The Guardian: Family Halloween Events 2012

Haunted castles, eerie woodland walks, hair-raising ghost rides and spooky activities for all the family in our round-up of Halloween events around the UK.

Halloween night laser show at Muncaster Castle, Laake District, Cumbria

24 Oct 2012:

Bat Hunting, Gloucestershire

Kids will be able to roam through the grounds of Puzzlewood, hunt for bats and discover Halloween sculptures in the trees between until 31 October. This ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean is a perfect setting for an eerie game of hide and seek – the trees drip with moss and lichen and twist above spooky caves and strange rock formations. If the weather’s bad there are two indoor mazes and a new push-and-pedal bike racing track for under 5s., 01594 833187; adults £6.00, children £4.50, family £20, open 10am-4.30pm (last entry 3.30pm)

Grisly Gore Tour, Nottingham

Nottingham’s City of Caves attraction is adding an extra fright factor to its actor-led tours of the city’s atmospheric underground network of sandstone caves. You’ll encounter stinky smells and freaky feeling boxes – and maybe even a ghost or two – as well as the usual historic sights that include a medieval well and tannery and the slums of Drury Hill. There will also be free daily activities for children., 0115 988 1955, until 28 October, 10.30am – 4pm, adults £6.50, children £5.50, family £17.50, booking recommended

Frightwater Valley Halloween Festival, Ripon, North Yorkshire

If you’re looking for a more hair-raising experience, head for Lightwater Valley Theme Park near Ripon. The park’s thrill rides and roller coasters will take on a Halloween theme, with highlights including the Haunting of Skeleton’s Cove (the pirate-themed area of the park), getting lost at the Horror Maze and a live Raptor Attack dark ride set in an abandoned mineshaft. They’ll also be magic shows and some rides will be operating in the dark – and the promotional trailer is pretty scary too!
Advance booking recommended., 31 October to 4 November, 10am-7pm, online booking £16pp, standard day ticket £19 (under 1.3m in height) or £23 (over 1.3m in height)

The Ghost’s Touch, Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield

Catch this heart-thumping new play by John Goodrum at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield on 1 November. Adapted from a short story by Wilkie Collins – the author of the Woman in White – it follows widower Stephen Rayburn’s encounter with a ghostly woman whose tangled past with the dead threatens to spill out from beyond the grave.
Advance booking required., 1 November, 7.30pm, adults £14, children £8.50

Meet the Owls and More, Muncaster Castle, Cumbria

It’s reputedly one of Britain’s most haunted castles and ghost spotting aside, there’s plenty of Halloween activities for all the family to try. Meet Foppletwig the Genie Hunter and his baby dragon Ozric, enjoy creepy crafts and face painting, take part in the fancy dress competition or older children can brave the maze (over 12s). There will also be a new Creepy Owl Crypt this year, where you can come face to face with feathery members from the World Owl Trust. After dusk, the gardens will be transformed into a mile-long route of spooky lights and sounds, and there’ll be evening ghost tours.
Advance booking recommended, and required for ghost tour., 01229 717614, 27 October to 3 November; general entry to castle, gardens, maze and owl centre, adults £13, children £7.50, under fives free; ghost tour (includes general entry), adults £19.50, children £9.50, under fives free, 15% off all prices if booked online

Scaresville, Suffolk

A haunted “village” comes to life in the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk every autumn, and daring souls are invited to follow a dimly lit trail through dark rooms, forests and farmlands while ghosts and other creatures of the night may appear at any moment. The award-winning experience will last about an hour, and is not recommended for the faint hearted or young children.
Advance booking required., 01787 310207; £14.95-£24.95 on selected days until 3 November

The Insect Circus, Jacksons Lane, London

Join a circus of bugs, beasts and creepy crawlies as they take to the stage for a family extravaganza. The insect-attired actors perform a range of circus feats and tricks, with lots of silliness in between. For Halloween the audience is invited to come dressed in their best bug outfits.
Suitable for anyone over the age of two. Advance booking, 020 8341 4421, 29 October to 2 November; £12.95/£10.95, family £40 for four people

Ghost Trail, Castle Fraser, Inverurie, and Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Scotland’s castles provide the perfect setting for ghostly-goings on. Spooks will come alive at Castle Fraser where kids can explore the building’s colourful and haunted past as they complete the Halloween quiz. Alternatively, they can have their faces painted in a ghostly style, get a gory scar in the great hall, try their hands at creating some scary crafts, or listen to some haunted tales in the library. At Glamis Castle in Angus there’ll be a ghostly guided tour and storytelling. Dress up for the chance to win a prize. And visitors to Scone Palace in Perthshire, once the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, can listen to storytelling around the ancient graveyard and take part in spooky witches, goblins and Dracula puppet making workshops, then watch a puppet show., 0844 4932167, 13-27 October, 12pm-4pm; adults £9.50, children £3, family £23, no booking required. Glamis Castle: Halloween at Glamis 6, 7, and 8pm, 27 & 28 October, adults £9.25, child £6.75, family (two adults, two children) £27.50. Scone Palace: 27 & 28 October. Puppet workshop: £10 including access to the grounds and puppet show. Storytelling: £12.50 adults, £5 children.

Welsh Witches and Wizards, Chepstow Castle, Wales

This impressive cliff-top castle dates back to Norman times, so it’s sure to harbour some gory stories within its walls. But on 27 and 28 October the tales will be of Welsh witches and wizards, from ancient myths and legends to spells and potions to cast away gloomy weather., 01291 624065, open 9.30am-5pm (until 31 Oct then 10am-4pm from 1 Nov); adults £4, children £3.60, family £11.60 (2 adults and children)

Bodelwyddan Castle, Denbighshire

Prepare to be spooked as you join the castle’s paranormal team for a six-hour night-time investigation into areas of the castle usually off limits to visitors. In a slightly less scary tour, hear real life paranormal accounts on a ghost walk of the castle after dark, followed by a trip into the cellars. For little ones there’ll be horrible stories about the castle’s ghosts and ghouls – come in your best scary outfit.
Paranormal tour: 9-3pm, 26 October, £60 per person. After dark ghost walk (12 years old and over): 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4. Scary stories (five and over): 5.30-7.30pm, 27 & 31 October, adults £8, children £4., 01745 584060

Time Out Singapore: Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence

Gwen Pew catches up with the two artists of this year’s Artist-in- Residency Exchange Programme (AiRx) to hear more about their thoughts on the residency.

Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence talking through their ideas.

Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence talking through their ideas.

6 Jan 2014: Now in its third year, AiRx is an annual initiative by Singapore International Foundation and the British Council, where a Singaporean artist is paired with a UK one to create new solo works as well as a final collaborative piece. The participants of this year’s programme are local architect Randy Chan, 43, and Bristol-based artist Philippa Lawrence, 45, and their resulting joint venture is a piece called ‘Angles of Incidence’. It comprises reflective multi-faceted steel pods placed beneath the canopy of the Kapok tree, and will be displayed at the Singapore Botanic Gardens before moving to the UK to be showcased at Inner Temple Gardens in London later this year

Have you previously done a collaborative piece before?
Randy Chan: Yes, many. Notably with Grace Tan for ‘Architecture as body’ at the Substation under the Future-proof show in 2012 and ‘File not found’ at Palais De Tokyo Paris with Joel Yuan, Zach [Zaki Razak] and Lee Wen.
Philippa Lawrence: No, but [the programme is] supportive and excellent, and the partners are very warm and welcoming.

What’s the most difficult thing about the residency?
RC: Time management – the ability to work on your feet and meet many interesting creative people in such a short, limited time is an art. In terms of work, we have a challenging site. We needed to think of a work that responds to Singapore Botanic Gardens and Inner Temple Gardens in London.
PL: Being on the other side of the world and the time scale made communication difficult. It was a very short, intense working period from meeting Randy to making the work. The project is at a point in what could be a longer conversation and it could have so many other permutations.

And what was the most important thing you learnt?
RC: Collaboration is a craft. Through the process, it hones your humility and makes you realise that creativity in collaboration is to understand the human condition, and to listen to nature.
PL: I learnt much about another part of the world, about land, about what I would like to do in my practice – and the need to be more open to risk.

Time Out Singapore: Alan Bates

Born in the UK, comedian-hypnotist Alan Bates has been in the business for more than 20 years. He first became interested in the art when he watched a hypnotist do a show on board a cruise ship he was working on in the Caribbean back in the 1980s, and was instantly spellbound. As he returns to Singapore following his sold-out show here in 2009, he tells Gwen Pew a little bit more about what audiences should expect from his show.

Are you ready to trust your mind with this man? Image courtesy of The Comedy Store Singapore.

Are you ready to trust your mind with this man? Image courtesy of The Comedy Store Singapore.

25 Oct 2013: ‘Most people can be hypnotised, but you cannot be hypnotised against your will. The textbook says that under hypnosis you cannot get a person to do anything against their moral values – that’s why I look for people without any values [laughs]. Only joking!

‘We take volunteers from the audience, and they have a great experience. The people who make great hypnotic stars on stage are people with disciplined minds, as this is when the colourful side of their character shines through. However, it’s always healthy to have sceptics in the audience, and by the end of the show their minds are usually totally changed after witnessing regular people doing mind-blowing show routines and out-of-the-box behaviour.

‘The content of the show is decent and respectable, but cheeky with a lot of surprises. [Convincing an audience member that they’ve won] the lottery is always a classic. It’s also fun to have two people on stage – one believes he is from the planet Mars and only speaks in the Martian language (or the way he thinks they speak) and the other is a Martian language expert from Earth who translates for me. It’s guaranteed to have the audience rolling over with laughter.

‘One of my personal favourites is the football sketch. I transform a Manchester United fan into a Liverpool fan and each time he hears a certain piece of music he kisses everybody in the audience on the heads like the players do on the field when they score a goal. When the music stops, they stop and wonder what on Earth they are doing. Then the music starts and off they go again!’

Time Out Singapore: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ Preview

Gwen Pew chats with the young director of The Taming of the Shrew – the first ever production by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to come to Asia – featuring an all-female cast.

27-year-old Joe Murphy, who is directing the touring production of The Globe's 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Photo courtesy of The Globe Theatre.

27-year-old Joe Murphy, who is directing the touring production of The Globe’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Photo courtesy of The Globe Theatre.

1 Oct 2013: 

What prompted the Globe to finally bring a show to Asia?

The Globe team has wanted to bring a touring show to Asia for a long time, but it was only possible to organise it this year. I am very happy to be the director of the production that is touring to Singapore! It is such a thrilling opportunity for us to be in your incredible city performing such a fascinating play.

It’s never easy doing Shakespeare – why did you decide to do this one with an all-women cast?

For me, Shrew has this incredibly controversial history with women’s rights. Then it struck me as an opportunity to let a group of women give their slant on it, and take over a stage that is so often dominated by men. It’s very obvious that these eight intelligent, empowered women on stage are not condoning it. I think that what we learnt by doing it with an all-women cast was that there was an opportunity just to play the play as the play, because the most powerful argument against its misogyny is just to show its misogyny.

At the age of 27, you’re pretty young to be directing a show by the Globe. How did you first get involved in theatre?

It’s weird how we find different ways into theatre. When I was 13, I had started doing amateur dramatics as an actor, and there was this Irish student called Eva. She was ten years older than me, but she thought acting was cool. I’m not sure Eva ever knew how much I loved her!

How close of an experience is the touring show compared to going to the ‘real’ Globe Theatre?

We’ve been touring across Europe, so our set is a travelling theatre that can fit into any space and bring a little bit of magic from the Globe wherever it goes.

Are there plans for the Globe to tour to do more in Asia now?

We really hope so!

Time Out Singapore: Tim Wakefield

Gwen Pew puts together ten key things to know about the British artist who transforms songs by big-name musicians into explosions of colours on canvas.

British artist Tim Wakefield.

British artist Tim Wakefield.

31 Mar 2013: British artist Tim Wakefield, 50, never considered becoming an artist, but fell into the trade after working with creative people for over two decades. His unique project, titled Soundwaves Art, started in 2009 and involves transforming songs by big-name musicians – including tracks by Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, ABBA and Bon Jovi – into explosions of colours on canvas, and then getting the original legends to sign the final work. Proceeds from their sales go to various charities that he supports.  His second solo exhibition at Icon Gallery features pieces that he’s created in the past few years – though none of them have been seen in Asia before – as well as several pieces from his personal collection.


Wakefield first started Soundwaves Art as he wanted to create artworks with musicians that could be used for fund-raising: ‘A friend who worked in sound recording was showing me images one day and the idea grew from there.’


The first musicians he worked with were Coldplay: ‘I dropped off a canvas at their North London studio just as Chris Martin was parking his bike outside, though I didn’t recognise him at first!’


He has never been turned down by anyone: ‘Now we have such a great range of musicians on board, others are happy to take part.’


The most difficult thing for Wakefield when it comes to his art is finding the time and space to focus his attention: ‘Locking myself away for days on end is the best way to be really prolific.’


The colours of the sound waves are symbolic: ‘A love song would not be represented by sharp lines in black and red just as much as a rock song in pink and blue swirls wouldn’t work.’


He translates music into art digitally: ‘I have developed techniques to customise the images that appear in the recording process. A kind of ECG [electrocardiogram], or heartbeat of the song, if you like.’


His art is deeply personal: ‘I would only work on collections that I can relate to.’


He’s a perfectionist: ‘I reject more than I keep. What I love when it is finished, I may not like the next day, so there may be a few dozen versions before I finally settle on a piece.’


Apart from Soundwaves Art, Wakefield is planning on collaborating with a friend of his who paints in oil: ‘Early days yet, but we are getting some great results.’


Right now, he’s working on a series for UK charity War Child that celebrates 50 years of great British music: ‘We will have artwork signed from as diverse a range of artists as The Clash, Paul Weller, Elton John, The Pet Shop Boys and the Arctic Monkeys.’

The Guardian: Desert Adventures (Round Up)

Set for a western in Spain's Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.
Set for a western in Spain’s Tabernas desert. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images/Flickr.

16 Nov 2012: As film classic Lawrence of Arabia is re-released, why not channel your inner Omar Sharif with a few adventurous trips into the dunes?

Trek through Almería’s movie hotspots: Spain

It may not immediately ring any bells, but the Tabernas in Almería is considered to be Europe’s only real desert and has provided the backdrop for many famous films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Lawrence of Arabia. Who can forget Omar Sharif emerging from the wobbly desert heat haze? Tour Dust offers a six-day walking tour, with picnic lunches and the chance to tour the so-called “mini Hollywood” film set.
The Tour Dust (020-3291 2907, trip starts at Lanjarón and costs from £501pp for six days including tour guide, six nights’ accommodation, as well as airport transfers (to and from Málaga, Granada or Almería)

Help deliver mail in the outback: Australia

Coober Pedy, a small mining town in South Australia, halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, is known as the opal capital of the world. It is so hot that many people live in underground houses, and visitors can get a taste of the subterranean experience by staying in the airy, dug-out rooms of the Desert Cave Hotel. The hotel offers ways to explore the area, such as the Painted Desert Tour, which will please Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fans as it includes a trip to Moon Plains, a fossil-rich former seabed where the movie was set. The Mail Run, operated by local outfit Desert Diversity, is a trip that allows would-be Postman Pats to meet Coober Pedy residents by helping to deliver their post.
The all-day Painted Desert Tour (+61 8 8672 5688,, doubles from £160) costs £138pp, including morning and afternoon tea, lunch and entry fees. The Mail Run tour (+61 8 8672 5226, starts at the Underground Bookshop in Coober Pedy, £125pp for the day

Visit a film studio in the Sahara, Morocco

Atlas Studios is where The Mummy, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed. A visit to the studio is featured on a four-day Atlas Trek Shop tour of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and Ait Benhaddou Desert which starts and ends in Marrakech. It includes a two-hour scenic drive along Tizi n’Tichka, the highest mountain pass in the Atlas, and offers guests the chance to spend a night in a traditional Berber tent. Other stops along the way include various valleys and gorges and the 11th-century Ait Benhaddou kasbah.
The Atlas Trek Shop (+212 6 6876 0165, tour costs from £200pp for four days, including breakfast, dinner, accommodation, a two-hour camel ride, and 4×4 or minibus with driver

Kite buggy into the Gobi Desert: Mongolia

Happy Camel offers a 15-day guided expedition crossing 50km of this wild landscape. You will pass monasteries and castle ruins, as well as the Flaming Cliffs, where American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews discovered a vast collection of dinosaur bones and eggs in the 1920s. It also takes in Gobi Gurvansaikhan national park, where desert gazelles and golden eagles can often be spotted.
The Happy Camel ( trip costs from £3,230pp for 15 days, including accommodation in tents, Mongolian ger tents and hotels, food, guide, and van

Slice through the desert on a sandboard: Peru

Peru Adventure Tours runs day trips that will take visitors into the Arequipa Desert in a 4×4. Beginners may join the Arequipa Sandboard Tour, which sees guests slide down three different dunes before cooling off by the beach – followed by a visit to the Mejía Lagoons national bird sanctuary. Experienced boarders may prefer the Cerro Blanco Sandboard Tour, which lets them tackle the highest sand dune in the world at 2,070m.
The Arequipa tour with Peru Adventure Tours (+51 54 9738 42688, costs £121pp for nine hours, including tour guide, 4×4, boards, lunch, porter, water and entrance to the bird sanctuary. The Cerro Blanco tour costs £59pp for eight hours, including tour guide, van, board, snacks and access to swimming pool

Drive your own off-roader across the sands of Arizona: US

On this excursion, intrepid off-roaders can cross the Sonoran Desert in Tomcars (rugged two-seater buggies), accompanied by local guides. The trip takes in a “ghost town”, Indian ruins, and a turquoise mine, where visitors can try their hand at mining for the stone and keep what they find. Wildlife includes coyotes, rattlesnakes and desert mule deer.
The half-day tour with Desert Wolf (+1 882 613 9653, starts at New River, Maricopa County, and costs £90 for adults, £55 for under-12s

Time Out Singapore: Rob Higgs

Rob Higgs. Photo courtesy of Opera Gallery.

Rob Higgs. Photo courtesy of Opera Gallery.

4 Dec 2012: British inventor Rob Higgs, who currently resides with his family in a wooden fishing boat that’s moored on a creek in the quiet seaside town of Cornwall, England, likes to build things with his hands. In 2009, the 37-year-old made the world’s largest corkscrew – it can open and pour wine bottles. That gadget took him three years to make and has been replicated in 25 limited editions, one of which is being sold in Singapore for a staggering $220,000.

Tell us a bit about ‘The Corkscrew’.
The original one was made of old iron and steel found in scrap yards, junk piles, farm yards, steam ships, dumps, fishing boats, flea markets, beaches… I started making it in the summer of 2006 and originally planned to spend six weeks on it. I finished three years later. Making it pour without spilling a drop took a year or so. I tried so many different ways – spinning the bottle, twisting it, chasing the glass, but got it in the end. It has 341 separate pieces, not including nuts and bolts. Each one is different. This one [in Singapore] is made of bronze.

What inspired you to create it?
I am inspired by the ingenuity of our society, yet baffled by our obsession with labour-saving devices and our need for gadgets. So I like to take these things to an extreme to have a bit of fun with them.

Have you built anything like this in the past?
I’ve never made anything like this before. All my jobs are very different. I’ve made everything from huge eight-ton, ten metre-high nutcracking contraptions and miniature robots to theatre props, comedy mouse traps, man traps… [continues to list about 50 other inventions]. This is the first time my work has ever been replicated, so I was hesitant at first as to whether it would retain its solidity and happy that it has done so. Prior to ‘The Corkscrew’, my works have always been one-offs as they are made from numerous found objects and therefore unrepeatable.

It seems like you’re quite the engineer – what’s your background?
My grandad started the engineering thing designing and building trains and planes, my dad carried it on. I grew up in an industrial city near London before escaping to the coast in beautiful Cornwall. I didn’t get on with the academic route, so I moved to the sea, bought an old wooden fishing boat up a creek, where I now live with my wife and two boys. I started making machines for a laugh, which people then started buying. I have my workshop in the boatyard in a shipping container and an open-sided shack full of old metal treasure where I build my contraptions.

‘The Corkscrew’ is on display at an art gallery – would you consider it art?
I think a tool or machine is art if someone feels a connection with it. We all appreciate well-made or beautiful things, whether it’s a spanner or a bird’s nest. I don’t like the ‘is it art’ question for this reason. I’d like to think that people can see the beauty of it, but also understand the nonsense of it all as well – the pointlessness of building such a complex machine for a simple task and also the irony of making it out of scrap metal as a statement about our excess, and then recreating it at incredible complexity and cost from solid bronze. I think on the whole, art gets taken way too seriously, so having a little fun with it is important.