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Visit Jersey (We advise you do!)

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Ok we know this is not Wigan and Salford news but we know lots of you look for that perfect stress free holiday destination which meet the needs of the whole family particularly if you have children of different ages or travel with multi generations.

We have never been to Jersey before and usually head to Menorca but for one reason or another we just didn’t want to face long passport queues, two hours flights and the inevitable long coach journey from the airport to resort. We can also be a challenging party as it can also be hard to meet the needs of a party which spans from 11 to 65 years and find something for everyone.

Travelling with a child with additional needs, an adult with medical problems and another terrified of flying, Jersey seemed the ideal destination. An hour plane journey meant I knew my journey would end soon, no need for passports (photo id needed) and no long queues at border control in either direction with tired/grumpy/bursting with excitement children, infact no queues at all! We landed got our luggage off the belt and where on our way, perfect! There is even a small soft play area and cafe to keep children entertained while you gather your things together.

We arrived to glorious sun with days to go until the start of November, jumped on the number 15 bus from straight outside the terminal which for a cost of just £1.80 each adult (less for children) took us into the centre of St Helier with its lovely harbour, beach and lifeboat house. The public transport system is fantastic and UK currency is accepted so no need to spend your time trying to work out currency conversions on purchases.

Jersey has a facinating and rich history especially for those with an interest in World War 2 having been occupied by the Germans however it is also full of its own history and there is a massive amount to do. For a small Island it is bursting with activities for all the family from Aqua Splash, adventure play lands, museums, cinemas shopping and food places galore including many of your favourite names plus a lovely selection of independent stores.

The Maritime Museum

After settling in our first step was the Maritime Museum. We decided that who ever designed the Maritime Museum either had kids of at least had brought children into the design room. It was perfect, with levers to pull, boats to design and build and water to sail them on plus a pirate ship which really does test your sea worthiness! It really was hands on with many shouts of Mum look at what this one does while at the same time teaching them without them even realising about tides and structure and floating! The staff were amazing, offering pirate costumes and interacting with the children. I had many requests from my daughter to go back the next day to play!

The Jersey Occupation Tapestry was stunning and well worth a visit on its own, they are rich in history. Made by the people of Jersey to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Island’s liberation the tapestries tell the story in rich detail of life under German occupation during World War Two with each area completing a different tapestry to mark their story and the hardship and trials they endured. They really are beautiful and informative and a very important representation of history for generations to come.

We travelled with a member of our party with mobility problems and everything had been thought of with either ramps, lifts or stair lifts in areas where a lift could not be fitted. In fact we found this the same in all the museums and it was such a help.

Jersey Castle

We decided to take the ferry across rather than wait for the causeway to uncover, my daughter has additional needs and was not at all sure of the amphibious vehicle which can run on land and sea but the staff were fantastic and allowed her to take a look and chatted to her to calm her fears before boarding to the point coming back she could not wait for the boat to come back so she could travel! The little safety video is a fantastic way to not only engage children but ensure they are listening to its very important message. It takes only a few minutes to get across but well worth the ride.

The castle which is more than 300 years old is breathtaking, with rooms children will love full of cannons and swords and steeped in history but most of all with perfect space and nooks for children to explore and climb. It is well worth going to the very top for the views alone, seriously it is so pretty with views across the bay and the little sandy shore at low tide around the castle. Do not miss the mid day parade and cannon firing either, very exciting!

There is a little tea room on site selling food, drinks and snacks and plenty of toilets.

The Jersey Museum

The museum tells over 250,000 years of history from Neolithic times to modern days with fantastic displays and hands on items documenting farming and life on the Island.

Most exciting was the coin hoard. 70,000 Celtic coins and pieces of jewellery were discovered in a field in Grouville in 2012. One by one each coin is being removed from the mound, documented, cleaned and preserved. It is a painstaking task but well worth it with preservation of the plants and insect parts found alongside too which will be able to tell us about what was happening at the time they were buried there. You can also watch the work as it is happening through special windows.

The gas lit merchants house is beautiful and a real step back in time with a flash of the future as hologram ghosts tell you their story and drama.

My daughter loved the nursery room with old fashioned rocking horses to ride, toys to play with and chalk and slate to make your mum do times table sums with!

St Helier itself reminds me of my town as a child before it was over commercialised. It is spotlessly clean and has everything you would need, there are several small gifts shops and independent shops, a cinema, an aqua centre and a perfect little centre with recognised shops.

There are many places to eat and everything you could ask for in terms of tastes and likes.

Our only complaint was we had not stopped longer, there is so much more for us to explore with many other castles and the Jersey War Tunnels and much more. The people of Jersey were wonderful, we did not recieve anything but a friendly welcome in any of the attractions, shops or food places we visited.

Departures at the airport must be one of the nicest I have ever been in, with shops to buy gifts and travel essentials and a lovely market type cafe selling all kinds of lovely food, alcohol and ice creams and a great big viewing gallery room where you can watch the airplanes take off while you wait. Security was very quick and I really did not feel the stress and rush you usually have at airports.

What is more when you arrive at Manchester again guess what? You do not have to stand in airport queues at passport control with tired and restless children waiting for your turn, a quick pass through customs and you are on your way! An easy end to a fantastic holiday.

On our last day my daughter refused to go home, we will be back Jersey, thank you for giving us such a welcome.

For more information about Jersey visit http://www.jerseyheritage.org/uk and http://www.jersey.com/english/Pages/default.aspx

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Emily Brown and the Thing – The Lowry Theatre

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Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

As a theatre lover there is nothing better than the entranced faces and giggles of small children in the theatre and knowing if we get them in as children they will hopefully return as adults.

It can be difficult to translate our favourite bedtime stories from book to stage and sometimes it doesn’t quite carry off but Tall stories do children’s theatre with Gusto, with other shows such as the Gruffalo and Room on a Broom they are able to capture the attention and imagination of small children perfectly.

Everyone who has small children will relate to this show, we have all had that small voice echo down the hallway about the scary thing that only appears in the room when you leave them or the sudden need for a drink, a wee or anything that will get you to go back in to their rooms, but what is the scary thing is not really scary? What if the scary thing itself is scared?

Emily Brown and her trusted rabbit Stanley are trying to go to sleep when they are disturbed by a noise outside, they set off on an adventure to help find out why the Thing is so upset, can they help him get to sleep?

Emily Brown and the Thing is a beautiful mix of music, actors and puppetry perfect to keep small children engaged and the message is simple, everyone is scared of something but we can all conquer our fears.

Emily Brown and the Thing continues at the Lowry until Sunday the 2nd

http://www.thelowry.com/event/emily-brown-and-the-thing

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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/