Cinderella at St Helens Theatre Royal

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Disclosure - We were invited to Cinderella. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

It's been a very long time since we have seen a pantomime at Christmas time, in fact it was our first ever pantomime with little J and he's 10 next year! With no idea what to expect little J was swept up in the pantomime craziness and throughly enjoyed our visit to see Cinderella at St Helens Theatre Royal.

cast of cinderella theatre royal
What To Expect At Cinderella, St Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, WA10 1LQ
With one wave of a magic wand, the audience will be whisked off to a glamorous ball this Christmas as Regal Entertainments present their spellbinding tale of Cinderella. Cinderella tells the story of a beautiful girl who is reduced to a life of servitude by her two ugly step-sisters, but that is all set to change when an invitation to a grand ball at the palace arrives. With a bit of magic and some help from her friend Buttons, Cinderella is transformed into the belle of the ball. But what will happen at the stroke of midnight? 

With real Shetland ponies, enchanted pumpkins and a sparkling fairy-tale carriage all filled with festive fun to entertain the whole family, Cinderella promises to be the most lavish pantomime in all the land!

cast of cinderella

First of all let's mention the amazing cast who brought this years production to life. Rachael Wood as Cinderella had everything you would hope for the character. She is pretty and has a lovely singing voice. Joe Sleight made a very believable prince charming and the two ugly sisters Kristopher Bosch and Richard Aucott had everything you would want from pantomime dames. Their costumes got bigger and better each time they came on stage. A duo we hadn't heard of before Jamie Leahy and Chuck were absolutely amazing. Local to St Helens and BGT runner up Jamie has an amazing talent and I was actually blown away by how good he was. Towards the end of the show I did ask little J how he thought Chuck could talk. He had no idea and when I told him Jamie was a ventriloquist he was shocked. Two highlights for me was Jon Courtenay as Dandini. Jon won BGT and brought his talent to the stage throughout but especially during the second half performing a song he had written just for the show. Last but certainly to least was Lewis Devine as the lovable Buttons. Apparently Lewis is a favourite at St Helens Theatre Royal and I can understand why. He is extremely funny and once little J understood the concept of a pantomime and that it's okay to talk about bums, farts and other toilet related humour, Lewis had him laughing so much and was definitely our favourite character.

cast of cinderella theatre royal

Cinderella runs from Saturday 3rd December to 8th January 2023. Please do note that due to Jamies age he will not be performing at every show. There are a list of dates available so please do check. 

Food And Drink
There was the option to buy typical theatre snacks such as crisps, chocolate, ice cream and hot, cold and alcoholic drinks. 

Prices vary so please do check ticket availability and cost 

There are a number of car parks in and round St Helens centre all within a few minutes walk. If you google 'parking for St Helens Theatre Royal' the various options will come up in the search. 

Disabled parking is available very close with some spaces outside the venue and other on street parking within a minutes walk.

cast of cinderella

Anything Else?
St Helens Theatre Royal is a small venue and makes the theatre experience really intimate which I love. 

Programmes are on sale and there are a handful of golden tickets hidden in side the programmes, find one and you will be able to go on stage to be part of the show. 

There is an option to go on stage after the show to have your photo taken with some of the cast. It is £8 and you will receive a photograph instantly and you can also take one on your phone. 

cast of cinderella

We all absolutely loved Cinderella and we laughed all the way through. Our highlight was the '12 days of Christmas' song. Had us crying with laughter. A great cast, a funny script and the perfect start to our Christmas celebrations. We will definitely be back during February half term for the Wizard of Oz.

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The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail

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Disclosure - We were invited to complete the The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail for the purpose of this post. We have been compensated for our time. 

The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail has arrived in Blackburn and you can enjoy it from the 2nd December - 31st December. The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail is free and lots of fun for all the family as you follow the map to explore Blackburn town centre to find all 13 Gingerbread characters including two selfie spots. 

gingerbread figure
What To Expect At The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail, The Mall, Blackburn BB1 5AF
If you want to take part in The Blackburn Gingerbread Christmas Trail then all you need to do is head to The Mall Ask Me Point to pick up a trail map. From here you can then follow the trail to find all 13 Gingerbread characters.

gingerbread figure

gingerbread figure

The trail will take you around Blackburn town centre and you will get to visit shops and venues you may not have been to before. The confirmed locations for the trail are

The Works
Newground Hub 
Rhode Island Coffee
Althams Travel
Reel Cinema
Grays Schoolwear 
Blackburn Library
and selfie spots in The Mall and Blackburn Cathedral.

boy sat in a sleigh

boy looking at a gingerbread character

boy looking at a gingerbread character

the letter E

Each Gingerbread character has a letter. All you need to do is collect all 13 letters and arrange them to make a festive phrase. Once you have completed the trail write the festive phrase on your trail map and hand it back in to the Ask Me Point in The Mall to be in with the chance to win £100 vouchers to spend on whatever you want. 

posting a letter

This is our fifth trail around Blackburn and it really is a lovely way to spend time together and it's free which is such a rarity at the moment. We also love exploring the town centre and the mall. There are lots of beautiful buildings to visit such as the cathedral so you could definitely make a day of it. 

If you would like to take a look at the other trails I've popped the links below.

If you do visit the trail please do tag is in your photos on social media @PlaydaysRunways

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Christmas at Trentham 2022

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Disclosure - We were invited to Christmas at Trentham. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own.

Returning for 2022, the Christmas at Trentham illuminated trail is designed to sprinkle a little Christmas magic, accentuate the flora and fauna and see the stunning historic landscape in a world of light and colour.

Christmas at Trentham was our first Christmas trail this year and it's one we have never visited before so we were excited to see what Trentham had to offer and share our thoughts on the trail and any tips that might help when you visit. 

Christmas at Trentham

Christmas at Trentham, The Trentham Estate, Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4 8JG

Selected dates from Friday 2nd December to Sunday 1st January 2023 - 4:30pm -8pm (time slots may vary by date) 

Christmas at Trentham

What To Expect at Christmas at Trentham
As soon as you step foot through the visitor centre doors you will be blown away by the amount of lights that await you. As we have never visited Trentham Gardens before we had no idea just how large the estate is, it was breathtaking. 

To enjoy the trail all you need to do is follow the one way path that will take you on a journey through the gardens. The trail is clearly signposted with the opportunity to weave in and out in certain areas.

two boys toasting a marshmallow

Food and Drink
Only food purchased at Trentham is allowed with the exception of baby food. There are two opportunities to purchase food and drink. Firstly you can take a detour within the first ten minutes of the trail to the refreshments area. There is an option to buy snacks such as pancakes and pizza plus hot and cold drinks. There is an outside seating with heaters just in front of the food stands. 

The food and drink was not cheap. We had already eaten however we did take a look and it could be quite costly especially for families of four or more. 

Half way around the trail there is a tea room which offers hot, cold and alcoholic beverages. A price list is clearly advertised on a board as you enter. There is also a chance to purchase a mince pie. There is plenty of in and outdoor seating available at the tea rooms however the outdoor is not under shelter so would not be ideal on rainy days. 

Outside the tea rooms is the opportunity to toast your own marshmallow. This cost £3 and we were given a huge marshmallow on a long stick that we toasted over the fire pit. 

Toilets are available outside the visitor centre before you enter and also at the tearooms. 

The paths were flat in most places and the surface was easy to walk on however there are some small inclines in places. The paths were wheelchair and pushchairs friendly. There is a low narrow bridge in to the laser garden but there are ropes either side to hold on to if necessary. 

Prices start at £22.10 for adults and £14.60 for children. There are a range of different ticket options including family, twilight viewing and igloo. 

Children under 3 are free of charge. 

A disabled person purchasing a ticket may bring one essential carer companion free of charge. Please select this ticket type at point of booking.  

You can Book your tickets to Christmas at Trentham online

There is free parking available on site, on a first come first served basis. Blue badge parking is available within the main car park. We found a space straight away just at the entrance. 

boy walking through a light tunnel

Anything Else?
Wrap up warm and prepare for all weathers. The Christmas at Trentham light trail is an outdoor experience with no shelter. 

I don't like to put a time limit on this type of experience as there is so much to see however I would say if you are pushed for time you could complete the trail in less than an hour. 

There are plenty of opportunities to take photographs and staff along the trail are happy to take family photographs if asked. 

There is lots of space and the paths are really wide in places. 

There are two fairground rides by the food stalls which you can access about ten minutes in to the trail or at the end. The ferris wheel and swings are £3 per person. We went on the ferris wheel and thought it was great value for money with at least 8 rotations.

Book early! These type of experiences tend to sell out very quickly so make sure you book in advance. 

family standing under the christmas tree

Have you visited the trail or are you planning to?  If so I would love to know. Do leave us a comment or message us on socials. 

Also you can always keep up to date with us on our socials, give us a like on FacebookTwitter and Instagram or if this post has helped you, you can Buy Us A Virtual Coffee to say thanks.

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Three Aspects To Look At When Choosing The Right School For Your Kids

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Disclosure - This is a collaborative post

When selecting the best school for our kids' education, we want to ensure that they get the very best. Not only do we look for a quality institution with outstanding teachers and an impressive track record of success, but also one that emphasises values such as respect, discipline, and learning in its students. For those struggling to decide which school is suitable for their children – don't worry! In this blog post, I'll explain three aspects you can use when considering schools so you can choose the one best suited for your family's needs. Ready? Let's dive in and start exploring how to select the perfect institution!

kids in a classroom

1. Academics
When choosing the right school for your child, it's essential to look closely at the academic opportunities available. Do they offer high-quality instruction in core subject areas? How have their students performed on standardised tests and in college applications? Consider visiting the school in person to better understand what type of education your child will receive. Ask probing questions about curriculum, coursework, and student achievement expectations; this should indicate how well-prepared your child will be for their next steps. Academic programs can vary from area to area, so consider what different schools can provide and whether or not they meet your family's educational goals.

2. Faculty And Staff
When selecting the right school for your kids, it is important to research the faculty and staff. Great schools have qualified teachers with years of experience and a plethora of knowledge they can bring to their classrooms. A good staff will also possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills for educating, supporting, and engaging students. Additionally, a wonderful school should maintain small student-to-teacher ratios because that allows more individualised attention. Finally, when looking at a specific school, consider inquiring about their hiring process; in particular, question how they vet and evaluate the qualifications of their faculty members. Ultimately, choosing a school with incredible faculty and staff will help ensure your child gets the educational support they need to succeed.

3. Facilities
When searching for the right school to send their children to, one important consideration is the quality of facilities available. Most prospective parents will want to ensure that a school has high-standard and well-maintained facilities that are kept up-to-date with advances in educational technology. Good amenities such as classrooms, science labs and sports courts are desirable to many parents, particularly those from more affluent backgrounds. Yet, it is important also to consider how the school utilises these facilities during all hours of the day — not just making them available for lesson and study time, but promoting extracurricular activities and socialising between students outside of class too, like making primary school trips. Herein lies a much broader commitment to providing our children with an enriching learning environment, both inside and outside the classroom.

In Conclusion
Schools are important to consider when looking for a place to live. The right school can provide your kids with the education and support they need to succeed. There are many factors to consider when choosing a school, but the most important thing is finding a school right for your family. With so many schools, it can take time to figure out where to start. But by considering your child's individual needs, you can find the perfect fit.

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