Local Dad is a record breaking beatboxer and is bringing his family theatre show to Basingstoke

Local dad Simon Shlomo Kahn, professionally known as SK Shlomo, grew up in Buckinghamshire and now lives in Hook with his wife and two young children.

His breathtaking vocal skills gained him early recognition as a world record breaking beatboxer and world looping champion, and he has worked with superstar fans like Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, Rudimental and Bjork.

“Beatboxing is the art of creating unbelievably rich music using nothing but your voice” says Shlomo. “Beatboxers can create the sound of a full orchestra or electronic track – the drums, the keyboards, the basslines, all performed using nothing but a mouth and a mic.

“It’s an amazingly empowering way for people from all walks of life to express themselves and I love teaching people how simple it is to make vocal rhythms”

SK Shlomo is bringing his family theatre show “Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids” to Basingstoke Anvil this Easter on April 16th, where everyone young and old can become one of his superstar sidekicks in a world of funny sounds, brilliant noises and cool music.

“Hook is a great place for families. We’ve made lots of lovely friends here on the school and nursery run who keep asking me to bring my kids show to a local theatre so we are finally doing it! The Anvil is a great venue and I’m really excited to share my love of music with the next generation of music makers. My own boys are excited they can finally come to a show too but I know the parents will have just as much fun!”

Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure For Kids is currently on tour and is at Basingstoke Anvil on April 16th 2019
Find out more: skshlomo.com/kids
Book tickets now: anvilarts.org.uk or Box Office: 01256 844244

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Half-term sure to be eventful in Basingstoke

An intimate pop-up venue which will host entertainment for all ages is coming to Basingstoke for a wide range of activities and performances throughout the February half term.

The Event Box is a temporary indoor venue which will be in the Market Place at the Top of Town in Basingstoke from Monday 18 February until Saturday 23 February. A full programme of free daytime activities for the family will be on offer as well as ticketed events for children and adults in the evenings.

The initiative is being run and organised by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Basingstoke Together, which is the face of the Basingstoke Business Improvement District (BID). The BID’s aim is to help Basingstoke town centre to thrive by creating destination events, engaging with consumers and supporting retailers and businesses.

Lucy Boazman, Chief Executive of Basingstoke Together, said: “We’re so excited to be hosting such a fabulous calendar of events here in Basingstoke at The Event Box. At this time of year, we’re all a little more inclined to stay at home or indoors. However, we want to encourage people to venture out and explore the fun activities which are on offer during this traditionally quieter time of the year.

“We hope that lots of people of all ages will make the most of this fun opportunity to come and join in the fun at The Event Box. We also hope that it helps to cement Basingstoke as a great destination for families as well as visitors of all ages.”

The full schedule includes:

Monday 18th February, 11am – 6pm, The Jurassic Box
Head off on a dino dig to discover T-Rex bones, train your dinosaur and find out about the world when dinosaurs used to roam. Arts, crafts and dino dress up for youngsters.

Credit: Basingstoke Together

Tuesday 19th February, Midday – 6pm, The Bricks Box
Children can indulge their imaginations in a world of LEGO®. Marvel at the amazing brick unicorn made of 37,800 individual elements, take control of the Brick Kingdom or get a selfie in the LEGO brick throne. Play tables also available for children to get creative too.

Credit: Basingstoke Together

Wednesday 20th February, 11am – 5pm, The Art Box
Get messy with Artventurers to make your own creations with glitter, paint and everything in between. Free face painting for children aged three and over.

7pm – 10pm, The Art Box After Dark
A pop-up art gallery will showcase up to 30 new works from local and visiting artists, hosted by THAT Gallery, Basingstoke. Some of the artists will also be on hand to discuss their work. Free to attend but pre-booking is required.

Credit: Basingstoke Together

Thursday 21st February, 11am – 4pm, The Circus Box
A day of circus skills workshops and demonstrations for your budding greatest showmen, as well as puppetry workshops and interactive shows.

5.30pm – 7.30pm, Film Box Kids
The Greatest Showman (PG) 1hr 40mins
£3 per ticket which must be pre-booked

8pm – 10pm, Film Box Adults
Top Gun (15) 1hr 50mins
£5 per ticket which must be pre-booked

Credit: Basingstoke Together
Credit: Basingstoke Together

Friday 22nd February, 11am – 4pm, The Games Box
Test your skills against Miss Pacman, beat your friends at Air Hockey or take yourself back to the 1980’s and try your hand at Space Invaders.

5.30pm – 7.30pm, Film Box Kids
The Lego Movie (U) 1hr 40mins
£3 per ticket which must be pre-booked

8pm – 10pm, Film Box Adults
The Wedding Singer (12) 1hr 40mins
£5 per ticket which must be pre-booked

Credit: Basingstoke Together

Saturday 23rd February, 11am – 4pm, The Tech Box
Test your skills as a drone pilot or take part in a live virtual orchestra. The drone racing is suitable for children who are able to ride a bike as hand-eye coordination is key.

5.30pm – 7.30pm, Film Box Kids
Despicable Me (U) 1hr 35mins
£3 per ticket which must be pre-booked

8pm – 10pm, Film Box Adults
Shaun of The Dead (15) 1hr 40mins
£5 per ticket which must be pre-booked

Some activities will require pre-booking due to a strict capacity restriction. All of the daytime activities will be free of charge although some evening activities incur a ticket cost. More information can be found here: www.basingstoketogether.co.uk

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NHM Reader’s Experience: Children with Additional Needs, 5q14.3 deletion

Thank you very much to the NHM Reader who has written today’s post. It’s a very brave thing to write about and she’s done a brilliant job. 

NHM Reader’s Experience: Children with Additional Needs, 5q14.3 deletion

I have spoken to Louise a few times about how we can raise awareness about children with additional needs so I agreed to write a post.

I am keen for my daughter and children like her to be included, respected, accepted, encouraged, supported and loved. Hopefully raising awareness helps with this.

I have a beautiful daughter with a rare chromosome disorder. That rare it is only seen in 1 out of 120 million people !!!!

I believe there isn’t anyone in Basingstoke with the same condition, so thought it was worth explaining. I will start by describing my daughter’s story.

When she was born in April 2015 and as far as we knew she was “normal”, weighing a healthy 8lb 8oz, passing all tests & was absolutely gorgeous.

We joined the standard classes & groups making mummy+baby friends at each one. Everything was lovely for the first few months. Then between 4-6 mths a few things started playing on my mind, why is she not doing so well as the other babies ? I put most of it down to the fact she was the youngest and everyone kept telling me….

“all babies are different”

“she will get there in the end”

“all babies learn at different rates” etc

When she got to about 7 mths things became more difficult. Taking her to classes & groups started to become a struggle. Simple questions from other mums upset me, even like the standard opening question “how old is she?” I used to panic straight away thinking they were asking as they noticed how little she could do. But it’s the most common asked 1st question. The list was also getting long of all the things she couldn’t do which she should have really done much earlier e.g. roll, sit unaided or crawl. So I went to the GP who agreed a referral to a paediatrician was needed.

We had to wait till she was 9 months to get this appointment. So we enjoyed our 1st Christmas together as a family of 3 and carried on as usual. We also attended a lot of her friends 1st birthdays which was difficult as they were all walking or at least standing and walking with a parent. Whereas we were getting excited as she had just mastered a roll!

When we saw the paediatrician and we stated her short list of current milestones he referred us straight away for tests, bloods were taken that day and an MRI scan booked. The following month she had her MRI scan. Such a scary and long day at the hospital but she handled it so well. She is a placid and content person.

All her tests and MRI scan came back negative. The paediatrician just said they were waiting on the genetics team to get back to him. Everything sounded fine – Big sigh of relief. She then had her 1st birthday in April. She had 2 parties and we had a little holiday in Butlins. Our 1st family holiday. She couldn’t go on most of the rides or enjoy the parks but we had a nice time. She loves the water and the pool there is great.

At 13 months old we went back to the paediatrician and were given the devastating news that she had a rare chromosome disorder. 5q14.3 deletion. What even is that?!? Let’s ask the doctor, but even he couldn’t tell us much about it as he hadn’t come across it before. He downloaded a leaflet which explained the condition & sent us on our way.

Reading the leaflet I was in flood of tears…..

“May not walk till much older if at all”

“May never talk”

“prone to autism, epilepsy, hypotonia etc etc etc”

I was numb. Trying my hardest not to get too upset or stressed as I was 5 months pregnant. I knew I needed to be strong for my unborn child and also be there for my little girl who that same day had further blood tests along with Mummy and Daddy to see if we had passed her this. As if I didn’t feel guilty enough as it was.

We went to see the genetics team in Winchester. Finally, someone can answer our many questions. What did we get, the same leaflet that was given to us at the paediatrician appointment. However, we also found out that within her 5q14.3 deletion she was missing an entire gene – MEF2C. We later found out this is a commanding gene and explained many things.

At 17 months her baby brother was born. As I had to have a c-section the 1st 12 weeks we had visitors every day and a few people supported us so well and I will be eternally grateful. Then followed some of my loneliest & darkest days of my life. It was winter. I struggled to leave the house with both babies as I couldn’t carry them at the same time. The visitors became few and far between and the days were long and hard. Then the 2nd birthday invites started to roll in. I felt pleased that she was still being included but also extremely anxious about the fact that she was VERY different to her peers now. She was still a “baby” & they were all clearly “toddlers” running around, jumping, laughing etc whereas she could not even stand or crawl.

Now she was a little under 2 years old and her little brother started crawling at just 4 months old. I knew 1 day he would overtake her in milestones. But I had not yet prepared myself.  She had been trying all year to master crawling and he picked it up in a few days. I was honestly depressed. But also felt guilty that I couldn’t be happy for him as I was grieving for her. How bad a mother am I!!

However with each passing milestone he achieved, for instance walking at just 9 months I could then be happy for him. The 1st one was just hard. It seemed to come so easy to him with very little effort. Why is life so unfair? To make some children work so hard for what many people take for granted. I may never hear my daughter say she loves me and that is the hardest thing with all this. I can cope (well possibly my back can’t) with the physically side of this. But if she never talks, that will slowly break my heart.

At 2.5 years she got a place at an amazing special needs nursery. She also has lots of equipment now like a stander, a supportive chair and a walker. Within 3 months at the nursery she was doing well and started crawling!!! It’ss about 1 year since then and I still stop whatever I am doing to watch her crawl as I am still overwhelmed and emotional to see it.

She still continues to amaze me all the time. She can almost now stand unaided and is trying so hard to pull to stand up. She loves music and water so we are very grateful we get to do both at the amazing Bluebells facility in North Waltham which is funded by the charity Sebastian’s Action Trust.

If you are reading this and think or know your friend or family member has a child with additional needs, I would encourage you to reach out to them. They just want to feel supported and to be included and treated the same as anyone else. Empathise and listen if you can. But they certainly don’t want pity though, that is very different.

I often wish I had an easier life. But if that meant giving her up (or indeed giving up on her) I soon stop wishing that. I am blessed to be given my daughter. She is unique, loving & so special. She puts a smile of my face every day.

Some things I do that help. Some are much easier than others, some I don’t do all the time and some you may need help with

  1. I don’t compare her to others
  2. I don’t think about what she should be doing at her age
  3. Applied for financial help – Disability Living Allowance
  4. Contacted local help for support and advice hampshiresendiass@coreassets.com
  5. Tree tots. This is a coffee morning. Run every term time Wednesday 10-12. For parents of pre-schoolers
  6. I try to have separate time to concentrate on each child (when possible). My children couldn’t be more different and need/want very different things from me
  7. To not be afraid to ask for help. I need to get better at this myself.
  8. Me time. I don’t get this often, but I try to ring fence some pamper time or catch up with friends
  9. Seek support from charities (Like the above-mentioned Sebastian’s Action Trust)

Also Family Fund give grants (up to £500 per year) according to child’s needs

  1. Find Facebook groups with people who have the same or similar condition. I am on a few groups like this 1 in particular are like my extended family even if the group is only 300 people and are all over the world. This means if I am not sleeping and want to vent someone in Australia for instance will chat with me
  2. Find places that offer child free or carer free. 

If you are in a similar situation or would like me to explain any above points further please do get in contact with me via Louise ! If you don’t want to reach out to me, please reach out to someone. Thank you for reading to the end !!

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Basingstoke is Flying the Purple Flag

Photo by Basingstoke Together

Basingstoke has retained its Purple Flag accreditation for the seventh year running which is testament to efforts made to keeping the town a safe, entertaining and enjoyable place to spend an evening.

Basingstoke’s Purple Flag celebrates the town’s diverse number of venues for different ages, groups, lifestyles and cultures, its crime reduction and prevention measures and the ease and availability of nighttime transport links.

Basingstoke’s accreditation has been spearheaded by a number of authorities including Basingstoke Together, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Basingstoke Town Centre Pubwatch.

Basingstoke Together is the face of the Basingstoke Business Improvement District (BID). The BID’s aim is to help Basingstoke town centre to thrive by creating destination events, engaging with consumers and supporting retailers and businesses.

Lucy Boazman, Chief Executive of Basingstoke Together, said: “We are so pleased that Basingstoke has once again held onto its Purple Flag accreditation. A huge number of organisations and authorities work so hard to keep the town friendly, fun and safe for people from all walks of life in Basingstoke. So, this accreditation shows that we are successful in doing so.

“However, we will not rest on our laurels. We will keep striving to ensure that Basingstoke is a great place to spend your free time whether it’s shopping during the day or enjoying a meal, a theatre show or a glass of wine in an evening at a one-of-a-kind bar or restaurant – all of which we’re lucky to have on our doorstep.”

The Purple Flag initiative is run by the Association of Town Centre Management. It operates in a similar way as the familiar Green Flag scheme for parks and Blue Flags for beaches. The aim is to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of town centres throughout the UK as evening or late night venues to support thriving local economies. Basingstoke is one of 70 towns throughout the UK to have this accreditation having first secured recognition in 2013 and has held onto it ever since.

The Purple Flag committee commended Basingstoke’s diverse calendar of events including Basingstoke Festival, the Exit 6 Film Festival and Independent Business Month. It also positively rated the independent venues in the town including Flip Out, Duck and Tipple and the Escape Rooms to cater for a wide age range. It also considered efforts made to keep Basingstoke safe including anti-social behaviour measures and in light of the terrorist attacks across the UK in recent years.

Find out more about the Purple Flag accreditation here or find out more about Basingstoke Together here.

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Review 2019: Proteus Creation Space – Christmas Toy Shop

Thank you very much to today’s NHM Secret Reviewer. She’s done a fab job!

Review 2019: Proteus Creation Space – Christmas Toy Shop

After being told about the Christmas show at Proteus Creation Space numerous times when my firstborn was young (but never getting a chance to attend), I finally booked a space for my youngest and I to see the Christmas Toy Shop.

Unfortunately, after years of living on the outskirts of Basingstoke, I am still hopeless at navigating around but Proteus was really easy to find using Googlemaps. There was parking at the venue and also plenty of spaces along the surrounding roads. It is also very close to the short stay car park by ‘old town’.

We arrived a minute or two before the show started so didn’t get to fully scope out the facilities. Most people were waiting in a small cafe style area, indicating there are options to get a drink and/or piece of cake etc. We were running a little too late to sample anything.

The show itself was lovely. The number of people in the room was just right and enough to let the performers engage well with everyone. It was very immersive for the young ones (mine being 2.5yrs old), with activities for them to get involved in along the way. During the show we moved into three different rooms which stopped any little ones from getting restless and kept a sense of excitement going.

If you have young toddlers and are looking for something a little different at Christmas, I would definitely recommend Proteus Creation Space. It wasn’t too loud or too busy (which some places can be at that time of year) and it let the children take part in the experience too.

I would give it a 5/5 rating.

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Warren Tots and Dinky Dancers, Hatch Warren Community Centre – What’s on in January

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Relax and harmonise with Thula Mama at The Salt Lounge for physical and mental well-being!

Hi, I’m Rebecca and I run a singing group called Thula Mama (pronounced ‘Tula Mama’) for mothers of bumps and pre-crawling babies. Thula Mama is a national franchise but this is the only group in this area. I’ve just teamed up with The Salt Lounge in central Basingstoke to run my sessions in their salt room, meaning that Thula Mama sessions now come with the added bonus of salt therapy!

In contrast to most musical groups for mothers and babies, the focus of a Thula Mama session is on the mothers and allowing them a chance to relax and unwind and do something for themselves. It offers mums an hour and a half of social time and provides both mothers and babies with the many benefits of soothing singing. Babies love listening to the sound of their mothers’ voices singing gently to them.

Refreshments are provided in the seating area at The Salt Lounge at the start of the session, in a comfy place to sit while you meet other mums and catch up.  We then move into the salt room which is furnished with easy chairs and where the floor is covered with salt – like a soft winter wonderland. During the next hour, we learn a mix of gentle lullabies and more upbeat songs from around the world with simple but effective harmonies. Singing in this way in a group creates a positive and peaceful atmosphere and has been proven to be great for mental well-being. Absolutely no experience is necessary! All are welcome and all the songs are taken at a gentle pace appropriate to the group. We also benefit from a salt therapy session in the salt room, which is helpful for breathing and skin conditions. Find out more at www.thesaltlounge.co.uk.

Sessions are every Thursday from 9:30am and costs £10 per session. Normally a salt therapy session is £30, so this represents excellent value for money! For details, please contact me on 07971 798945, email rebecca.cooch@gmail.com or visit www.Facebook.com/ThulaMamaBasingstoke. The first session is free. You can also find out more and listen at www.thulamama.co.uk .

Some recent reviews of Thula Mama:

“This is such a lovely group, so friendly and welcoming. You don’t need to be a great singer to join, the songs are great, so different and really fun. I find myself singing them all the time, this group is fantastic and Rebecca is so nice.” (Holly Wakefield, September 2018)

“I am so pleased I came across this group – it is something so different from the usual Mother and Baby classes, and it is a rare combination of doing something for your child as well as for yourself. The songs are different, some joyful, some soulful. My baby has loved attending and listening to the group – it is interesting how mesmerised the babies are!
…Thanks for a lovely time Rebecca – it has been my favourite activity with my baby this year.” (Amanda McKechan, November 2017)

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Help Spotlight UK!!

Hello, we are in need of help. As a charity Spotlight has been running from the old Chineham Park Primary for 9 years but sadly for us Hampshire need the building back to be able to use it to turn it into a Special Needs School which is so needed in our area.

We are very grateful to Hampshire for all of the support they have given us over 9 years however this means in April this year we need to move and find another venue for our charity work.

We currently run a food bank, clothes bank, charity shop, 1-2-1 youth mentoring, performing arts classes, holiday clubs, youth club, family support service.

We work with families on child protection or children in plans, children affected by domestic abuse, or neglect/emotional abuse, young carers, children in care, young people with mental health issues, young people who have experienced loss or separation, young people caught up with anti social behaviour and children who need help with confidence and self esteem or friendships and those who want to have fun.

We receive referrals from schools, social workers, the Early Help and Family Support Service, Health Visitors and other professionals. Currently we provide 355 spaces in performing arts a week, over 200 spaces in our after school club, 60 cases of youth mentoring and family support work and provide around 15-25 food parcels a week.

We are now needing to raise funds to be able to relocate our services so we can keep supporting those we work with. We have a potential venue to relocate to but need to secure a deposit and need to raise around £10000.

If anyone can help with fundraising or knows of premises then please contact us on 01256 325420 or admin@spotlightuk.org. Any help would be gratefully received.

The Spotlight Team

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Review 2018: Oh no you didn’t!!!! A Review of “Snow White & the Seven Dwarves” at The Anvil

Written by Victoria Kennedy, Thefairyclothesmother.com (thank you VERY much Victoria for the awesome review!!! 

About

Snow white: http://www.anvilarts.org.uk/snow-white

When offered the chance to attend the Christmas Panto at The Anvil, Basingstoke, I jumped at the chance. Many of my fond childhood memories are of attending the local panto! Panto’s are guaranteed family fun! And this one didn’t disappoint! There was plenty of audience participation- from song and dances, sweetie-chucking and water pistols to the traditional panto villain ‘boo’s’ and comedy slapstick of ‘He’s behind you’.

The Anvil Arts centre is an award winning concert hall, with amazing acoustics and an international reputation. The beautiful set design had the children captured from the beginning. With special effects such as indoor pyro- there were plenty of mesmerised faces!

A special mention has to be given to ‘Nurse Dolly’s’ wardrobe (I am a stylist after all! ). She had some absolutely stunning dresses, each unique and I would have loved the opportunity to study each in great detail! Take a look for yourself:

Snow White was played by Dani Harmer, of CBBC fame. She played the character well and her gentle, ‘girl next-door’ manner soon had the audience on side.

The Wicked Queen, played by Kirsty Sparks, was both terrifying and utterly lovable at the same time! The stars of the show, form y 5 year old son, was Muddles, played by Chris Pizzey (Basil Brush’s Mr Stephens). His jokey character got the children on side meaning audience participation was full on! The jokes had the kids roaring with laughter, creating a fantastic atmosphere. There was even a subtle ‘dad joke’ or two!

Personally, I loved the dwarves. Each played to their name sake well, with names carefully adapted so not to gain the wrath of Disney! They were both cheeky and lovable!

The show runs until 6th January with both matinee and evening performances- get your tickets here: http://www.anvilarts.org.uk/your-visit/how-to-book/online-booking-information?ticketing_id=A8PE

http://www.anvilarts.org.uk/your-visit/how-to-book/online-booking-information?ticketing_id=A8PE

Tips

Take ear defenders for children who are bothered by loud noises, as there are a few loud bangs. Also there is (without ruining the surprise) a brief moment involving water & the audience, if this is something that could bother your child ask at the info desk for the timing of the ‘stunt’ so you can be ready!

‘Flashy’ wands and the like are for sale but we took our own from previous events. This was allowed and certainly saved a small fortune as well as reducing our plastic consumption.

Dressing up was encouraged- there were many mini snow whites in the audience!

Food

There is a selection of treats –  sweeties, ice cream, crisps on sale at the venue. However, as a huge cost saver I’d recommend taking your own! The show is 2 hrs 35 min long so a drink will most definitely be needed. There is also a bar available.

Facilities

The Anvil is fully accessible to wheelchair users, and pushchairs. There are facilities for baby changing. The audience was a real mix of ages, so babes-in-arms are certainly welcomed. There is a bar onsite for refreshments.

Parking

The Anvil is easily accessed from any of the town centre car parks and just a 2 min walk from the train & bus station.

Prices

This is my only point of contention. The cost of a family visiting the theatre is becoming massively out of reach for many families. Unfortunately this is something that is happening with the panto too. At £28 per adult and £25 per child – a cost of over £100 for a family of 4 it means a big majority miss out. The Anvil does offer group rates, and discounted tickets to local schools.

Ratingout of 5

4 a great afternoon of family fun, with laughter, cheers, boo’s and song! Plus the most wonderful panto dame costume!!!

All images courtesy of Anvil Arts

Disclaimer: This post is a review of “Snow White Seven Dwarves and the  in conjunction with The Anvil. Victoria’s tickets were supplied free of charge for the purposes of the review. We were not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are our own.

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Review 2018: Basingstoke Canal Santa Cruise

Thank you very much to W for today’s NHM Secret Review!! She’s done a brilliant job! 

If you would like to be a NHM Secret Reviewer, please get in touch. Thanks! 

Review 2018: BasingstokeCanal Santa Cruise

Helping out with NHM articles that past couple of years I have gained quite a lot of knowledge about local Santa and Christmas experiences and this year I finally got to experience the stuff of local Christmas legend, the Basingstoke Canal Santa Cruise.

About

Each year, in late September/early October the Basingstoke Canal visitor centre opens up early to take bookings for their Santa Cruises. 

Tickets go fast and bookings can only be made in person or by phone so be prepared to spend a lot of time pressing redial. 

One friend did decide to drive there one year to guarantee her spot by booking it in person, but I persevered with the phone and finally got through at around 11am on the first day of booking. 

Their advice is to have a few dates in mind, especially if you want an evening or weekend, and also have the names and ages of children attending ready. 

In 2018 the evening experiences cost £15.50 per person, weekend day times were £15 and weekday day time were £12.  In December 2018 they ran six cruises a day and all but two cruises were sold out. 

Fast forward to a very cold night in mid-December when I arrived at the centre in Mychett, with my four year old and almost eight year old and waited outside for our boat. 

The area outside the centre had been dressed with Christmas lights and we were greeted by a giant inflatable Santa.  

Facilities whilst waiting were basic, access to toilets and a bench to sit on inside an area normally used for changing, so dress for the weather and don’t leave your car too early. 

We boarded the last boat of the day at 7pm.  There are twelve people per cruise, including adults, our cruise had five children on board.  After boarding the boat our guide asked the children to look out for Christmas lights and let her know when they saw them. 

We cruised up the canal for about 10 mins, when we arrived at our jetty and got off the boat everyone was given a torch. 

The guide then asked the children to look out for the red tinsel which would guide them to Santa, we followed the red tinsel through the dark woods until we found Santa’s grotto. 

Santa’s grotto was a yurt, beautifully decorated for Christmas. 

Inside we all sat on hay bales as we waited for Santa to wake up, once he did he chatted with us all as a group first before looking up names in his book and chatting individually to each child for a few minutes. 

He adjusted his chat accordingly to the age and personality of the child and afterwards we sang a few songs, he then gave out gifts to each child, which already had their names on. 

We were in the yurt for about 20 minutes.  After we said goodbye to Santa we used our torches to find the silver tinsel that would guide us back out of the woods and back on to our boat where we opened our gifts, good quality, age appropriate books. 

We then cruised back to the centre where we did some colouring whilst enjoying mince pies or chocolate bars and hot drinks, all included in the price.  We left the centre at around 8.20pm.

Rating out of 5

We do a few Santa and Christmas experiences each year and this was a really lovely event, unlike anything we had done before and perfect for restoring the magic for my doubting older son. 

The boat and the canal centre are practical rather than luxury but the uniqueness of the occasion and the enthusiasm of the guides and Santa, really made this feel special.  None of the children became bored, with each activity taking the right amount of time. 

All the food was branded with allergy information easily available but it would be fine to take your own if you needed to. 

The experience was really good value for money and suitable for all ages, although I think older children would really prefer the after dark cruises. 

Highly recommended. 

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