Playing the fields

After 15 months of uncertainty and Disney Plus, your kids can finally soak up some live entertainment. We round up the best cultural events across the North for children and families in summer 2021

Hero image

Forget catching up on equations or figuring out fronted adverbials – so much of children’s learning happens in the real world and finally, after months of lockdowns, disrupted schooling and home entertainment, our young people have six weeks of freedom stretching out ahead of them. And there are loads of cultural opportunities across the North this summer.

Plenty of museums have dedicated spaces for kids, including the Little Liverpool gallery in the Museum of Liverpool. This hands-on miniature city is perfect for young children, giving them a chance to learn about infrastructure. Complete with tunnels, cars, boats and even the fish of the River Mersey, they can have a go at being in charge for a change.

The Horrible Histories tour of the York Dungeon will keep your slightly older kids on their toes. Some 2,000 years of history are brought to life with immersive sets, actors and stories. Meanwhile York Theatre Royal’s summer performance of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (6-21 Aug) will be
staged  at three outdoor venues across the city but will transport staycationers to more exotic climes.

Magic is in the Manchester air, with Alice in Wonderland being performed at Home  (until 7 Aug), while the Dukes in Lancaster brings back its walkabout theatre after a two year break with Grimm Tales: Witches, Wolves, Fairies and Frogs (27 July-22 Aug), and Williamson Park as its backdrop.

Sale’s Waterside Theatre offers a range of shows, spoken word and ComedySportz as part of the arts festival Refract (22-31 July), while Just So Festival (20-22 Aug) near Macclesfield offers the ultimate family festival experience. A carnival of animals, the Just So bake off, boutique camping, campfire songs and countless performances can be found in the grounds of Rode Hall.

Just So regulars Fabularium, who blend storytelling, puppetry and original live music in their shows performed off the back of a traditional wooden cart, are also putting on their show Reynard the Fox at Fell Foot Park, Ulverston (28-29 Aug), as part of a Summer of Stories. It follows PifPaf’s brilliant post-apocalyptic puppetry tale of man vs slug Seed and Stories; The Grand Cavalcade – a charming yet chaotic hour of myths, music and storytelling – and Bicycle Boys, a fast-paced eco-musical for families. The four shows will be presented over four weekends in August.

Currently touring in Yorkshire (until 7 Aug), Whistle Stop Opera: The Magic Flute is a child-friendly abridgement of Mozart’s final opera. The 35-minute show will walk the audience through the quest of Prince Tamino to win over the beautiful Pamina. Climate change is a key theme of the piece, alongside the romance.

“Operas of old don’t tend to cover our contemporary issues, but they often dealt with contemporary issues of their own time. It’s in the spirit of opera making – and theatre in general – to comment on the world issues of the time through the story,” explains writer and director John Savournin. The Magic Flute is over 200 years old and while he says it was “great fun” adapting it for modern children, it wasn’t always easy.

“The Magic Flute is a great opera to put in front of a young person’s lens, as it has so much adventure and magic to explore. The key is to look at the story first and then find the musical points that feel the most stimulating, while keeping an eye on ensuring the story moves along quite quickly.”

Savournin says that for children, there’s nothing quite like going to see live theatre and experiencing live music.

“It’s about community, about experiences that we learn from and that shape us as human beings. Many of my best memories come from trips to the theatre – not only because of what I learned as an aspiring theatre creative, but also because of the stories that are told and how they impact our view of the world.”

Polly Ives agrees. A music education specialist, she founded Concerteenies to connect inspirational musicians with children aged 0–7 and their grown-ups in Sheffield.

“Music should be part of young children’s everyday lives. It is fundamental to all-round development, whether that’s being rocked to sleep with a lullaby, listening to the radio or family members playing an instrument, singing nursery rhymes or making up musical stories and sounds.

“Especially after the last 18 months, music has a vital place in our lives for bringing communities together, lifting our spirits, supporting parents’ wellbeing and children’s emotional and educational development.”

This summer she’s hosting Concerteenies’ Woodland Concert Week (16-20 Aug) and themes include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Music for all Weathers, Campfire Songs and more.

“The Woodland Concerts have been specially created by music experts Concerteenies and forest school and childcare experts Little Puddle People to link music and nature. Top quality professional musicians perform in hidden hammocks, children can play the drums in dens, there’s musical story-telling in a giant polytunnel, and singalongs and foraged edible treats around the campfire.”

Equally, Ives says, it’s a great experience for adults missing live music too.

“We work with professional musicians and we don’t dumb down performances because they’re for children – we just make them informal, fun, sensory, participatory and extra special.”

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Playing the fields

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.