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What’s On: Sussex school summer hols

40 family-friendly events for you across Sussex and nearby including free stuff and drop offs

Fret not, here’s the big Sussex Summer Holidays What’s On in roughly date order.

Luna Beach Cinema, beside the Palace Pier, Brighton, 31 July to 18 Aug

Luna Beach Cinema is back from 31 July to 18 Aug to the east of Brighton’s Palace Pier (beside the zip wire) this time straddling the school holidays with plenty of family-friendly films. Included in the line up are recent releases Disney’s Dumbo and Aladdin. You’ll also get an opportunity to binge on the original Star Wars trilogy. Tickets are from 12.50 and there’s a fun option to upgrade to a beach hut if you’ve a party planned.

Trail, crafts, games and woodland school, Borde Hill Garden, Haywards Heath, 27 July – 16 Sept

Plenty on as ever for the school holidays at Borde Hill Garden. From 27 July to 16 Sept, take an enchanting daily trail to discover the story of Piccolo, the smallest pixie in the garden who needs to pass a series of challenges to earn his wings (£2). On Thurs 1 Aug join the woodland school to learn about plants and wildlife and create a bug hotel (£8). There are woodland crafts and mud creatures to make on Mon 19 Aug (£2), old fashioned garden games on Thurs 22 Aug (£2) and Lucy’s Little Forest School on Wed 28 Aug (£2). Prices are on top of admission.

DROP OFF Make a metal musical triangle/ recycled rag rug making, Museum of Art + Craft, Ditching, Thurs 1 Aug/Thurs 22 Aug

Children can learn basic metal work including cold forging to create a triangle you’ll never tire of hearing around the house (cough) on a four hour workshop on 1 Aug. Then, on 22 Aug they can get to grips with creating rag rug cushion using hand tools. Both workshops are for ages 7 + , run 11.00 – 15.00 and cost £22.50 each. There are other family drop in events besides.

DROP OFF Filmmaking workshops for kids, Depot, Lewes, 6-9/23/ 26-29 Aug

Get your children in front of a screen in a more positive way with this handy course which helps them turn their ideas into short films through a process of storyboarding, filming and editing. For 13 – 18s a filmaking course runs from 10.00 to 16.00, August 6 to 9 and costs £160. For 8 to 12s there’s a course 10.00 to 15.00, August 26 – 29 for £150. There’s also a one-off Animation workshop for 8-12s  and for 13-18s 23 Aug. Fancy it yourself? There’s also a version pitched at adults (Aug 12 – 16, £200). Book ahead too for the ‘Game of Phones’ film-making course in Sept.

FREE Sunset Screenings, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Sat 10, 17 and 24 Aug 

The De La Warr is putting on outdoor cinema Sunset Screenings on an outside sea-facing wall this August, with retro family-friendly options across the school holidays. Sat 10 Aug is Bumblebee, Sat 17 Aug is Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Sat 24 Aug is The Greatest Showman, with extra entertainment from Mad Fish Performing Arts Choir. The films start at 8.30pm and all are rated PG. Best of all, they’re all free! For more outdoor screens look out for the Muddy round-up coming soon.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, The Capitol, Horsham, Tues 13 and Wed 14 Aug

The tea-guzzling tiger is back on the road in this musical play adapted and directed by David Wood, based on the well-loved book by Judith Kerr, who recently died at the age of 95. It’s packed with sing-a-long songs and clumsy chaos. He drinks all the water in the taps you know… Tickets are £14 and it’s aimed at ages 3+ See a trailer on the link.

LEGO brick animal trail and workshops, Arundel WWT Wetland Centre, Sat 20 July – Sun 1 Sept

Discover 14 giant LEGO animals and drop in at the Wetland Brick HQ for fun in the ‘brick pit’ (free with admission). You can also book for hour-long, LEGO Brick Workshops (£10) for ages 4+ racing against the clock to make as many ducklings as you can, then creating a mini wildlife ranger and vehicle to race and a LEGO owl to take home. Advanced booking is essential for workshops and they sell out quickly. There are also plenty of wetland challenges on site including a boat safaris and pond dipping.

Summer hols activities, Amberley Museum, 24 July – 30 Aug

Amberley Museum, Sussex school holidays

Over the summer holidays, enjoy activities and take part in the family trail. Discover the South’s industrial heritage, learn about technology through the years, and have fun riding the narrow gauge train and historic bus around the 36 acre site. Look out for certain themed days, like historical cycles on 4 Aug and commercial vehicles and communications on 11 Aug.

National Trust activities, various locations, East Sussex, various dates

At Sheffield Park and Garden there’s a summer seeds trail throughout the hols, Pond Dipping on Wed 7 Aug and Music in the woods made from natural objects on Mon 12 and Tues 13 Aug. Learn about birds on a garden search at the Alfriston Clergy House throughout the holidays. At Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, near Eastbourne, drop in on the family-friendly Firle Farm open day on Sun 21 July for games, wildlife, cream teas and more between noon and 16.00. There’s also Bat Detectorists event coming up at the farm on Fri 30 Aug. On Thurs 25 July join an archeology beach and lookout walk (11.00 – 13.30). There’s a similar walk around Crowlink on Sun 28 July. Also coming up over the school holidays is a guided Rockpool Adventure on 29 July, 8 Aug, 27 Aug and 7 Sept. You can also pick up a beach scavenger hunt tracker pack to explore by yourselves. At Bateman’s at Burwash are Just So storytelling sessions on various dates and puppet-making on four days in Aug.

National Trust activities, various locations, West Sussex, various dates

Try Tudor soap-making at Saddlescombe Farm, Devil’s Dyke near Brighton on Fri 16 Aug. There’s a summer trail and Garden Games from Jul 22 onwards at Nymans near Haywards Heath and children’s art in the garden on various dates from 29 July. At Standen House and Garden near East Grinstead take the Design Wizard trail and join crafty capers on various dates from late July. Petworth has plant hunting and Wings and Whiskers trails and a guided tour of the servants quarters on various dates, then on Mon 12 Aug, for those with later bedtimes, there’s a nocturnal wildlife guided walk which coincides with the Perseid meteor shower.

Hairspray! Screen On the Green, Littlehampton, Sat 17 Aug 

Last year’s screen in action

Back again on East Green this pop-up cinema has the bonus of being free and non-ticketed. Just bring a rug to sit on. This year’s film is heartwarming comedy musical Hairspray! There will also be live entertainment with acoustic singer Morgan M James (17:15pm to 18.00) and close-up and digital magician Matt Parro walking around the crowd from 18.45. Pizzas, noodles, vegan food and sweet treats will be available from 18.00. The film starts 20.45.

Horrible Mysteries, new at Phileas Fogg’s World of Adventures, Brighton, various dates from Fri 24 July

Phileas Fogg’s World of Adventures has introduced new immersive experience – Horrible Mysteries which combines some of the settings from the round the world attraction (helping Fogg solve various challenges) with the new Victorian London set (used the for the adult Jack the Ripper walk). Horrible Mysteries brings some of the yukkier bits of history alive across four sets from the design team behind Star Wars, Episode VII, Skyfall and The Miniaturist.

Summer of Fun/ Wiggly Weekends, Fishers Adventure Farm Park, Wisborough Green, 27 July onwards/3-4 Aug and 31 Aug – 1 Sept 

Fishers Adventure Farm Park will have a special offer every weekend during the Summer holidays (starting 27 July) for those who sign up for their mailing list. All summer there will be tractor and trailer rides, animal handling sessions, watery fun in Splash Attack plus the Sky Fall jump onto a giant stunt pillow! There are also a Wiggly Weekends with the chance to get hands on with reptiles bugs and amphibians on 3-4 Aug and 31 Aug – 1 Sept.

Various family shows, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Hove, various dates until 24 Sept

B.O.A.T in Dyke Road Park is a great place to relax on a summer’s afternoon. It’s a wood and astro turf ampitheatre, there’s a small bar alongside and picnicking while you watch is positively encouraged. Family-friendly productions this year include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Show and The Adventures of Robin Hood Show from Mr Dilly’s World of Wonder; Wind in the Willows; The Secret Garden; Treasure Island and several more.

PART FREE Summer of Circus, Worthing Theatres, various dates until Mon 26 Aug

Belly of the Whale. Mark Dawson Photography

Catch free outdoor events and ticketed theatre as Worthing hosts this year’s Summer of Circus. See the full line up on the link.

Summer Fun, Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester, Thursdays throughout Aug  

Each Thursday in August Fishbourne Roman Palace is offering kids the opportunity to travel back in time 2,000 years and experience life in Roman times with things to make and do. Craft activities are included in the admission charge.

FREE Airbourne, Eastbourne seafront, Thurs 15 – Sun 18 Aug  

Eastbourne’s International Airshow boasts a two mile flying display line along the seafront with military and civilian aviation  teams including the Breitling Jet Team, Tigers parachute display team, bi-plane wing-walkers, typhoon jets, Chinook helicopters, a Battle of Britain memorial flight and more, and all for free! The flying happens in a packed schedule from lunchtime until around 5.00pm and there’s bouncy castles and the like on the ground It’s a great day out but do plan your transport arrangements in advance as car parks will be rammed.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Wed 21 Aug – Sat 24 Aug 

Think you can brave the Child Catcher again? Well-loved musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies into Brighton on its tour Tickets are from £13.00. Better get some toot sweet – geddit?

England’s Medieval Festival, Herstmonceux Castle, Fri 24 – Mon 26 Aug 

Immerse yourself in the thrills and spills of the Middle Ages this summer when England’s Medieval Festival comes to lovely Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. Over 1,000 costumed performers travel from across Europe to help recreate the spectacle with jousting knights, court jesters, siege recreations and crafts like blacksmithing and arrow making, with a chance to have a go at many. Children can even join warrior and princess schools. Advance day tickets are £17 for adults £7 for children over 5 (£46 for families) and you can also upgrade to camp over the weekend.

DROP OFF Sharp Shots photography workshops, various Aug dates, Borde Hill, Wakehurst and Brighton

Sharp Shots is running school holidays photography day courses for kids and teens. My nephew produced some lovely shots when he joined one of their nature sessions. There’s a capturing summer sun workshop at Borde Hill Tues 6 Aug for 7 – 11s and 12 – 15s; Seaside Photography at Yellowave Beach Club, Brighton for 12 -15s on Thurs 15 Aug; then capturing nature and wildlife at Wakehurst on Tues 20 (7-11s) and Wed 21 (12-15s). Prices vary.

FREE ON WEEKDAYS Polo at Cowdray, until Sun 22 Sept

The public are welcome to watch polo at Cowdray throughout the season, with matches held every Sat, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon and on most weekdays. Bring your own picnic, or order one from the Cowdray Farm Shop & Cafe. There’s also a snack bar in the grounds. Except during the Gold Cup, weekends and bank hols tickets are £5 each (under 12’s free) and weekdays are free for all. Call 01730 813257 or see the tournament section of the website for the day’s play.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Brighton Museum, 18 May – 8 Sept

On loan from the Natural History Museum, the wonderful images that made the cut for this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year are in Brighton for the next few months. Discover images capturing extraordinary animal behaviour and awe-inspiring landscapes and uncover surprising and sometimes challenging stories behind the photographs. Usual museum entry applies (adults £4, free to Brighton residents).

Wind in The Willows, North Heath Hall garden, Horsham Sat 24 Aug

There’s another Wind in The Willows on Sat 24 Aug when Manor Theatre Group brings Ratty Mole, Toad … plus a few new invented characters like err Harry Otter and Ron Weasel, to the garden of North Heath Hall. £12 for adults, £10 for children, £32 for a family of four. The following night you can catch it inside the hall.

Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, all summer

Head down to the newly reopened Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens for real life wallabies, including albinos and a fabulous Edwardian Dolls House that fills a whole room.

The Secret Garden, Battle Abbey, Sun 1 Sept

Battle Abbey will see the more gentle drama of The Secret Garden performed by Chapterhouse touring theatre group at the end of summer. It’s £17.60 for adults, £12.10 for children or £49.22 for a family of four.

Gangsta Granny, Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker, Hailsham Sun 1 Sept

Bring a picnic (cabbage cake perhaps?) to this historic spot and settle down to a performance of David Walliam’s fun tale of a cabbage and Scrabble-loving Granny who has a secret double life as a jewel thief.  Adults £16.50, children £10.50.

Luna Kids’ Cinema, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, 14 – 18 Aug 

Luna Kids’ Cinema is popping up at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. 15 screenings including brand new Dumbo (14 Aug, 16.30), a Julia Donaldson medley of The Gruffalo, Zog and Highway Rat (17 Aug, 10.00), Moana (Aug 17, 13.00) and The Incredibles 2 (16 Aug, 16.00).

Alice in Wonderland, Leeds Castle, Kent, 23 Aug and 24 Aug

Just outside Sussex, this kids’ show is on for the school hols, running 6 – 8pm on 23 and 24 Aug on the lawn beside lovely Leeds Castle. Tickets are £15 for adults, £12 for children.

******ALREADY GONE******

Moon landing activities, The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux, Sat 20 and Sun 21 July 

A weekend of family activities at The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux celebrates the moon landing on 20 and 21 July.  See science shows, launch rockets, create craters and build buggies from recycled materials. There’s also a chance to see the 26-inch refracting telescope that Sir Patrick Moore used to create maps of the moon – the very maps used by NASA to help chose Apollo landing sites.

Dr Bunhead’s Blast off, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Fri 26 and Sat 27 July 2019

TV’s most extreme stunt scientist (as seen on Brainiac, Blue Peter, The Slammer and more) comes to Worthing for a joy-ride through the wonders of space science. With help from ‘stunt scientist’ volunteers from the audience Dr Bunhead will deploy awesome experiments in his madcap mission to send the first humans to Mars. There will be shows on both days at shows at 11:00am and 2:30pm. Tickets from £10.

FREE Aardvarks Annual Summer Picnic, Preston Park, Brighton, Wed 24 July

Calling all Aardvarks (or at least young children and their carers) – get down to Preston Park for this musical gathering organised by local group twee-free kids’ singing group Music for Aardvarks. Bring a picnic, with some bits to share, musical instruments and friends and meet under the big old tree by the playground

Chilled in a Field festival, Bentley Estate, East Sussex, Fri 26 – Sun 28 July


Chilled in a Field is a small, feel-good, family-friendly fest that grew out of the ’90s London party scene. It’s coming to the Bentley Estate at Halland, East Sussex over the weekend 26 – 28 July with not only live music and DJs but free arts and science activities and more. It’s not for profit, so reasonably priced.

Moonfest, South Downs Planetarium, Chichester, various dates until 28 July

Chichester’s South Downs Planetarium is celebrating the moon landing anniversary with ‘Moonfest’. Falling around the school holidays are films about Apollo 11 on Fri 19, Sat 20 and Wed 24 July. There are also Family Fun days with plenty of hands on activities coming up on Sat 20, Sun 21 Sat 27 and Sun 28 July and several other family-friendly planetarium shows.

Medieval Jousting Week, Arundel Castle, 23 – 28 July

Arundel Castle’s big Medieval Jousting Week is an international event, with new teams of knights from Australia and Scandinavia competing this year. Between bouts, check out the tented encampment, with demonstrations of  blacksmithing, jewellery and leather work and see a falconry display.

DROP OFF Holiday Clubs, Lewes Railway Land, 31 July – 1 Aug & 5 – 8 Aug

Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve offers outdoorsy holiday clubs for 6 – 13 year-olds. Children can take on the fire lighting challenge, build dens and discover creatures in the ponds and birds overhead. There will also be stories, games, crafts and campfire cooking and the chance for older children to work towards an award. Use the web form to book two day (£80) or four day (£150) blocks with discounts for subsequent siblings. The clubs run 9.00 – 16.00. You can also book ahead for Oct half term.

Wind in the Willows/ Gangsta Granny outdoor theatre, Weald & Downland Living Museum, Singleton, Chichester, 25 July/ Thurs 8 Aug – Sun 11 Aug.

Family favourite The Wind in the Willows brings mishap and mayhem to the Weald and Downland museum on Thurs 25 Jul in Quantum Theatre’s new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s novel that will take place, fittingly, in the outdoors. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is then up on Tues 6 Aug and Walliam’s hit Gangsta Granny on Thurs 8 Aug – Sun 11 Aug. Tickets are £14 adults, £10 children, £40 families. Bring a rug and a picnic, or buy food from the Waterside Cafe.

Digging for Treasure, Lewes Castle, Thurs 1 Aug

Four to eight year-olds can have a go at being an archaeologist at Lewes Castle this holidays, trying some digging, handling some artefacts, drawing and then make their own treasure. £5 per child. Booking essential and they must be accompanied by an adult.

Chichester International Film Festival outdoor screenings, Priory Park, Fri 2, Sat 3 & Sun 5 Aug 

The start of the 2018 Chichester International Film Festival is heralded by a trio of open air screenings at Priory Park.  If you’re quick you can still get tickets for the new Disney The Lion King on 3 Aug, It starts at 20.45 so be prepared for late bedtimes.

TOM’s Film Club, Mirai, The Old Market, Hove, 7 Aug

Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscar’s, this animated film from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda follows four year old Kun, struggling to cope with the arrival of a little sister. The backyard to his home becomes a mysterious gateway allowing him to travel back in time to meet his mother as a little girl and his great-grandfather as a young man and gain a new perspective.

Bonfire Societies Firework Championships, Wiston park, Steyning, Sat 10 Aug

What's On in Sussex in November, What's On in Sussex, Things to do in Sussex

A fireworks night in summer? Yes, three of Sussex’s Bonfire Societies are competing to decide the year’s pyrotechnical winner, with an additional display by organisers Pheonix Fireworks besides. There’ll be a fun fair and family entertainment, a bar and food stalls and picnics are allowed. It takes places 16.00 to 10.30, entry £10, (children £5, families £28).

Various shows, Luna Kids’ Cinema, Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells, 7 – 11 Aug

A school hols godsend just over the border. There’s a week of films for youngsters of all ages From The Gruffalo and Peppa Pig to The Greatest Showman and Spiderman, with day and early evening screenings.

Chilli Fiesta, West Dean Gardens, Chichester, Fri 9 – Sun 11 Aug

There’s more than fiery fare at this popular annual family-friendly food festival. Besides plenty of opportunities to eat and shop for the hot stuff there’ll be Latin music and dance – including Strictly’s Graziano Di Prima and cookery demos from top chefs including Miranda Gore Browne, Chetna Makan and Steven Carter Bailey from Bake Off. Meanwhile circus workshops, outdoor film screenings, a vintage funfair and more will keep kids amused. Day tickets are £18.00 for adults, £2.50 for children, under 4s free, with this year 20% off two day tickets bought together making a double ticket for the same day £32. Three-day tickets are also available and you can camp in the grounds and make a weekend of it.

Loxwood Joust, Loxwood, West Sussex, Sat 4 & Sun 5 and Sat 11 & Sun 12 Aug

It’s your chance again to tuck into a hog roast and ale and watch jousting and sword-on-sword action from armoured knights. Despite the simulated violence there’s plenty of educational content at this big event with recreated Mediaeval villages and learning zones, a marketplace and workshops like chainmail making, plus Learning Posts where you can ask questions. Kids over 7 can join the knight school. Advanced tickets are £13 for adults, £7 for children (4 – 14) per weekend.

FREE Dog Fun Day, Woolbeding Countryside, West Sussex, Sun 11 Aug

Dog. Collie

Got a pooch? Bring them along to take part in a dog show at Woolbeding Countryside where you can also see working dog demos, have a go at dog agility, learn top tips on dog obedience and training and enjoy local stalls and refreshments. It’s all part of the Dog Fun Day running 10.30 – 15.00 on Sun 11 Aug and it’s free.

Compiled by Debbie Ward

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