britain continues its tour at the Lowry until this evening and then continues across the UK, Check the website for details.

http://www.barmybritain.com/tour/#/tour

 

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Legoland Disovery Centre Manchester

Reviewed for Mumsnet Local.

Legoland Discovery Centre lies in the Trafford Centre Manchester in its larger Barton Square, obviously much smaller than its Windsor counterpart it still has a large selection of rides, workshops and activities including Forest Persuits Car ride, Merlins Apprentice, a Lazer shoot em up train ride and a 4d cinema as well as the usual bricks building, car testing and master builder workshop areas. Since our last visit the venue has installed free wifi which is a big plus if your children are older and do not need you to constantly hover.

On arrival we joined the prebooked line, there are two lines which feed into one entrance and four tills inside, a certain number from each queue are let through each time. I would estimate we waited around 20 minutes in the queue before we reached the till area due to the amount in the queue in front of us and the waiting for the previous factory tour to finish, we arrived quite early and it can get much busier later in the day. The Queues are regulary big enough to reach outside but luckily it was sunny and dry so not a problem.

Once inside we reached the factory tour, a brief and interactive explanation of how lego is made, ‘Professor Brick’ was enthusiastic, and actively encouraged children and adults alike to participate, children are given roles to ‘help fix the machines and get the lego factory working again’ each child is given a certificate and a small brick as a reward.

You then feed into the main section and a mini land of Lego city buildings.

Kingdom Quest

A lazer ride with carridges where you have to shoot the baddies and rescue the princess, the children both enjoyed this.

Lego 4d Cinema

The show we watched was Chima, the children loved the special effects and we did not have to queue long to get in, the show malfunctioned and basically set all the special effects off while we were there sending fake ice onto the audience for a few minutes but the engineer came quickly, it was well handled and the children thought this was brilliant!

Fire Academy

A large soft place structure with slides, ball pools and climbing equipment, seperate area for toddlers and smaller children.

Forest Persuits

A push the peddle and go car ride following a track through the ‘forest’. Be aware although the Forest Persuit looks like a small childrens ride it actually has a height minimum on it and children must be 1 metre and 4 years old to ride.

Lego Racers

A large area where children can build their own cars and test their speed and durability on various ramps and race tracks, the children enjoyed this very much and there were plenty of wheels and frames available.

Master Builders

Children can work with a master builder to learn how to build a special item, the master builder was patient and encouraging and took time to help the children who were struggling to keep up. You can purchase the kit afterwards from the shop for around £3 but this will be a pre made item, you cannot purchase the actual item your child has built.

Merlins Apprentice

The member of staff on the ride was wonderful, very enthusiastic and making silly noises and voices to keep the children entertained. The ride is a flying machine where you can go as high as you can peddle. The faster you peddle the higher you go.

Olivia’s House

Lots of pink lego and a karaoke machine!

Cafe

A selection of hot and cold sandwiches, drinks and snacks, childrens sandwich packs can be purchased and include a sandwich, drink, crisp and a piece of fruit. Cost £4.50 each. Not a huge selection and we stuggled to find somewhere to sit when it was busy.

All in all the Discovery Centre is a good place to spend a few hours on a rainy day especially if you can get one of the many special offers or online prices.

If you have smaller children I would recommend you go during term time when it is quieter as it can get very busy. The centre has lifts and baby changing available.

There is a large and well stocked Lego shop at the exit and photo opportunity points throughout. Birthday parties are also available.

Prices

Adults and Children Walk Up £16.95

Online Price £9.95

http://www.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk/manchester/

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Scooby Doo Live – The Mystery of the Pyramid – Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays

Reviewed for Mumsnet Local.

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Scooby Doo Live – The Mystery of the Pyramid

There was a time when theatre was only for grown ups, a place of serious plays and adults dressed in their finest but in the last few years a new niche of the market has opened and guess what? Children love theatre, they adore the colour, sounds and fun of seeing their favourite characters brought to life.

Scooby Doo The Mystery of the Pyramid explodes on to the stage with a burst of colour and dance as everybody’s favourites  Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne set out to aid Otto and solve the mystery of Pharaoh Hatchepsout’s Pyramid in their trusty campervan the Mystery Machine. The characters of the show, which has been on our screens from the 1960’s, transfer perfectly to the stage, something that some character shows fail to do showing that our favourite dog Scooby can stand the test of time.

With the perfect slapstick comedy children adore and catchy tunes which all the family will go home singing, add in a dust of audience participation and you have the magic of watching your children staring in awe as the real Scooby Doo appears before them them with just enough peril to capture and maintain their attention. Its nice to see that in this age of technology there is still room for children to be children and a lovely way to spend some quality family time.

For the future of our theatre buildings the introduction of childrens theatre can only be a positive, if we can get children in to the theatres at four we can hope they still have their love of theatre as an adults too.

Scooby Doo continues on a UK Tour, see the official website for details http://www.scoobydoo-live.com/scoobydoo-buy-tickets.html

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Walter Under the Bridge by Dion Child and Graeme Bowen – Book Review

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Everybody knows that trolls live under bridges but have you ever seen one? Well now is your chance!

Walter Under the Bridge is a delightful story of a little troll who needs to find a new home after the big bad mean trolls force him out of his home (and we hope they get their comeuppance!). Packing up his coins and waving a sad goodbye to his many friends he sets off on an adventure to find a new place to stay.

Fearing he would never find a new home he walks for days without a backward glance before stumbling on the the wonderful Chester a real life American cocker spaniel who leads him to a place to stay and new friendships are forever forged.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful, the level of peril is pitched perfectly. What makes the story so magical is its link to real life, Whitney Bridge is a real life 18th Century toll bridge in Hereford owned by Maggie Taylor and Grahame Penny, what better magic than a place you can actually visit and bring the story to life (and even get a sticker to say you have met Walter!)

My children adored this book, they particularly enjoyed the activity and colour sheet and loved the idea that 50p from each book purchased would go to helping dogs in real life (donation goes to the Dogs Trust) and are now most desperate to take a trip to Whitney Bridge to meet Chester and see if they just might spy a little troll and his friends curled up under a bridge.

http://www.whitneybridge.co.uk/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Walter-Under-Bridge-Dion-Child/dp/0992654211