The Lost Carnival – Review

Step inside this imaginative and wonderful world


Over 100 years ago, this darkly strange circus disappeared, only to reappear last month in all it’s weirdly compelling glory in Burrs Country Park in Bury.

I can only assume that during the intervening century they’ve been spinning though the galaxy in a huge intergalactic big top, rubbing shoulders with Red Dwarf and the Tardis!


The Lost Carnival image credit credit Brett Harkness


The Lost Carnival is an immersive, spectacular experience that invites you to step into a world unlike any other.

From 22nd – 25th May 2015, The Lost Carnival treated visitors to a magical extravaganza. There were mermaids, a strong man, mind reader, ring master, acrobats and bearded lady to name but a few.

As we transitioned through the big top into the imagination of organisers Wild Rumpus (who are also behind The Just So Festival), we discovered that our mission was to collectively generate energy on an hourly basis. Thankfully no static bikes were involved in the making of this show – instead the aim was to harness the power of communal singing!




When we emerged from the big top into the carnival there was plenty to keep us busy. Mask making, mermaid chatting, the fabulous band Rum Buffalo and a banquet of street food meant that the time just flew by.

The programme of live music, acrobatics, dancing ladies and swinging balls meant that there was always something going on, without feeling over faced.

Our four year old daughter particularly loved getting dressed up – face painted like Pierrot she looked adorable. I on the other hand looked more like a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Kizz! I got some interesting looks on the M60!

She also loved chatting with the mermaids (“They weren’t real though mummy, I could see their feet”), playing games with the strong man, the music and just the overall spectacle.




Us grown ups loved all of the above – plus Ginger’s Comfort Emporium’s mint and fennel ice cream, which was spectacular!

We were blessed with great weather which contributed to a fantastic event which we thoroughly enjoyed. And although our tickets were complementary, I would have happily paid the £10 ticket price and felt like I’d got good value for money. Under 3′s go free.

My only query would be about the timing of The Lost Carnival. Starting at 4.00pm and running through until 9.30pm, it didn’t quite work for us. As a family event and with a 4 year old we’d have preferred it to start earlier. When I asked the organisers for the rational, their answer was:

“We like being outside on warm summers evenings, we like the transition from daytime through dusk to dark and staying up beyond bedtimes, not sticking to the routines and the excitement that brings with it.  

“I appreciate it’s not for everyone but we find it works for us and hopefully for those who can’t manage to hang on until the end we hope they’ve had a really exciting and brilliant experience before they have to call it a day”.

Coming at the end of term, with a tired little girl we didn’t manage to make it to the end. Hopefully next year will be a different kettle of fish. We can’t wait to see where and when The Lost Carnival lands next year.

For more information about The Lost Carnival visit


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Brett Harkness

Disclosure: Although our tickets were free, this does not ensure a positive review. We did genuinely love the event and look forward to it’s return.




The Lost Carnival is coming

We talk to organiser and Director of Wild Rumpus, Sarah Bird


I’ve been a fan of the Just So Festival for quite some time now, so when I heard that it’s little sister The Lost Carnival was coming to Burrs Country Park (Bury, 22/23/24/25 May 2015) I gave an enormous squeal!

We spoke to Sarah Bird, Co-Director of Wild Rumpus, the company behind these family festivals which can only be described as imagination explosions, to find out just how it all began. Sarah is pictured below (left) with Co-Director and friend Rowan Hoban.



Wild Rumpus


Standing on the verge of The Lost Carnival – taking place in Bury over the bank holiday weekend – it’s quite something to think that the partnership that has become so important to mine and Rowan’s lives only came into being  a few short years ago.

As we wander round the Burrs Country Park site where the event is all set to take place, telling the story of a once great carnival which strangely and mysteriously disappeared in 1915, and filled with incredible acrobatics, Balkan gypsy music,  mechanical contraptions and astounding sideshows – our initial playground conversations seem a lifetime ago.


lost carnival billboard


School mums and book groups


Our kids were at the same school, we were in the same book club, occasionally had lunch with the same group of mums, but we didn’t know each other that well when we decided to team up and set up a weekend camping arts festival for families.

It went something along the lines of:

Sarah ‘I’ve had an idea for a festival, where it’s all about families, playing, singing, dancing and creating together’

Rowan ‘Come on then, let’s do it.’

Sarah ‘Really?’

Rowan ‘Really. Here, I’ve already set up the website!’

Sarah  ‘Really? That was quick!’


Wild Rumpus


Wild Rumpus


The perfect mix of cautious and ambitious


We were incredibly naïve but also (it turned out later) the perfect mix of cautious and ambitious, practical and creative.

Our first venture, the Just So Festival, began small and has since become an annual extravaganza attracting thousands of families into the wild spaces of their dreams.




Lost Carnival


Lost Carnival


It wasn’t long before we took the big leap of faith that all such adventures seem to require, giving up our day jobs as bookshop manager and science co-ordinator at MMU. Our lives became ever more intertwined, running a marathon together, if only to allow us more time to hatch up our plans.


Never let your imagination get the better of you


If nothing else I’d say the lesson of our partnership is that you should never feel afraid to let your imagination get the better of you.

One of the things we said to the audience at the very first festival was that it would be what they made it, they needed to bring their singing voices, their dancing feet, their stories and their capacity for wonder. We wanted them to feel like it was their festival and from the get go they wowed us, they dressed up, they played, climbed, sang and danced their socks off.


Pendulum 1


The Lost Carnival


We are saying the same thing again with The Lost Carnival. Yes, we’ve worked our hardest and dreamed our wildest dreams in order to provide something special for them to turn up and enjoy, the real excitement, though, is the prospect that they will not only just turn up, but will do so determined to fully enter the extraordinary spirit of the event.

The Lost Carnival will appear in Burrs Country Park in Bury on the evenings of 22/23/24/25 May 2015. The carnival will be open from 4-9pm, with the audience entering on timed tickets.

Tickets cost £10 per person (under 3s go free). Carnival goers should dress for the weather, and wear sturdy shoes. Tickets are available at

See what else Wild Rumpus are planning including details of the 2015  Just So Festival and an incredible opportunity to release your inner wild thing at the Whitworth in Manchester in June


Competition time




We’ve got a family ticket to give away for The Lost Carnival, for the evening of Friday 22nd May for two adults and as many kids as you have (that are yours!). The event runs from 4pm – 9pm.


The Lost Carnival


All we want to know is if you ran away to join the circus, what would you be and why?

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

Will it be Lion Tamer, Trapeze Artist or something different altogether.

So don’t be shy – tell us what you’d be?

Good luck!


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Wild Rumpus


By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.


Competition closing date: 9pm Sunday 17th May 2015.

The winner will be the first name selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Sunday 17th May 2015. The winner will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions, loquax and  Competitions Time. If you are the lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 24 hours of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.











What’s On February Half Term

Family friendly ideas to keep the kids entertained and you sane!


Once again we’ve had a look at what’s happening in and around Manchester during the half term holidays. This list doesn’t include everything, so please do add things in the comments box.

It’s a bit quick and dirty, but will hopefully give you some ideas and signpost you to relevant places for more information.


Museum of Science and Industry

Steam, Sweat and Sewers – a programme of special half term activities running 14th – 22nd February. For more information visit


steam, sweat & sewers MOSI


Imperial War Museum

War at Sea – creative sessions and story telling, weekdays throughout February and daily in half term (14th – 22nd February). For more information visit


The Manchester Museum

Living Worlds – drop in sessions. Create paper butterflies and other animals to take away (16th – 20th February). For more information visit


Jodrell Bank Discover Centre

Solar System hands on activities – try some science experiments for yourself (16th – 20th February). For more information visit


People’s History Museum

Election Craft Table (14th – 22nd February), Little PHM Under The Rainbow (15th February) and Hands on History (18th February) – crafts and interactive story telling. For more information visit


Manchester Art Gallery

Holiday Workshops – Mini Worlds (17th – 20th February). For more information visit


Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Book Art Workshop and Storytelling (18th February). For more information visit


Ordsall Hall

Half Term Fun – Create a Coat of Arms; ‘Feed Me’ Fly Traps; Fabric Design; Valentines Quiz; Egg Box Garden. For calendar and more information visit


Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Half Term Fun – Make and Take: Dog Tags; Salford at War Quiz; Chinese Dragon Puppets. For calendar and more information visit


The Lowry

Half Term Little Artists and Little Actors - Little artists can celebrate The Lowry’s performance of I Believe in Unicorns by making their own galloping unicorns,  while little actors can celebrate The Lowry’s sing-a-long-a-Frozen with an interactive workshop (both run 16th – 20th February). For more information visit


Craft activities, the Lowry


National Football Museum

Facepainting, Story telling and Half Term Skills Sessions – check calander for more information


Stockley Farm

Reopens on February 14th and is open all half term week, so amongst other things you can learn all about lambing. For more information visit


Red House Farm

Pizza Making Fun – Morning and afternoon classes plus all the usual attractions (16th – 20th February). For more information visit


Delamere Forest

Gruffalo Child Trail – 1.5Km trail in search of the Gruffalo child. Open until 28th February. For more information visit


The Gruffalo Child Trail


Tatton Park

Scarecrow Festival – Hunt for scarecrows around the house and gardens and make your own (14th – 22nd February). For more information visit


Quarry Bank Mill

Wild Animals – Make a wild animal teller you can take outside to identify animals and their poo! (16th – 20th February). For more information visit


Lyme Park

Xplorer Orienteering – use a simple map to find the markers and complete the challenge (9th – 18th February). For more information visit


Chinese New Year Celebrations

Celebrating the Year of the Ram (19th – 22nd February). For more information visit


Manchester Chinese New Year


Peppa Pig: The Golden Boots

Vue Cinemas – all your favourite episodes with a new special one! (14th – 19th February). For more information visit


Goldilocks and the Three Bears

The Waterside Arts Centre (14th – 18th February). For more information visit


Frozen Sing-a-Long

The Waterside Arts Centre – Let It Go etc. Bring your Elsa dress! (19th February). For more information visit


Your local library for story time, its dry, clean and free. Find a library near you.


Happy holidays,


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: MOSI, The Lowry, Delamere Forest, Chinese New Year Manchester






Places to see Santa in Manchester

Tracking down the big man with the beard in grotto’s around the region


There’s nothing quite like the look on a child’s face when they get to meet Santa. For some it will be joy, for others terror – beards can be very frightening.

Sometimes it can feel like Santa’s in more places than Harry Potter with an egg timer, so to make things a little bit easier we’ve rounded up our top places to visit Santa in and around Manchester this Christmas.


Chill Factore


Let your little ones have a magical experience meeting Santa Claus on real snow! At Santa’s Snow Grotto children can visit Santa any day in December up until Christmas Eve and can take part in a number of activities including sledging and tubing.


Santa at Chill Factore

Visit to find out more.


National Football Museum


As everyone knows, Santa is the merry manager of Lapland FC and as the one manager who looks forward to getting the sack, he’s eager to meet as many children as possible during December so he can give out lots of presents.


Grotto at National Football Museum

Visit to find out more.


Manchester Arndale


For only £4.50 children can visit the Santa’s Christmas Tree Star Grotto located in the Arndale’s Hallé Square and receive a magical present from the big man himself.

The grotto is open throughout the week and at weekends.


Manchester Arndale Grotto

Find out more here


House of Fraser, Deansgate, Manchester


The sixth floor of the Deansgate department store has been transformed into a winter wonderland where elves take children through to find Santa sitting by a fire in his living room.

It’s open from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 11am to 5pm on Sundays.

Entry costs £6 including a toy or you can treat yourself to breakfast with Santa too for £7.50. Photos cost £10.00.


Intu Trafford Centre


Britain’s only The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto can be found in Barton Square, complete with an experiential The Snowman and The Snowdog film sequence, gifts and activities, surrounded by all sorts of other festive fun and entertainment.


Trafford Centre Christmas Grotto

Visit to find out more


Cheshire Reindeer Lodge


It’s not every day that your kids get to meet a reindeer – never mind a whole farm of them! Not only can they pay Santa a visit at the all-weather grotto, but they can also get the chance to feed the reindeer and get their photo taken in a traditional sleigh.


Cheshire Reindeer Lodge Grotto

Discover more about the Lodge located next to Cheshire Oaks here:


East Lancashire Railways Santa Specials


Enjoy a festive family day out aboard the East Lancashire Railway between now and Christmas Eve.

Santa Special East Lancashire Railway


The Bury train station and train carriages will be beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and fairly lights making it the perfect setting for a magical adventure around Lancashire countryside.

Santa will make his way through the carriages saying hello to the children along with his team of Christmas fairies.


For prices and information follow this link:


Christmas Bricktacular LEGOLAND


Visit a Lego-built structure of Santa at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre as part of a festive tour which will include thousands of glittering lights and spectacular Christmas trees!

Information can be found at:


Breakfast and Tea with Father Christmas at Altrincham Garden Centre


Follow up a family breakfast or tea with Father Christmas with the ultimate personal shopping experience as your tots use Santa’s expertise to pick out their perfect present and finish with a gingerbread decorating master class. Bookings can be made at:


Zippy Santa in Albert Square


And finally – there’s always the ‘Zippy Santa’ who overlooks the Christmas Markets in Albert Square from his vantage point high above on the Town Hall!


Santa Santa on Manchester Town Hall Andy Hay flickr


If you know of a grotto or Santa opportunity that we’ve missed then please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Chill Factore, National Football Museum, Legoland Discovery Centre, Intu Trafford Centre, Cheshire Reindeer Lodge, Manchester Arndale, East Lancs Railway, Bart Fields Flickr Santa, Dryfish Flickr santa sleigh, Andy Hay Flickr santa in Manchester





Top 10 picnic spots

Child friendly picnics spots within easy reach of Manchester


We’ve got some more top tips for you from guest blogger Victoria. Today it’s our favourite picnic spots!


Over to you Victoria ……



Nothing beats a picnic in the park when the weather is glorious; an al fresco feast of freshly made sandwiches and homemade cakes, with nothing between you and the grass but the stereotypical tartan blanket.

Here in Manchester, picnic weather can be a bit of a rarity, so we’ve taken advantage of the hint of summer for another in our 10 days out series.


To make it that little bit easier for you, here are our top 10 picnic locations in the Manchester area.


Picnic Hamper


10. Tatton Park


Kicking off the list is Tatton Park. This beautiful park situated in Knutsford, Cheshire, is home to a historic Tudor Old Hall and hundreds of acres of beautiful gardens.


Tatton house


With an adventure playground and rare-breed farm it is the perfect environment for a picnic with the kids. The park itself actually hosts Summer Picnic Concerts among many other events. Find out more at:


9. Promenade Park


Promenade Park


In contrast, Promenade Park which opened in 2012 is quite the opposite. This urban style park is located in Trafford Wharf (opposite The Lowry) and certainly doesn’t boast acres of greenery.

It does however have ‘The Cube’ - a children’s play area, natural sun loungers made from curved grass banks, eating areas and two great sculptures to admire.


8. Clifton Country Park


Easily accessible from the A666 is Clifton Country Park on the outskirts of Salford. In addition to being the perfect setting for a picnic, there are other activities on offer such as fishing, bird watching and orienteering to keep the little ones entertained for hours.


7. Heaton Park


Heaton Park


Heading back to the city of Manchester now for a mention of Heaton Park- perhaps one of our favourites. Following your picnic, take advantage of all the park has to offer including the Animal Centre, orienteering, or enjoy a relaxing row across the boating lake.


6. Macclesfield Forest


Macclesfield Forest


Macclesfield Forest in Cheshire is home to an array of outdoor activities such as horse riding, walks, cycling and fishing. Settle down in the picnic area which is surrounded by beautiful forestry and four active magnificent reservoirs owned by United Utilities used to supply water to the people of Macclesfield.


5. Marbury Country Park


Take a historic trip through the ancient woodland of Marbury Country Park for our next destination before sitting down and enjoying a picnic amongst the acres of open parkland. This Cheshire located park also boasts a play area and hosts a range of events year round.


4. Platt Fields Park


The next picnic destination is situated in Rusholme’s Platt Fields Park. The park dates back to Edwardian times so it is full of history including a sunken Shakespearean garden and the more contemporary ‘eco-garden’ used to educate children.

Take advantage of the hilly gardens for the perfect picnic and follow it with a game of tennis or be more adventurous and have a go at BMX biking.


3. Daisy Nook Country Park


Daisy Nook


Take a trip to Daisy Nook Country Park in Failsworth for a great wildlife adventure. You will be spoilt for choice with over 40 hectares of greenery within the Medlock Valley to choose from to set your hamper down. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the foxes, owls, squirrels and woodpeckers!


2. Runway Visitor Centre


Runway Visitor Park Map


Our penultimate picnic experience is one with a difference as we head to Manchester Airport to the Runway Visitor Centre. Sit back and tuck into your picnic as you admire the planes taking off and end your day out with a tour of the famous BA Concorde!

Summer holiday prices start at just £5.00.



1. Wythenshaw Park


Wythenshawe Hall

Ending our top 10 is the magnificent Wythenshawe Park in South Manchester. The park which is home to three Grade 2 Listing Buildings has received Green Flag Awards in both 2011 and 2012 making it the perfect destination for the perfect picnic. Check out their events page to make the most of your day out.


We’re certainly keeping our fingers crossed for a rain-free time! There’s always a first for everything, right?!


Victoria x


Photographs: WickerfurnitureDavid Smethurst via Wikipedia, Mark Buchan Jones,


Other articles by Victoria:

Top 10 places to go and see animals

Top 10 family adventure days out














Kids Parties – Walton Park in Sale

Party in the park


Ideas for children’s parties can be tricky. However, we’ve found an absolute cracker. Guest blogger Cat hosted a kids party in Walton Park in Sale – which everyone agreed was a great success, due in no small part to the presence of ride-on-trains.


Walton Park Sale


Over to you Cat ……

Cat & Sam


As all Manchester Women with children over three will know, starting school brings with it a host of new dilemmas, worries and playground politics.

And that’s just for the grown ups.

Top of this list, in my book, is the once-humble birthday party.


When I was at primary school, 99% of parties took place at the house of the child in question, with a few close friends in attendance.

Guests would be treated to traditional party games like Musical Statues, Hunt the Thimble (which once memorably turned up in my granny’s ear) and Pass the Parcel, before tucking into a party tea followed by birthday cake.


Birthday tea


Anything other than this (such as a disco in the local community centre) was considered most exotic.

However, during the last 30 years, the plot has advanced considerably and these old-fashioned parties are rare. Nowadays, there are soft play centres.

Pro: everything gets done for you and you can chill out with coffee whilst your kids wear themselves out.

Con: this costs, particularly if you are inviting the whole class (see ‘party politics’ below).

There are entertainers – would-be Justin Fletchers who excel at amusing/terrifying your children.

There are gym parties, football parties, princess parties etc. etc.


If you’re more strapped for cash, there are church halls etc. up for hire.

Pro: stick a bouncy castle at one end and you can’t go wrong.

Con:  you actually have to do some work on the day – bring your own food, devise some entertainment etc – and the acoustics are deafening.


child eating sandwich


Then there is the party politics. 

Like I said above, in my day only your close friends were invited. These days, after about two weeks at school your child will start accumulating numerous invitations from various classmates of whose existence you had been previously unaware.

The whole class party isn’t a bad idea, particularly at the start when it’s a good way for kids to get to know and size up the people they will be cooped up with for the next seven years, but it brings with it a whole host of new dilemmas.

Do you now also have to invite the whole class?

If you don’t, will the non-invitees (or, more importantly, their mothers) be offended?

Do you risk making your child a pariah?

What happens when you’ve just decided to leave someone off the list and then get an invite from them?

How much do you actually spend on a child yours doesn’t know that well?

I try and stick to a strict £5-ish limit unless it’s a close friend, but inevitably on arrival at the party you will find a table groaning under the weight of presents twice the size of yours. It’s a minefield.


Which is why I was over the moon……


…… when I discovered a delightful miniature railway, Walton Park Trains, in a Sale park had started doing its own birthday ‘parties’ – unlimited rides on the little trains for two hours for only £35 – what was not to like?


Trains at Walton Park, Sale


Especially if you have a train-mad child like my Sam – I was sold.

So on a showery Saturday, we set up two  borrowed gazebos in the area next to the trains – convenient for:

a) watching them go past on the little trains,

b) watching Metrolink trams go past (though beware the combination of toddlers and canal)

c) small children’s playground right next door.


Star Wars birthday cake


We were accompanied by food, picnic blankets, a superb Star Wars cake and around 25 shrieking children. And we were wonderfully looked after by the kind train volunteers Ian, Roger and friends.


Trains Walton Park Sale.

Trains Walton Park Sale.

Trains Walton Park Sale


I don’t think Sam left the trains for more than a minute, except to blow out his candles, but for those who wanted a change, there was not only the nearby toddler playground, but a newly revamped bigger playground as well – what more could you want? (well, maybe the sun – but at least the rain held off).




I might add that most of the adults were difficult to prise away from the trains too, under the pretext that they needed to supervise the children.

All in all an amazing afternoon, and I feel it won’t be our last. In fact, I know it won’t, as we recommended it to another friend, and she’s booked it for September!


Finally, I mentioned the pros and cons of various other party options earlier on, so it’d be only right to do it for this too:


  • Bargain – so maybe a good option for those whole class parties!
  • Flexible – bring your own food and gazebos as we did, or be much more casual and suggest people bring picnics instead of presents, and you’ll supply cake.
  • Wow factor – the kids (and grown ups) were enchanted.
  • Lovely volunteers who really make it special for you.
  • Surrounded by playgrounds if you fancy a bit of a break.
  • Fantastic setting with ducks and trams to see too.



  • The great British summer.  But that’s a risk you have to take! You can always pack your wellies. And more gazebos.

For more information about the Walton Park trains, click here.


Cat x


Photographs: Alison Staples

Video: Walton Park Trains Video Library

Please note this blog was first published in July 2012.













Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Head to Neighbourhood in Spinningfields and fall down the rabbit hole


We all know Neighbourhood in Spinningfields as a Manhattan style cocktail bar and for it’s posh nosh! However, these canny folk have spotted a gap in the market – namely that there are very few child focused offerings in that part of the city centre.

So when an invitation arrived to their inaugural Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, I enlisted my top reviewer, two year old Martha and her mum Claire to thoroughly road test it!


Mad Hatters Tea Party


Now Martha, like many two year olds is pretty hard to impress! However:


Martha loved / Mummy loved


Martha loved getting prettied up in her party dress, new silver sequined party shoes and Mini Mouse hair clips and bobble. This is definitely a place for party frocks and best bib and tucker.

I have to say that Claire and I also loved the opportunity to swank it up a bit. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is without doubt an occasion. Especially as grown-ups can supplement it with a glass of fizz or a cocktail.


Dressing up at the Mad Hatters Tea Party




Martha loved the play corner, with it’s trunk of dressing up clothes and masks and Alice in Wonderland style croquet.

Claire loved the fact that there was a separate space for the children to play with each other. It was perfect for when sitting still got a bit much for a very sociable toddler.

Martha loved her little plate of sandwiches which she had all to herself, her special bottle of ‘Drink Me’ potion, the jelly beans and playing card chocolates.

Claire and I loved our afternoon tea which came on a lovely vintage style cake stand – along with a nice cup of tea (Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party Menu).


Alice in Wonderland Drink Me potion


Afternoon tea


Martha loved the fact that there were so many interesting things to look at, that she could sit up at the table with us like a big girl (though high chairs are available if you need them) and that the staff were so kind and friendly to her.

Claire and I loved the attention to detail. From the giant floating playing cards suspended from the ceiling, to the checkerboard table cloths, brightly coloured flowers in transparent teapots on the table, gorgeous china and napkins held fast by tiny ornamental toadstools. We really appreciated the effort they’d taken to turn the space into something rather special.


Mad Hatter's Tea Party Neighbourhood Spinningfields


But we all agreed that we loved Neighbourhood’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party because it worked on both a grown up and child level with something for everyone.


Mother and son


Oh yes …… and did I mention that Aljaž Skorjanec (Abbey Clancy’s professional partner on Strictly Come Dancing 2013) just happened to pop in! Now that’s what I call a  whole different kind of eye candy!




Mad Hatter’s Tea Parties are available at Neighbourhood 2.30pm till 5pm Monday to Friday.

For more information and to book visit


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Neighbourhood


Other related articles:

Cocktails at Neighbourhood – Spinningfields









Things to do February half term

Affordable family-friendly events to keep the kids entertained


Keeping the kids occupied during the school holidays can quickly become an expensive task. So we’ve asked our regular thrifty guest blogger Natalie to come up with some ideas to keep the kids happy without breaking the bank.


Over to you Natalie ……

Natalie Vincent B&W


With a simple trip to the cinema costing almost £30.00 for a family of four, and that’s before you include snacks and transport costs, Watch My Wallet has come up with some affordable and family-friendly events that you can take part in around Manchester this half term.




Spy Training Camp


The Imperial War Museum North is giving kids the chance to become a spy this February.

Home made binocularsThere are several workshops where your little ones can complete basic spy training (18th and 19th February 11.00am – 12.30pm and 2.00pm – 3.30pm), make binoculars or create their own spy ID.

There is also a Super Spy Laser Maze Challenge where youngsters can try to navigate their way across the room without crossing the beams (20th and 21st February 10.00 – 5.00pm).

Or you can follow animals on a mission (dates between 15th and 23rd February) and meet ‘Spy Pup’ (15th February).

All of these events are free to take part in and entrance to the museum is also free.



The Museum of Science and Industry


Learn how messy the Victorian times were with Goo in the Loo.

Goo in the Loo


This free 20 minute workshop promises to be ‘slippery, slimy and absolutely sludgetastic’.

It’s open to children over the age of eight and the Museum warns that little ones may need an adults help.



This workshop will run between the 15th of February and the 2nd March.

You can also check out Pablo Fanque’s Circus of Dreams where the children of the mill turn their grim reality into the colourful world of the circus in this fun and interactive storytelling session.

There is also a live brass band playing on weekends from 11.00am till 3.00pm.



Manchester Aquatics Centre

Child swimmer


Manchester residents under the age of 16 can swim for free during school holidays at Manchester Sports and Leisure Centres.

This is a great way to spend a rainy day and it can help get the kids interested in a fun form of exercise.

Adults pay a reasonable £3.10 to swim or you can buy a family swim session for £6.50.



The Lowry


The Lowry is showing two family-friendly performances of The Just So Stories on Sunday 23rd February.


Just So Stories


This show combines songs with four classic Rudyard Kipling stories that will keep the kids engaged and interested.

Tickets are limited but you can still buy them for £5.50.



Fun in the Snow


Chill Factore is a great place to take the kids if you’re looking for a special day out.

children skiing


The Snow Park is designed for younger children who can enjoy the mini-sledging track and carousel. There’s also plenty of real snow to make snow angels or start a snowball fight.

It’s only open to children under the age of four and a one hour pass costs £6.00 per child.


All children must be accompanied by an adult who will also need to pay a £6.00 entrance fee.

If you’ve got any top tips for thrifty trips out over half term, please leave us a comment.


Natalie x


Natalie Vincent is feature writer and social media manager for

Photographs: USAG-Humphreys via Creative Commons on Flickr, Alison Staples, MOSI, The Lowry.


Other articles by Natalie:

Improving your money habits

How to have a thrifty Christmas

Ideas for pre Christmas breaks

How to avoid big phone bills abroad

Free things to do – New York

Free things to do – United Arab Emirates





Spies, Disguise and Ways to Hide

Top Secret – half term fun at Imperial War Museum North


Pssst. Sneak over to IWM North this February half term to learn some Top Secret spy skills, take on a laser maze and meet the human and canine duo behind the Spy Dog children’s book series.

We went over to IWM North last week for a preview of some of the things that the museum has in store for us over half term.

The kids were captivated by tales of animal bravery and there was dressing up and binocular making to be had!


IWM North Kids activities


IWM North Kids activities


Dressing up horse


Half term week is full of free family activities is inspired by real life stories of wartime bravery and espionage.



Meet Spy Pup


Meet Spy Pup Star, the real life puppy who stars in the latest of the popular children’s Puffin Book Series Spy Dog and Spy Pups, along with author Andrew Cope.

Hear about Spy Dog’s latest adventures and find out what it takes to be a clever canine undercover.  Saturday 15th February, 2pm – 2.45pm and 2.45pm – 3.30pm. Learning Studio. Free, but booking is essential via or 0161 8364000.


Spy HQ


Check in at Spy HQ to create your own secret identity and receive your mission. Make your own Spy ID, invent a codename and complete your training to learn essential spy skills.


Super Spy Laser Maze


Stealth is one of the best weapons for a spy who wants to move around unseen.  Can you keep a cool head and think on your feet to take on the Super Spy Laser Maze challenge?

Test your patience and nerve to make your way across the course without crossing the beams. See if you can pass undetected to earn super spy status.


Open Studio: Code Breaking


In a time before mobile phones and wifi, sending information during wartime was a huge challenge, especially if messages contained important information that couldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Keep things strictly Top Secret and learn how to make and break your own codes to send those special messages undetected in Open Studio: Code Breaking  sessions.

Learn how important animals like dogs and pigeons were in carrying messages on land and even overseas. Discover fascinating objects on display like a dog messenger collar and a coded pigeon message from the First World War.


What a Performance


History comes to life in What A Performance live theatrical acts, inspired by the amazing bravery and cunning of women Special Operations Executives (SOE) during the Second World War.  Follow the dramatic story of an SOE agent parachuted into France undercover to report back on German military activity, inspired by the true story of Odette Hallows.


Explore the Main Exhibition Space


There’s also the main exhibition space to explore including the family friendly Action Stations.

This includes discovering the famous story of Oliver Philpot, who escaped a German prisoner of war camp in 1943 by digging a secret underground tunnel.  He found his way to Sweden and then made it back to Britain, by making a compass from materials he had found in the camp. His amazing compass can be seen on display alongside a hand decorated tie he made to disguise himself once outside of the camp.


Entry is free, donations welcome.

For dates, times and further information visit or connect with IWM North on or on twitter @I_W_M #IWMNorth



Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Alison Staples







Review – Caffeine & Co

The little café in Longford Park, Chorlton


I love it when established names try something a bit different. Longford Park is one of my favourite parks in Manchester – it’s got chickens – what can I say!

We sent our regular foodie blogger Elaine and photographer Jenny down to Chorlton to give this new (ish) venture the once over.


Over to you Elaine ……



It was a lovely sunny autumn day in Longford Park (quite a relief after the weekend downpours) so my stroll through to Caffeine & Co was colourful and very pleasant.

I also think the park must have the one of the highest squirrel to people ratios in the country.

They seem quite tame though and happy to run about while you walk by.


Outside & inside


The cafe is situated near the centre of the park next to the play area and has ample picnic benches outside and cute little extendable tables inside like the one my Nan had in her kitchen.


Caffine & Co Longford Park


Caffine & Co Longford Park




The interior is bright and homely with a large counter displaying the homemade cakes and sandwiches and with an open kitchen at the heart of the cafe behind.




As Jenny and I were looking at the sandwiches on offer the nice young man behind the counter suggested we try two of the new fillings; chicken in saffron mayonnaise for Jenny and ham hock with homemade chutney for me.


chicken in saffron mayonnaise sandwich


ham hock with homemade chutney sandwich


All the breads used by Caffeine & Co are from a local baking co-operative and the ciabatta our lunch was served on was lovely and crisp outside but fresh and soft inside.

The ham hock had been cooked on the bone the night before and was lightly salted; the chutney was sweet and slightly acidic and gave the filling an interesting little kick. The chicken and saffron mayonnaise was sweet but we thought it could handle a little more saffron as it was quite subtle.




To wash down our sandwiches I had a pot of Lancashire breakfast tea, it was nice to get a pot of loose leaf tea and big enough for at least three cups too! Jenny had a glass of homemade raspberry lemonade, made with raspberries from their allotment.


Bags of tea




Keeping with the homemade theme we moved on to cake.

First up a firm favourite of mine Lemon Drizzle, soft moist sponge topped with a crunchy, zesty, zingy sugar crust.


Lemon Drizzle Cake


Our favourite however was the Chocolate Orange and Almond cake. Jenny hit the nail on the head calling it a “giant Jaffa Cake” it was topped with rich dark chocolate but the almond sponge was lovely and light.


Chocolate Orange & Almond Cake


It was good to see such a focus on local and homemade, and the café is clearly very popular – we saw families with children coming in throughout our visit.

If you live locally it would be part of a great family day out to the park, for those of us a little further afield there is also a Caffeine & Co in St James’ Square and a larger version due to open in Spinningfields aswell.


4MCRWomen's Caffine and Co Longford Park album on Photobucket



Caffeine & Co: Longford Park Bungalow, Longford Park, Manchester, M32 8DA

Tel: 07787 118578



Twitter: @caffineiandco


 Elaine & Jenny x


Photographs: McAvoy Photography



Other restaurant & café reviews:

Manchester Food & Drink Festival preview

Room Restaurant – City Centre

Didsbury Lounge – Didsbury

Salvis – Exchange Square, Manchester City Centre

The Parlour – Beech Road, Chorlton

Linen – Manchester 235

The Angel – Northern Quarter

Stock Restaurant – Manchester City Centre

The Oxnoble – Potato Wharf

Etrop Grange – Manchester Airport

Thomas Restaurant – Northern Quarter

Saffran – Trafford Centre

The Blue Pig – Northern Quarter

Yang Sing – China Town












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