Bumper Muddy half term guide
Science, theatre, craft and music workshops, trails and much more to help you keep kids amused this half term. Some are drop offs, some are even free. Grab your diary and get plotting.
Babe – The Sheep Pig, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, 23 – 25 Feb
The book was called The Sheep-Pig, the film was called Babe and now the stage show is Babe – The Sheep Pig. When Babe arrives at Hogget’s Farm he is taken in by the trusty sheep-dog Fly and discovers a talent for herding. With the help of his adopted Mum, our polite piglet soon wins over the most suspicious of sheep. But when his farmyard friends are in trouble can Babe save the day? The show combines people, puppetry and original music. Tickets cost from £15.50. It’s also coming to Worthing in March and Crawley in Aug.
PART FREE South Downs Dark Skies festival, various locations, 10 – 26 Feb
Wrap up warm and get out for this celebration of the South Downs being designated a dark sky site. There are several guided stargazing events and tie-in activities, many of them free. At Kingly Vale Nature Reserve on 10 Feb. There’s a chance to peek through some of the largest working telescopes in the country at The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux on 17 Feb, then on Sat 18 Feb there’s a day of family activities with a show at South Down’s Planetarium in Chichester then an evening of gazing with a Dark Skies ranger at Midhurst Rother College. Check out the calendar for the full line up.
Chinese New Year Extravaganza, The Capitol, Horsham, 22 Feb
There will be lion dancing, kung fu demonstrations, plate spinning, acrobatic and more as the Year of the Rooster in welcomed in in style in Horsham. The Chinese New Year Extravaganza features a team of performers showcasing varied performing arts, even contortion. Tickets are £18.50
FREE Tim Peake; An Extraordinary Journey, The Novium, Chichester, ongoing
This exciting new exhibition which opened late last year on the anniversary of Tim Peake’s blast off will let you and yours follow in the Chichester-born astronaut’s space-walking footsteps. Find out about the Soyuz rocket and discover what it’s like to live in space, eating, sleeping and exercising in the International Space Station and of course about Tim’s space walk. You can even enter a recreation of Tim’s sleeping chamber and take part in interactive experiments. The exhibition has Tim’s official backing and his father, Nigel Peake was part of the project group pulling it together. The UK Space Agency and the Destination Space programme have also had a hand. There are special family friendly space demonstrations on Space Saturdays. Look out later tie-in events like Tim’s Birthday Sleepover on 7 April.
We’re Going on a Bear Hut, The Hawth, Crawley, Wed 22 – Sat 25 Feb
If you’ve got children of a pre- or infant school age, you will know this gorgeous, award-winning book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. The play adaption of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt comes to Crawley on the back of a West-End and International tour. Watch actors wade through the gigantic swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud in pursuit of a bear. Tickets are £12.50. It will also be at Eastbourne in April.
Ice skating, Steyne Gardens, Worthing, until 27 Feb
While the other seasonal ice rinks have closed, Worthing’s Steyne Gardens pop-up is still going till the end of Feb. It’s fully covered in a giant marque so you can skate whatever the weather. Regular sessions are for over-fours, while toddlers can get on the ice too in special dedicated sessions helped by penguins for balance. You can warm up with hot drinks and snacks in the café and even use the venue to host a children’s party. Tickets are from £6.25 off-peak, family of four tickets cost £29.00. Penguin hire is £3.50
Fire! Fire! Museum of London, until 17 April
This interactive Great Fire of London exhibition brings history lessons to life. Step into Pudding Lane and see what conditions were like for ordinary Londoners in the 17th century. Walk into the bakery where the fire started and see how the flames spread across the city. Play archaeologist and identify real objects melted by the flames. Hear personal stories of the people affected by the disaster. There’s even a restored 17th century fire engine on display. Tickets cost from £8 for adults if booked in advance, £4 for 5-16s.
FREE Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, Museum of London Docklands, London
I saw a preview of this exhibition on the telly and it looks amazing. It’s the most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail to be displayed and is just going on display alongside the story of Europe’s largest infrastructure project. Over 10,000 artefacts shine a light on people in almost every important period of the Capital’s history from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665. There are skeletons, tools, pottery, even makeshift ice skate blades fashioned from bones. Entry is free.
FREE Poster making, Littlehampton Museum, Tues 21 – Fri 24 Feb
Inspired by the Museum’s poster art exhibition, families are invited to drop by and create their own bright and eye catching designs. The session is free of charge and runs between 2.00pm and 4.00 pm.
Treasure Island, Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham Wed 22 Feb
CBeebies stars Callum Donnelly, Richard Franks and Robin Hatcher from Spotbots and Justin’s House appear in this bright and breezy take on the famous pirate novel with a child-friendly modern twist. It all sounds a bit panto with shanties, cheering, booing, puppets, colourful costumes and slapstick. There are morning and afternoon performances and tickets are £12, or £40 for two adults and two children.
FREE Costume Trail, from Worthing Museum, until summer 2018
Worthing Museum’s impressive collections of clothing from bygone eras have been used as inspiration by costume designers from the likes of Downton Abbey. Now outfits are out on display across the town in a series of changing displays at local businesses across Worthing (I snapped this Art Deco dress above in the Connaught Theatre). The Costume Trail trail mostly spans clothing from 1740 to the present day but also includes a 1612 jacket. It’s free, it’s educational, and there’s a chance to win four tickets to the Connaught Cinema if you correctly answer questions featured in the trail map, which is available from the museum welcome desk.
Adventures in Moominland, Southbank Centre, London, until 23 Apr
You’ve gotta love the Moomins and over the hols you and yours can check out this new exhibition and take a wondrous journey through Moominland. Clamber through forests, huddle in caves or set sail on the high seas to try and find the Moomin family. Tickets cost from £13.50.
DROP OFF Matilda in 20 mins, week-long workshop, East Grinstead, 20th – 25th Feb
Chequer Mead Productions is running a week long workshop for 8-16 year olds with a week of singing, dancing, acting, drama games and exercises, culminating in a team production of Matilda: The Musical performed in just 20 Minutes. The fee for the week is £135 and includes a show T-shirt. Call 01342 302000 to secure a place.
Craft and music workshops, The Devonshire Collective, Eastbourne, 13, 15 and 18 Feb
New Eastbourne art project The Devonshire Collective has several workshops on this half term at its Seaside Road studios. Transform everyday objects into eco craft rod puppets at a family workshop on 13 Feb. On 18 Feb join Eastbourne Studio Pottery for a family Play with Clay taster session to try a variety of simple ceramic techniques, alternatively on the same day, choose the Flock of Birds craft and virtual reality workshop devising birds from milk bottles and technology. Workshops are generally £10 for adults and up to £5 for children. On the evening of 15 Feb and later dates older children have a chance to develop skills in rap, lyric writing and music production at free AudioActive workshops.
Comedy Club 4 Kids, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, 11 Feb, Komedia, Brighton 18 Feb
This is a great concept – regular comedians doing non- patronising material pitched at over sixes. Jokes and songs about poo, bogeys, space and dinosaurs, with knowing comments and humiliation for the adults. The kids heckle with their hands up and you’ll have a brilliant laugh too – trust me, I’ve been a couple of times. It’s at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre on 11 Feb, in Brighton on 18 Feb and over the border at Havant in March. See my recent round-up of the best comedy spots in Sussex here including more family-friendly comedy in Worthing.
Knights and Princesses, 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield, 13 – 17 Feb
Hands on medieval fun and tips on everything from curtsies to combat are promised at this children’s ‘academy.’ The event runs 10.00am to 5.00pm daily. It’s £6 for kids, £10.10 for adults or £26.20 for a family ticket and the price includes both entry to the site and the activities.
Oskar’s Amazing Adventure, Komedia, Brighton, Sun 12 – Wed 15 June
An original play for young children and their families with humour, adventure, music and song. Oskar the dog leaves his snowbound little house on top of the mountain to try to find a friendly animal to play with. But where are they all? Why does Oskar have to wait till spring to play his favourite game again? Performances on the 13, 14 and 15 Feb will be followed by an optional arts and craft workshop with activities and games inspired by the play’s theme of hibernation. The performance is suitable for 2 – 7s and the workshops for 4-7s. Child tickets are £5, adults £8. The Sat 11 performance has sold out already.
Children’s Wellie Walk, Leeds Castle, Kent, 11, 12, 16, 17 Feb
Sling aside those stilettos, grab your wellies, and get the kids out in the fresh air. Have lots of splashy fun in the gorgeous surrounds of Leeds Castle this holiday, as the kids hunt down items and wildlife on their eye-spy sheet. Also taking place is Birds, Bugs & Beasts – a visit from the UK’s number one animal handling company ‘Zoolab’ with an assortment of creepy crawlies and reptiles. Usual admission charge applies.
DROP OFF Short Film Course, Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, 15 – 17 Feb
I had to wait for uni to learn stuff like this. Now over 11s can create and star in their own short films, during this three-day course running 10.00am – 4.00pm. Taught by professional film maker Samuel Marlow they will learn as part of a small team, the basics of story boarding, script writing and filming, as well as creating their own mini movie that they can take home on DVD. The course costs £120.
The First Hippo on the Moon, Connaught Theatre, Worthing , Fri 17 to Sun 19
Eastbourne had the world premiere of the stage show of David Walliam’s The First Hippo on the Moon – a space race story with large puppets and songs and plenty of poo jokes. Now it’s back in Sussex again, in Worthing. It’s brought to life by Les Petits Theatre Company, with the help of creative peeps from Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs and War Horse and is suitable for children three up. See my review here. (It will also be on in Brighton in July). It’s on at child-friendly times and tickets are £16, or £58 for a family of four.
SK Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids, The Old Market, Hove, Fri 17 Feb
Psst here’s something for Half Term that adults can also enjoy. Beatboxer extraordinaire SK Shlomo gave up astrophysics to perform his amazing vocal pyrotechnics. He’s since won global acclaim and worked with the likes of Bjork, Damon Albarn, Basement Jaxx and The Specials. I’ve seen him perform before and he’s really impressive. On Feb 17 you can book to see an evening show yourself, or, like me, take children along at 3.00pm when he’ll get them involved and teach them some tricks. Tickets are £8.
Pros From The Shows, The Capitol, Horsham, 20 Feb – 22 Feb
West End Professionals are bringing three new dance workshops to the Capitol’s studio this February Half Term, teaching youngsters big show routines – Mon 20: We Will Rock You (Jordan Laviniere), Tues 21: Billy Elliot (Layton Williams), Wed 22: Wicked (Harrison Clark). There are two workshops per day to cover different levels of dance experience – advanced sessions will cater for those with significant technical skill whilst the morning sessions are inclusive for all. Each session lasts 90 minutes. £25.00 per session, £20 for any siblings, £60 for all three shows. Places are limited so book ahead on 01403 750220.
Wild Adventures Week, Groombridge Place, near Tunbridge Wells, 13 – 19 Feb
There’ll be three jungle explorer shows per day and a whole load of activities on offer that are free with admission including: den building, wildlife crafts, meet the animals and build a bug hotel or nest. There’s also of course the Enchanted Forest to enjoy where you’ll find Crusoe’s World with its authentic large wooden ship complete with zip wire and rope bridges. That should knacker them out before tea time! Admission: Adult £8.95, Child £7.45.
KIDS GO FREE Wembley Stadium Tour, London 13 – 17 Feb
I’ve done this tour with a footie-mad friend visiting from overseas and it’s good fun, with a chance to nosey in the England changing room (no half-dressed players though) and to jog through the tunnel to the pitch. This February half-term, one child aged 5 – 15 years per paying adult goes free on 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 February if you book using the promo code NSM001. Adult tickets are £20.
Running Wild, Chichester festival Theatre, 10 – 18 Feb
Nicely timed for half term but likely to sell out, this is a part puppet performance directed by War Horse veterans. On holiday in Indonesia with her mum, Lilly gets to ride an elephant called Oona – but when the tsunami hits they charge deep into the jungle to escape. Miles from civilisation, Lilly must now learn to survive the rainforest where there is fun with orang-utans but also fears about her mum and the arrival of hunters. Adapted from a novel by Michael Morpurgo’s, based on a true story, Running Wild is about love, loss, loyalty and living for the moment. Originated by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre and Cass Sculpture Foundation, it’s had a run at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and won a UK Theatre Award. Tickets costs from £10.
Candoco Dance Company, Brighton Dome, Fri 17 Feb
Teenagers might appreciate this artistic musing on disability. Candoco Dance Company, the world’s leading contemporary dance company of disabled and non-disabled performers is presenting CounterActs, a double bill from two rising stars of the British dance scene. Sadler’s Wells New Wave Artist, Alexander Whitley performs contemporary dance piece Beheld with powerful duets and ensemble dancing with huge swathes of fabric. Visual artist Hetain Patel’s meanwhile stages Let’s Talk About Dis which seeks to ‘expose hidden prejudices and misplaced political correctness with seductive charm’. Tickets are from £10. It is ‘suitable for all ages but explores some adult themes’. Dancers from Candoco Dance Company will lead a workshop on the morning of Sat 18 Feb, open to disabled and non-disabled participants age 18+ with any levels of dance experience.
Brighton Science Festival, various locations, Sat 1 1 – Sun 19 Feb
Brighton’s cracking science festival continues with kid-focused events in the mix during Hands On Half Term. It’s well worth browsing the full line up but highlights include Dr Death and the Medi-Evil Medicine Show – a gore-filled panto exploring old-fashioned ‘cures’ for diseases; a CSI whodunnit workshop using real forensic techniques; a chance to make slime and bath bombs in the Art Lab, a beach clean with a discussion on sea science and an all-day Pocket Science fair drop in and a chance to build a motorised monster or a basic synthesiser. Prices are various but reasonable. Some events sell out early so it’s best to book.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, White Rock Theatre, Hastings, Tue 14 – Sat 18 Feb
I never officially learned the words to all the songs from Joseph but somehow I picked them up by osmosis from one school production or another. The child-friendly musical based on the Biblical story of Joseph and his jealous brothers is in Hastings over half term. So, you’ve another chance to see a Pharaoh chanelling Elvis and a new opportunity to see X-Factor winner Joe McElderry donning the technicolour dreamcoat. Tickets are from £20.
Summer festivals – Sussex and beyond, various dates
Remember there are plenty of family-friendly summer festivals to book ahead – see my guide here.