Category Archives: Humber Street

Freedom Festival 2017

Freedom Festival: the three-day weekend where chaos reigns in Hull’s city centre.

I didn’t attend for full days like I have done in previous years, but in the eight or so hours, stretched over two days, that I did attend, I was captivated by so much that it is difficult to say which one aspect stood out me. I watched acrobatics like no other, sipped soup with a stranger, was attacked by prehistoric creatures and witnessed a bodiless lady drink wine through a straw.

 

I’ll start with the music, because when I plan any festival weekend this tends to be key features on the list. And I actually only saw one band for any length of time. Having missed Mighty and the Moon at Humber Street Sesh, I made sure to attend their set in the Speak Out Stage, as part of the Three Minute Heroes campaign run through The Warren Youth Project.

I was running late to everything that I planned, so found myself at the rear of a very busy Speak Out tent. Rushing down Queen Street I could hear Emma Fee’s sweet tones and it drew me into the tent, and I was so excited that I didn’t mind that I couldn’t see the stage. However, for the first few songs I was agitated by those small crowds of people who loitered at the opening chatting and just simply not focusing on the music, which should have been why they were there.

As difficult as it was to focus entirely on the music, I was still blown away with how fab the band are. I’ve always enjoyed Emma Fee’s sets at gigs and festivals, whether doing her solo work or performing with her band Happy Endings. When I heard that she was joining Mighty and the Moon I was so excited (I’ve said that already) because I could picture the beautiful harmony of her voice alongside Martin Clappison’s. In fact, I’d built such an aural image in my mind, that my biggest fear was that it wouldn’t sound as good in reality as in my head. But it was everything I had hoped, adding both to the Mighty and the Moon’s emotional tracks and their more uplifting, dance along sounds. Musically and lyrically, they’re just a beautiful band and you should definitely go and see them – I should go and see them more often.

I had planned to see other musicians but got caught up in a chat with a wonderful woman named Elaine. This wasn’t quite random, although for those who didn’t know that While Having Soup was happening it may have felt that way. Along Princes Dock Street, a stone’s throw from Ask, chairs sat in pairs and people chatted while eating soup. The soup was lentil soup made at Kardomah94 and was very yummy, but the menu had bites of conversation rather than food orders. The idea behind it was simple: to get people talking. You start by giving your name and being paired off with a stranger. My stranger conversationalist was a woman named Elaine who was wonderfully positive and easy to talk to. The menu is tailored to the city and we were asked to discuss whether or not a new narrative was needed when discussing Hull. We were given 15 minutes to discuss the topic, and I’m sure we went over that, never pausing, never feeling uncomfortable discussing personal opinions based on personal experiences.

FreedomFestival - While Having Soup picture with Elaine
Our morsel of wisdom

For dessert, we were asked to leave a morsel of our discussion which would then be written up onto a photograph taken of us both. These photographs of strange pairings with their offerings of wisdom were then displayed on a screen in the centre of the al fresco café.

 

What I loved about this the most was that as someone who often attends things on their own, I was made incredibly comfortable in volunteering myself. Elaine’s daughter joined in as well, but they were separated so that each had a different perspective. And both pairings continued conversation afterwards, introducing the others and bringing people together who wouldn’t necessarily ever speak to each other. In an age when you can sit on your phone while having a coffee alone in a café, people don’t spark random conversations, but they were forced to in this environment. And it was incredibly positive: the waitresses told us how inspiring and interesting the two days’ worth of conversations had been.

Elaine and I didn’t swap numbers or anything like that, but maybe our morsel of wisdom will help people see Hull in a different way, discuss Hull in a more positive manner.

The front page of the guide for Freedom Festival showed The Bullzini Family, famous highwire-walkers who have performed at a variety of festivals. They told a simple story of man meets woman, man and woman fall in love. But metres in the sky, far above the onlookers below, and a rope being their only means of reaching each other.

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The Bullzini Family 

The acrobatics were amazing. The entire performance was terrifyingly fascinating. Not only were they walking along the tightrope, but they hung from it, twirled on it and cycled across it. There were fireworks and confetti and an overall good time was had by every person watching. The crowd was a mixture of suspense-filled intakes of breath and loud clapping in support of their amazing skills.

It’s difficult to describe in words because it was watching something which on paper sounds somewhat basic but in reality is incredible. Everyone who asked, I suggested they catch this performance simply because explaining it wasn’t enough – you had to see it.

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Sky-high cycling 

And, looking up at even the grey sky, I caught a bit of sun during the whole thing.

I caught a few performances, mostly dance performances. And I enjoyed them all.

I was quite excited by the blurb in the programme for Compagnie Dyptik performing D-Construction. Again, I was little late so four deep into the crowd, which made this difficult to see much of what was performed at ground-level. However, the performance involved them scaling a fence, which I could watch and was incorporated brilliantly into the dance. The blurb described the setting as a playground but that playground could have been anywhere in your imagination: with Arab hues in the music it could have reflected Syria, Afghanistan, or Palestine. With audience participation, it brought all of that to Hull. Even the choreography left your imagination to fill in the story: aggressive movements which could have been intended as playful or violent. The performance ended with the dancers on the opposite of the fence, seated amongst the Hull crowd and looking back at where they’d started, either longing for home or free from what was home or both.

The story of D-Construction inspired me, but the performance which amazed me was Joli Vyann and L’Eolienne performing Lance Moi En L’Air. Translated this means Thrown Into The Air. And that’s basically what happened. The entire dance told a violent love story and both male and female dancer pushed and threw the other around. It was a series of lifts and throws and every time they finished one terrifying lift, you assumed they’d done everything that they could, only to watch on as they performed more.

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One of the many lifts 

There’s only one negative that I can consider with regards to the weekend’s events. The moaners. Every time I found myself moaning, it was about the moaners and the people who just weren’t embracing or giving their full energy to the festival and the acts that work hard to perform as wonderfully as they did. Struggling to listen to an amazing band is annoying; I understand it happens, but the conversations were unnecessarily loud and could have moved elsewhere. And those who joined the back of a crowd only to complain that they couldn’t see because of the crowd, really should have moved on. Last year I joined the back of a crowd, realised that I was missing something wonderful and made sure that I came back in time to see the entire performance when repeated. Because the majority of performances are repeated at Freedom, so that the majority of people can see and experience them. There are no excuses for moaning about not being able to see a repeated performance. And if it is a one-off performance and you’re not interested, make way for those who are.

The weekend was exceptionally chaotic and it was wonderful. The positives massively outweigh any negative. And reliving it by writing a review or looking over the photographs, you feel like you’re experiencing the joy and excitement all over again.

This has been a long one, but there is so much I’ve  not told you about. My advice? Get yourself to Freedom Festival 2018, experience it for yourself. And if you can’t do that, invite a stranger for a cup of soup and a chat.

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Humber Street Sesh – The Unorganised Chaos Formula

So, tomorrow is the first day of August and I’ve realised two things. One, I haven’t been successful at keeping the blog busy this year. City of Culture, I have struggled to balance you with work. And two, Humber Street Sesh is this weekend!

As with every year, my best friend is moving herself North for the weekend of Sesh. We literally only plan that one day. But so busy have we both been that this year we haven’t really found the time for even that. So, instead of my usual organised band-by-band what you should see preview, here’s my plan on ‘winging it’.

I’m usually one of those people who can write up a plan months before an event, especially something like HSS which I look forward to for most of the year (I bought my tickets on October). But when you overly plan things, it is more likely that something won’t happen. Last year, what happened was standing in front of the main stage waiting for one of my favourite bands, only for them not to go on. I could see the lead singer, I watched the lead singer waiting, waiting, waiting…

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan
Festival Faves, Streaming Lights

The band subsequently announced that they were no longer a band the following month.

The moral: winging it means no heartbreak. I don’t plan to see much, so I can’t be upset if I don’t see certain elements. I can simply blame the Unorganised Chaos Formula.

So, this is how it works. We turn up on the day with three acts on the Must See List. THREE. One headliner and two other acts.

Disclaimer: I will miss out on amazing acts that I would love to see. I will feel disappointed at this. I will bump into a bandmember I am friendly with and feel devastated that we missed their act. But I will simply say, “We’re winging it this year” and all will be fine.

To decide on my Must See List of three, I have to consider the bands which a) we both love and adore, and b) will ensure we are not disappointed.

So, start with the headliner. This is a lot harder than it sounds, because this year there are four headliners that I love and adore. They are The Quicksilver Kings (Speak Easy stage), Fire (The Unstoppable Force) (Strummerville Stage – many brackets), LIFE (Main Stage – and totally deserving, because they’ve had an epic year), and finally, Counting Coins (Fruit 2 stage). Thankfully, my lovely bestie helps with this decision. If I ask her which Hull band she wishes to see, especially at 10pm when we’ve spent twelve hours watching bands, she will say two words: Counting Coins.

Counting Coins
Counting Coins from a previous HSS (when I didn’t have a great camera)

We will be at the Fruit 2 stage at about 9:45pm and we will dance our tired feet off, doing a little salsa when necessary, and singing to our broken throats content. Because that is what the lady wants, and it’s actually been a whole year since either of us have seen them live.

That leave two Must See acts for my list.

First on the list, performing at 3pm on the Fringe Stage, I’ve selected Loudhailer Electric Company. I’ve seen them perform a few times at Kardomah94 but never on an outdoor stage, so it’d be fantastic to see them in that different setting. They’re loud, they’re funky, they’re amazing performers and songwriters. And the bestie hasn’t seen this band perform, so it’ll be good to introduce her to something new.

Loudhailer Electric Company Paul Newbon
Loudhailer performing at K94 (photo credit to Paul Newbon)

The last of my Must See is a little tricky. I had two bands in mind for the last slot. The Mighty and Moon are fantastic and now perform with the addition of the amazing Emma Fee. I haven’t seen them perform with this line-up of musicians, and I’ve just built up this beautiful image in my mind of how they’ll sound. But there’s one band that’s always on my Must See List, and they’re playing at the same time. Mighty and the Moon are on the Main Stage at 1:55pm, and Streaming Lights are on the Fruit 2 stage at 2pm. It’s no argument: Streaming Lights are my festival favourite, they’ve not played for ages due to various reasons, and I just know that it’ll be a set which either meets my expectations of wonderfully blows them out of the water.

So, my Must See List is 2pm Streaming Lights, 3pm Loudhailer Electric Company, and my headliner is Counting Coins.

Aside from that, we’re planning to wander relatively aimlessly around the 14 stages.

hss app

And to help with the Unorganised Chaos Formula, there’s the addition of a Humber Street Sesh app this year! It’s got an hour-by-hour guide to the line-up across all stages. There’s a map so you can see where everything is (including the Caffe Gelato stand!). And it’s going to be the most up-to-date way of finding out what’s on.

You can download the app onto the usual platforms – just search for Humber Street Sesh in whichever app store you use.

In fact, with the app in my pocket, all I really need to plan is my festival outfit.

 

If you haven’t been organised enough to sort out tickets yet then you can pick them up at a range of stores across Hull. Go to the festival’s website for a full list: http://www.humberstreetsesh.co.uk/tickets/

Highlights of the Humber Street Sesh

Humber Street Sesh is a moment of joy, written into my diary before the new year has even started. It is where my blog began – the moment, last year, when I decided to start writing again.

And so I decided to treat the festival like one giant Sesh.

I try to attend as many Tuesday Sesh nights as possible, which is difficult when you work a Monday-Friday day-job (and also want to attend gigs on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday). My rule for Sesh is simple: either I have to be entirely free (a school holiday with no plans to catch up with friends or other work business involving Browse) or I have to be enticed by one of the bands. This meant that I didn’t use Street Sesh as a means of finding those bands I haven’t seen before. If I stumbled past one, great, but if I didn’t, no worries. There’s plenty of time for this at other Hull festivals – we’ve got Folk Festival, Freedom Festival and Trinity Festival in the coming weeks.

So, instead of reviewing everything here (after all, you can read my reviews of the festival on other platforms), I’m going to give my highlights of the day, in no particular order.

BABIES

Ryan Smith, Babies
Ryan Smith, Babies

It’s been long enough since they announced their split for me to cool down about it. I had expressed my upset to lead vocalist Ryan, but assured him that I would support them until the end. Performing on the Newcomers Stage, it seemed haunting that this was their last performance together.

I stood before the stage minutes before they were due to start, and noticed that there was some issue with a gizmo in Ryan’s hands. This issue seemed to be fixed, but it did lead to technical difficulties throughout their set. Fortunately, Babies have become used to this misfortune (at their EP launch it was Joe’s lead which lead to us not hearing his bass at all) and performed to their best ability.

Full of energy, full of smiles, Babies performed their last set with passion. The scattered crowd – their stage placed on Victoria Pier, they seemed to tower over us – congratulated them loudly as they concluded, and I spotted a couple of faces wash with momentary sadness.

All the best to the boys of Babies and their future endeavours. I doubt this is the last we’ve heard from them; music lovers tend to get drawn back in at some point.

LIFE

Mez Green, Life
Mez Green, Life

It was this time last year when I was first introduced to Life, before embarking on my first press conference with these boys. So, I just had to see them perform Street Sesh again.

The Main Stage had the largest gap between performers and audience, with quite a drop were a member of the band to jump down and try to physically engage with the audience. And that’s a typical part of Life’s performance; Mez hurling himself at the crowd in a fit of energy.

I hadn’t needed to worry. Their set was as wonderful as ever. Mez moved around the entire stage, he and his brother Mick stepping over the monitors onto a platform just before the stage, conversing with the audience. Stewart Baxter, stepping in for Rich on drums, was all energy – it’s often such a shame the drummer gets hidden at the back of the stage.

The band had also been in the crowd for Babies, with Mez taking a moment of their set to comment on the band and wish them all well. Before launching – literally – back into the music, taking that dive off the stage to meet the crowd and circle the grass before the barrier during ‘Take Off With You’.

STREAMING LIGHTS

Another band who are all energy is Streaming Lights, who have been a highlight in the music scene for the last twelve months for me. I don’t think I’ve missed one of their gigs so far this year, and they never disappoint.

Performing on the Dead Bod stage, they were sandwiched between two equally popular acts – Folk royalty Hillbilly Troupe and the fantastic Danny Landau Band. Lead vocalist Steve Minns stated at the start of the set that their sound was quite different to that of the others which fit more comfortably into the Folk genre, though it worked to introduce the more rock sound Danny Landau offers.

Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.
Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.

Still, it didn’t matter whether or not they fit into the genre of the stage – that’s one of the joys of the Sesh, that all genres are represented and get their chance to perform to a diverse audience. The crowd remained, shifting slightly as some moved backwards to the Minerva bar and others moved forward to embrace the music.

Streaming Lights have adapted their set recently, taking on more instrumentals and with a range of new songs in addition to bringing back some of their older rockier tunes. A thoroughly positive performance, the crowd reacted with equal vitality; at one point what appeared to be an item of clothing being thrown onto the stage, to which Ryan Gibbins retaliated by hurling toilet roll into the audience.

They even teased the audience with my favourite song – possibly their only slow one – ‘Slipper Song’, Steve singing the first word before announcing “it’s not the night for it”, and instead launching into their latest single, ‘Box Room Boy’.

Fantastic stuff, keeping the energy at a high and ensuring that the cold of the darkening sky didn’t get a chance to seep in.

BABY TOOTH

This was the first time I had seen Baby Tooth perform. I only caught the very end of their set on the Green Bricks Stage, and I was impressed that their live sound is pretty much what you hear on their recorded tracks.

What captivated me even further was what happened when they realised there was another ten minutes in which they were entitled to perform. Instead of launching into an original song or a cover of a popular grunge track, which would match their look, lead singer Nanny McGee unhooked the microphone from the stand and launched into a rather psychedelic version of ‘The Real Slim Shady’. It was totally unexpected and hilariously different to their look, but executed perfectly. I was amazing, grinning throughout the performance.

COAVES

I’d expressed the difficulty in which I had in selecting a headliner when such a wonderful selection was on offer. My decision to see Coaves was based on a number of things: the Newcomers Stage was in close proximity to the Dead Bod stage where I was seconds before; it was drummer Conor’s birthday, and I’d started the day with him supporting Mark Rowland in the Acoustic Marquee; and, simply, they are bloody brilliant.

The crowd was scattered. There were ten other amazing acts on, so this wasn’t a surprise. But for Coaves, this was fine because you need space to move. Their set is fuelled entirely by high octane energy, and this is mirrored in the reaction from the crowd.

They concluded with ‘Change Your Mind’, Jonny inviting everyone to have “a really good dance”. And with the addition of a new outro, all four members huddled around the drumkit, and two confetti cannons to just clinch that loud, frantic ending which you just don’t forget easily.

I’ve heard amazing things about the all of the headliners, but as someone who’s also been a part of the local music scene for around a year the Newcomers Stage felt appropriate. An amazing day for everyone, with eleven amazing headline acts sending the crowds away from the marina with smiles on their faces and all the adrenalin to fuel whatever they planned for the rest of the night, whether that be at the official After Party or not.

Artwork on Victoria Pier
Part of the Photography Exhibition on Victoria Pier

On top of all this, I was proud to see just how involved members of Browse were in the festival. Our Arts Editor Lucy Howson was painting live alongside other artists. Three of our photographers, including my good friend Paul Newbon, featured in the Photography exhibition which spread across Humber Street and Victoria Pier. And our Editor-in-chief Mike White was a headliner himself, DJing inside the Silent Disco.

A festival for the people by the people of Hull – everyone involved, in whatever role, should be very feeling very positive right now.

Humber Street Sesh – Decisions to be made…

Next weekend, on the first day of August, Hull Marina will be taken over by Humber Street Sesh. And with over 180 acts across twelve stages, how are you possibly going to plan your day and get to see everything?

If you’re me, and you’ve worked with several of these artists, you’re in a losing situation: there’s going to be a clash somewhere. But if you don’t have that issue, and you’re just out to soak up as many acts as possible, you may still consider planning your day beforehand.

I’m not saying that to make the most of HSS, you have to plan. No way! By all means, wandering rather aimlessly is a fantastic way to come across a diverse range of bands, solo singers and artists of all shades. By all means, discard the map, let your feet make the decisions. I’ve stumbled across some amazing bands this way: Streaming Lights, King No-One, LIFE

But, if you’re a little bit like me, then you’ll want to plan out at least some of the day.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

So, my first suggestion is that you pick a genre. Let’s say you just want to see guitar-fuelled indie rock. It’s a popular genre for festivals. And Hull has loads of such performers. You’re going to want to start at the Hull College Group Newcomers Stage, with The Magdalenes kicking things off at 11:40. Stick around for a couple more acts – maybe have a picnic in front of the stage – because The Shed Club and Office Party are well worth your time. They’ll be the perfect indie warm up. Next, I’d advise the Alternative Main Stage: to be honest, to cover the sub-genres of indie, you want this to be your comfort zone of the festival. At 3pm, you’ve got BREEZE followed by Audio Subscene and Affairs. For the evening selection, head over to the Green Bricks Stage, where Rebel Sell perform at 5:30, followed by Magic Carpet Factory; two fantastic bands, who I certainly aim to see. You want to settle yourself here, or end up back at the Alternative Main Stage for the duration of the evening, taking in either headliners Age of Atlas or Black Delta Movement.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

My second suggestion is pot luck. Pre-prepared pot luck. The danger here is that you could end up running from each stage throughout the day, therefore tiring your feet out more than needed and being unable to dance as much you may want to. However, if you take out the stages which really don’t interest you – genre-wise – then at least you know that each selection is likely to please. Pick a time and then pull a stage out of a hat. You could start off with a Break Dance Workshop at the Sesh Urban Quarter, taking in the fringe options at Corn Exchange with Mr Sneaks, and ending up at the Newcomers Stage with Coaves.

Third option: build the noise. Start off mellow, and meander the stages until you’re fuelled with a heavy, loud sound. Test all genres, and see a full range of acts. You could start at the Acoustic Marquee with Mark Rowland and The Dyr Sister, two fabulous storytellers. Then try out the Speak Easy Stage, with the charming Neil Thomas and Will and Holly (Little Weather) who are on at 3:40. Then check out the Newcomers Stage with the last performance from Babies followed by Fronteers. You’ll want to head off at this point, as Cannibal Animal follow – too loud and energetic for just yet – over to the Dead Bod Stage for the full band Crooked Weather and Quicksilver Kings. By this point, it’ll be turning to night-time and you’ll be up for a dance. You could stick around here, because the next few bands are a lot of fun, but for more noise you want to be heading over to the Alternative Main Stage for La Bête Blooms. You can pick a genre for the end of the night, deciding on the one which best suits your mood: Ska at the University of Hull Main Stage with The Talks, featuring Neville Staple; the Fruit Stage for some hairy punk sounds from Ming City Rockers; or popular local metal artists at the Rock & Metal Warehouse with The Colour Line.

Silent Disco HSS2015
Silent Disco (click to enlarge)

You could plan your day based on the artists you know and love. As I say, this would cause major issues for me; mainly at 10pm when I’m ready to park myself in front of my chosen headliner. Coaves, a band I’ve done loads of work with and who have the perfect summer sound, are taking over the Newcomers Stage. The Finest Hour, hailing from over the bridge, are at Corn Exchange. Danny Landau Band, another funky summer sound, are on the Dead Bod Stage. I might even decide to support my editor at Browse in the Silent Disco tent. But then there’d be the Black Delta Movement versus The Talks argument I’ve been having since I first saw the line-up, as they take to the Main and Alternative Main Stages.

Fact is, there is no perfect plan. Because on top of the music, there’s art, there’s activities for the kids, there’s generally just bumping into friends and socialising. So perhaps the wandering aimlessly option is perfectly valid.

That, or you select no more than five acts – allowing both an element of organisation and the freedom to find new and wonderful acts unseen at previous festivals. If you do this, I can highly suggest stopping at the Youth Stage, where you’ll find Yasmin Coe headlining at 8:30pm (an early night for the young performers) who is launching her single ‘Nothing Better’, collaborated with Endoflevelbaddie, at the festival.

Whatever your plan of action, the day aims to be fantastic. A family festival for the people by the people of Hull.

See you there.

Just in case you want to plan - a map of the area.
Just in case you want to plan – a map of the area. (click to enlarge)

Humber Street Sesh 2015 – a preview

A very important announcement has been made this week. Humber Street Sesh wristbands went on sale Tuesday 21sy April.

At an advance price of £5, you’re getting a huge collection of music, art and local culture packed into the one day festival.

LIFE
LIFE

On Saturday 1st August, over 180 bands will play across ten stages. There will be over 50 DJ’s in the new Original Brew’s Art and Soul Warehouse as well as at the Resident Association Disco tent. So, musically, there is something for every taste.

Humber Street Sesh is a 12-hour showcase of the huge wealth of talent Hull has to offer. For those who engage with the weekly Sesh at The Polar Bear, you get to see your favourite local bands up on the bigger stages, mingling with even more like-minded people. For those who can’t always get down on a Tuesday night, this is your chance to support those acts. And yet there is so much more besides this.

A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.
A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.

There will also be the usual markets, street food, live street art, children’s activities, comedy and cult cinema, in addition to breakdance and rap battles, a skate park, street theatre and much more. After last year’s brief downpour, there is the aim to have more sheltered bar areas this year. Not that the rain stopped many of us from finishing our drink or heading down to see  our favourite bands who happened to perform at that point.

Under 12s go free (collect your wristband as you enter the gates), and so this truly is a festival for the people; regardless of age or taste, you’ll have a fantastic day.

Streaming Lights
Streaming Lights

 

With 40’000 attending last year, we know we can get more through those gates this time.

Tickets are available from Hull Box Office or by phoning 01482 221113, and will be sold in various locations across the city at later dates. Note, a booking fee will apply.

Humber Street Sesh info poster

All photographs are by Paul Newbon, taken at last year’s HSS. 

A Dinostar Experience

I do not have my own children. But I do have friends who have children, which means I am able to enjoy those half-term activities usually catering for parents and their offspring.

Dinostar exhibit
Child-friendly exhibits

One such activity is visiting Dinostar, a dinosaur museum situated at the end of Humber Street, in the marina area of Hull.

It’s the kind of place you walk past, contemplating what could possibly be inside. Dinosaurs, yes, but real or not? Is it suitable for me? Will it really be worth it? Well, I’m not sure I aim to answer these questions for you. You may read this and continue your contemplations when walking past to other venues in the area. You may just decide to give it a go.

We went as a large group – three mothers, one father, their children of various ages under 10, one grandmother and, well, me. A collection of personalities and requirements. Two of the children are autistic and can be difficult to handle if the social environment isn’t accommodating. The youngest is a toddler. The oldest is, well, me.

Don't let this guy put you off.
Don’t let this guy put you off.

So, we arrived at about 2pm, and our group quickly took over the quiet building. Clearly too many people were still contemplating. It cost £3 per adult and £1.50 for the children, and free for the baby. Initially, this seemed rather steep. The museum is rather small, with three main rooms – one downstairs and two upstairs. There was a stamp collecting activity for the children; while identifying the different dinosaurs around the museum they had to stamp an A5 piece of paper with each. A good activity for ensuring they look around the entire venue and also read some of the information pieces. But, as children don’t tend to read everything, we were worried that less than an hour of our school holiday would be costing us these three coins.

But, we were fooled by the small space.

Even the staircase was put to good use - an informative timeline (posters on the walls offered more info)
Even the staircase was put to good use – an informative timeline (posters on the walls offered more info)

Alongside the written information (clearly more for the adults to read) there were ‘Did You Know?’ fact trivia, sound buttons and smell boxes. A child may not remember that T.Rex lived near swamps because they read it from the wall, but they may remember that this particular artefact was near the box which smelt like boggy earth. A 3D experience without the glasses!

Stamp collection point & Smell box - 3D exploration.
Stamp collection point & Smell box – 3D exploration.

Upstairs, there were a range of activities for the children (and adults feeling a bit childish) to have a go at. The best were certainly the archaeological dig sites – one unveiling a dinosaur skeleton and one a footprint. Baby slept for much of the time there, and when she woke we had been concerned she wouldn’t have much to do. This proved more than sufficient! She loves playing with sand anyway, and did a good job at uncovering the claws of the dinosaur hidden beneath. With some help from the taller children, we were able to reveal it all. And one of the younger boys was quite happy just to let the sand flow between his fingers.

Dinosaur Dig - teamwork!
  Dinosaur Dig – teamwork!
A future archaeologist?
  A future archaeologist?
Revealing the treasure beneath
Revealing the treasure beneath

Add to this the drawing table, which also had stencils of different dinosaurs and their footprints and a section where you could use crayons to rub and reveal a dinosaur, and you had hours of entertainment. We adults gave up far too quickly, forgetting how simple activities can entertain and educate children. Plus, with multi-sensory activities, all of the requirements we went with were met.

Space for the little explorers to collate their findings
Space for the little explorers to collate their findings

We were there for just under two hours, and the children would probably have been happy to stay for longer. Our £3 were well spent, and that left change from a fiver for the gift shop (a Dinostar hat was on £1.50, so all-round good value).

We’d expected too little of this end-of-terrace converted house on the marina. It calls itself “a Dinosaur Experience” and this is exactly what we got. For very little cost considering – I’ve certainly paid a lot more for a lot less when it comes to keeping kids happy.

My friend proving that she is as tall as a Triceratops' leg.
My friend proving that she is as tall as a Triceratops’ leg.

So, next time you wander past and think it might be an idea, step inside.

They do only open Sundays outside of the school holidays. We were pleased to have arrived when it was quiet, especially with the specific needs of the children in our group, but it would not be an issue were it busier. I’d certainly advise it as part of a dinosaur-themes birthday party, as we could have spent hours in there with the children entertaining themselves and each other. In fact, the kids needed us so little that we were able to be a bit silly ourselves.

Details can be found on the website – http://www.dinostar.co.uk/

And you can always pop down to Thieving Harry’s for a pot of tea and a slice of cake afterwards. Well. We did anyway.

Thieving Harry's