Riding the Slide at the Arcelormittal Orbit Stratford

The Arcelormittal Orbit was designed by sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond and was erected back in 2012 just in time for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture, 80m high above the Olympic Park and 60% made from recycled steel offers extraordinary 20- mile views of London skyline.

This fantastic piece of art is impressive and moving. It is part of the Olympic legacy that transformed East London. I remember back in 2012 when the Olympics changed the area and the people within it. The Olympic Park is now used every day by visitors from all over; people out cycling or going for walks, families picnicking on the grass, children running around and playing in the many parks and couples out for romantic walks along the canal.

Everytime I see this amazing structure it brings back memories of the unity we shared back in 2012 and how well our olympic teamed performed.

The sculpture is a physical embodiment of the spirit of East London.

A few weeks we visited the Orbit not only for the incredible panoramic views across London but also to ride the world’s tallest and longest slide.

The visit starts at the bottom of the Arcelormittal Orbit where you get to stand directly underneath and look up at the twisting red lattice framed iconic structure. This in itself is a wow moment. 

We took the lift up to the viewing platform where we spent some time looking out across at London’s skyline, pointing out buildings that we recognised. The youngest was pretty impressed with the Olympic Stadium where Westham were playing at home. We knew they had scored when the crowd erupted in a loud cheer.

When you book your tickets you have to hope for a clear day. Unfortunately we had previously visited the orbit on a rainy day and didn’t get to see half of what you can on a clear bright day

There are interactive touch screens on the viewing platform that tell the story of the Orbit and the park and they also give you information on the surrounding area. They tell the story of the Orbit. The polished concave mirrors that are on either side of the platform play with your perspective and turn the horizon on its head.

The level below the viewing platform is where you get to ride the slide.

Kitted out with a helmet and arm protectors you join the queue ready to watch a short video about how to ride the slide. Once inside the mat, you grab the sides of the chute and you push yourself down the slide.

From top to bottom descending 76 meters it takes just 40 seconds.  Reaching up to 15 miles/hr (24 km/hr), the slide loops it’s way around the sculpture 12 times. At times you are in darkness and then you see a flash of daylight where the top of the slide is covered in plastic. Or, in complete darkness if you have your eyes closed for the whole 40 seconds it takes from top to bottom.

The slide ends with a straight drop and before you know it you’re seeing  daylight again

 

You would expect to come out the bottom at speed but you slow right down as you exit.

Once down at the bottom you can go back up to the viewing platform again or if you are us, just to take the steps down.

 

Once finished on the viewing platform, you can take the lift back down the ground level or go down the 455 steps. Yes, we counted them! As you walk down the steel stairs you are treated to the sounds of London echoing around you coming from a specially designed soundscape soundtrack.

My boys give this experience a huge adrenaline pumped thumbs up

There is a height and age limit to the slide, you can find out all of the information on there website.

 

 

 

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Fake News Is Top Of The Class At Madame Tussauds London

After being at the forefront of popular and celebrity culture for more than 250 years, Madame Tussauds London has launched a new programme to support and educate students about fake news.

 

The ‘Fake News and the Media’ school lesson is part of Merlin Entertainments new ‘Today’s Lesson Will Be…’ educational programme that is being rolled out across the company’s London attractions. Created in collaboration with education specialist SHAPES for Schools this new lesson is linked to PSHE and the English national curriculum and is targeted at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 students aged between 9 – 13 years old.

Taking place inside the world famous attraction on Baker Street, which boasts A-list celebrity figures such as Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian, the ‘Fake News and the Media’ lesson has been created as a reaction to the current issues around the distortion and misuse of false information and the influence it is having on young people’s choices.

 

As the lines continue to blur between what is a real news story and what is false, the interactive lessons will provide teachers and their students with the essential skills to navigate the news agenda safely online and across social media.

‘Today’s Lesson will be…’

Delivered by Madame Tussauds performers, the ‘Fake News and the Media’ lesson will lead students through a critique of how the media presents news whilst also analysing the difference between rumour, spin, satire and false information.

Lessons will include

  • Structured discussion around modern celebrity culture and the media, and how the two are linked.
  • Working in groups to categories news stories according to different criteria, including: how the news was shared; who wrote it, text and images, and the emotive impact on the reader.
  • A group-based definition of ‘fake news’ and other key terminology.
  • A game in which pupils try to identify their classmates’ real stories from their fake ones.

Joanne Channon, Education Manager at Merlin Entertainments, said:

“The dissemination of false information through the media both online and across social media can be incredibly confusing and challenging for young people. Out of the classroom learning is proven to be highly effective in helping to stimulate young minds while boosting student’s social skills such as confidence, creativity and communication. We believe our new workshop will inspire students this academic year and we hope it will have a positive impact on how they interact with modern media in the future.”

The fake news workshop helps children to stretch their literacy skills. They will learn how to identify different types of media, it’s purpose and to understand the concept of ‘fake news and how it impacts on modern audiences. Children will analyse a variety of news stories and by picking out textual evidence to back up their decisions they will learn how to assess whether they think the story is real or fake.

Learning outside of the classroom can lead to a deeper understanding of the subjects being taught by bringing it to life. It can help to inspire and reignite enthusiasm for learning. Hands on learning will also enhance a child’s personal and social communication skills by encouraging communication and increases engagement with in the subject.

The new ‘Fake News and the Media’ lesson can be booked as part of Madame Tussauds London’s schools package. This includes such benefits as a 40% saving on tickets and free Teacher Resource Packs. For more information please visit www.madametussauds.com/education

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Harry Potter Goblet of Fire at WB Studio Tour

The Warner Bros Studio Tour recently invited us along to witness the new additional special feature to the Making of Harry Potter. The tour has launched behind the scenes secrets to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the special feature is dedicated entirely to the fourth instalment of the film.

The Goblet of Fire has not been in the Great Hall since 2010, when the filming of the magical film finished, it has now returned to it rightful place and will be there for everyone to witness from now until Sunday 23rd September 2018.

Harry Potter has always been a huge thing for me, reading all the books and then watching the films. I remember thinking how I couldn’t wait to read the books to my first-born 15 years ago and hopefully share the excitement and love I had for the characters. Harry potter is one of those books that you can read again and again. Both my eldest and middle boy have read all of the books and, along with me, have been drawn into the exciting world Of Harry Potter.

As you first arrive into Warner Brothers tour you will see the Triwizard Cup on display, just as you are queuing up to enter.

 

When you first buy your ticket to the tour you can choose the time to enter. Everyone gathers around the entrance and you are all taken into a room with tvs mounted on the walls all around you. Here you get to watch short clips of how Pottermania began and the history of the making of the films. An interactor – a member of staff who knows a hell of a lot about Harry Potter- gives a short talk about what to expect to see throughout the tour, they also get you all into the mood by asking what house everyone belongs to. Everyone cheers when your house is called. Once this is over, you are all moved along into a cinema screening room where you watch another short clip where the actors share some of their memories of making the films. Once this is finished the screen is pulled up and behind it a big curtain is drawn open and the lights go on to reveal a huge impressive door. People whose birthday it is are shared to open the great big door. As soon as that door opens, everyone’s mouths are agape as this is the start of something special. You enter into the Great Hall, and Great it is! It is amazing and such a dramatic entrance. You quickly realise what magical, truly magnificence you are about to see.

The Great Hall was where the students and teachers dine and congregate is was also the place where the announcement of the Triwizard tournament took place.

Standing at the end of this impressive room was the Goblet of Fire, along with the age line and the twins on the floor.

Here we got see a live Special Effects demonstration on how the Triwizard Champions’ parchments were expelled from the Goblet. We watched as the Goblet spat out Harry’s name on a piece of burning parchment as the fourth champion in the triwizard tournament.

We was all told to stand around the age line drawn on the floor, obviously there is always one person who tries their luck. Just like the Weasley twins, my Oliver attempted to cross the line but I caught him just in time.

You are in the Great Hall for a short time but this is where you can head of on your own and go at your own speed throughout the rest of the tour. As you leave the Great Hall and head on into the first backlot you can grab a souvenir parchment to keep for yourself.

The first backlot is full of props and costumes from the set. Here we got to see the sculpture from the Yule Ball

along with the iconic taps from the Prefect Bathroom. On the advice from Cedric Diggory, Harry took a trip here in order to complete the first challenge. These taps have 53 spouts, cast in real bronze for strength and durability, they expel a rainbow of coloured water just as they did in the film.

They really are mesmerizing, we stood for a while just watching the water spurt out of the taps.

Every part of this tour is breath-taking, from the golden eggs to the costumes and props from the films.

It’s hard to know what was new for the tour and what was there previously. There are so many things to look at that I am sure we missed so many items. By the time the production of Harry Potter had finished in 2011, five warehouses had been filled with thousands of props that had been used by the actors and as set decoration. Thousands of props were either made specifically for the films or bought in from speciality shops, including 5000 pieces of furniture, 12000 books and 40000 Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products. Most of these can be seen in the tour.

The sets in the tour feel so real, It’s like you have been transported into the film yourself.

Tom Riddles grave is now in the studio tour just before the Forbidden Forest entrance in order for everyone to get a 360 tour of it. The sculpture was created before the details of Voldemort’s lineage were known meaning the dates had to be changed in post production.

One of my favourite places to see was Dumbledores office. Here we got to see Dumbledores fascination with the universe and the skies, tucked away in the upper chamber is his largest telescope.

We also got to see the Memory cabinet and the pensieve in action. Because it carries powerful and complex enchantments only the most advanced wizards can use it. obviously, that includes us!

Before we headed on into the Forbidden Forest we thought it would be best if the boys received some basic wand training. They were taken through step by step by a video of Paul Harris, the choreographer of the battle scenes in the film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

They were now ready to face any mystical creature that we come across in the Dark Forest. As we headed through the towering trees we came across Buckbeak and Aragog

I am pleased to announce that we made it through the forest unscathed and ready to jump on to the Hogwarts Express

We had so much fun here. Most of the scenes that took place on Platform 9 3/4 were actually shot on location at Kings Cross Station in London.

We boarded the train and took our seat in one of the carriages ready to embark on a journey

During the making of the films, the windows of the carriages were replaced with moving backdrops and special effects like hopping frogs and flying dementors.

When the glass goes all icy you just know what is going to happen next.

Oh dear! My poor little wizard was very scared!

After all that excitement it was time for a spot of refreshments next to the Backlot. After eating our food the boys were treated to a Butterbear

I must admit this wasn’t very nice. I know many people who have enjoyed this beverage but we found it way too sweet for our taste buds.

The next part of the tour took us past the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, Hogwarts Bridge and any other buildings and items that were used in the outside scenes of the films.

Only one section of the Hogwarts Bridge was very built; using computer generated effects the rest of the bridge was created.

As we exited the Backlot and entered another studio this is where we came learnt all about the magical creatures, special effects, make up and prosthetics. It was lovely to see how Dobby was created and you even get to control him by moving your own limbs.

Pass through special effects area and you enter Diagon Alley.

The original design of the street was inspired from the streets described in the works of Charles Dickens. Diagon Alley constantly changed throughout the films, moving shops fronts and walls in order to create the perfect setting and was even redressed for use in the village of Hogsmeade.

We even spotted a dementor hiding down one of the alleys ready to jump out on us, lucky for us we had our wands with us and sent them packing.

We were nearing the end of our tour and didn’t think our smiles could get any bigger but as we entered the last room we were completely in awe at the majestic model of Hogwarts Castle. The intricately detailed model was built for the first film, every part of the model was filmed and then enhanced with digital effects to create the realistic views of the school.

This place is amazing! I could just sit and stare all day long at this model, it is a magnificent piece of art work. Detail is second to none, which is what we thought throughout the tour on every singe item we saw.

The castle has a new addition just for the Goblet of Fire exhibit; a scale version of the Beauxbatons carriage complete with winged horses poised to land on the Hogwarts grounds for the first time ahead of the Triwizard championship.

There are interactive screens around that give you more information on the building of the model.

Exiting the Hogwarts Castle you enter the wand room and gift shop. This is where we saw the triwizard cup.

We had an awesome time and could go back again and again as I do believe there are so many more incredible things to look at. We definitely did pursue an adventure.

We were invited along to a special preview of the Goblet of Fire exhibit. We were provided with tickets, food and had a photo opportunity. No payment has been received.

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Mind The Gap – Travelling on the tube with children

Travelling on the underground in London can be daunting for any adult who has never done it before. It can also be very stressful, especially during the busy rush hour, but it needn’t be if you prepare your self.

Living on the outskirts of London means that we travel into London a lot of times. Sometimes we go after school during the week to get to auditions and other times we travel on a weekend just for a day out. We are so used to travelling during the rush hour that it just seems natural to us. There are some stations and routes that we will avoid at the busy times, which may mean walking through the streets to get to the next station  but they are never that far away from each other.

Travelling with a baby or young children across London can be every adults nightmare, It can also be very challenging but it is definitely possible and enjoyable.

Here are some of our tips on travelling with children on the underground

  • Grab your self and Oyster card or if you can use your phone or bank card if cantactless is set up on it.

-Children under 11 travel free on the tube, overground, DLR , TFL rail and buses if they have a 5-10 Zip or travelling with an adult (under 5 travel free)

-Children aged 11-15 can travel with a Zip oyster photocard. They travel for free on buses and trams and get a reduced rate on all other TFL service

-If you’re visiting London and travelling with children aged 11-15 who haven’t got a Zip Oyster photo card, you can still benefit from reduced rate travel for them. You can get a discount set on an Oyster or Visitor Oyster card that will allow them to pay as you go at half adult-rate for up to 14 days.

Apply for these cards online prior to visiting

  • Remember always to tap in and out at the stations on the yellow card reader with your card. If you manage to walk through a barrier without tapping out after your journey, you will be charged the maximum fare
  • Plan your route. Take a look at the underground map online or download an app. We find the app to be very useful, not only does it tell you if there are any delays on any of the routes but it also plans your route for you and tells you how long each journey will be.
  • Grab a map at the station and give to your child to look at and study. When on the train tell them your destination and see if they can work out the route.
  • Try to avoid travelling during rush hour. With commuters moving around the city, expect the trains and stations to be overcrowded between 07:30 and09:30 in the morning and between 17:00 and 19:00 in the evening. This said, I have also found some stations on particular routes in zone 1 to start getting busy at 4.30.
  • When travelling with babies, try taking a light fold away buggy/stroller or use a sling. It will make your trip a lot more easier
  • Be prepared to walk up lots of stairs. There are also lots of escalators to use.
  • When using the escalator stand on the right as people walk up on them on the left. Keep young children in front of you.
  • Take a look on the map for step free access stations. Sometimes its easier to travel to your destination by using the nearest step free station and walking the rest
  • If you are travelling with more than one child, tell them that as soon as you get off of the train and on to the platform to wait against the wall. Platforms can become extremely busy. You don’t want to be dragged along with the crowd not knowing what direction you actually want to go. We always wait against the wall and then look for the way out sign or where to go for the next line.
  • I know it’s scary but I have always told my children that IF they ever get left on the train to get off at the next station and wait on the platform against the wall for me to get them. I also tell them that if they get off of the train without me to wait on that platform and I will come back for them. This has never happened to us, but the trains do get very busy and sometimes a small child could become disoriented within a crowd of people.
  • Tell your children to always wait behind the yellow line until the train has stopped.
  • If there are two adults when travelling, always have one at the front and one at the back when walking through the stations and even through London streets. Think of a sandwich, keeping the children in the middle. I travel with my three children, who are now 15, 10 and 6. It is always me first and my eldest last.
  • Walk around London from one station to the next, instead of going by tube. For example; although travelling from Oxford Circus to Piccardilly Circus can take a few minutes on the train, it does only take 11 minutes by foot. Think of all those lovely shops and building that you will see.
  • Carry water with you. The trains can become stuffy and hot, especially in the summer. Also have a snack in your bag.
  • If you are going to be on the train for a while, play some games with them to keep them occupied. We like to play the station alphabet game or I-Spy
  • When standing on the platform waiting for the train to approach, wave to the driver. they always wave back and the children love it.
  • Use the wider ticket barriers, they will have much more room for the family to get through. They are marked with a blue wheelchair symbol and normally have an attendant close by.

Remember where ever you go in London; on bus, tram, tube or river boat to enjoy your self. Have a great trip and Mind the Gap!

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Bungee Jump Experience – The Ultimate Rush for a Teenager

Bungee Jump – The ultimate energy rush, the perfect gift for any daredevil and thrill seeker.

My eldest son is 15 and buying gifts for him is becoming harder every year, although he is very easily pleased and doesn’t really ask for much. I wouldn’t say that he is a daredevil but he certainly likes to experience the wild side.

Leaping 160 ft from a crane, watching the ground rush towards you at a speed of 60mph, attached to nothing but a bungee cord, isn’t really something that I would fancy doing but for a young teenager it’s certainly a very attractive activity. There are no special skills needed, just courage.

I booked him onto a 160ft jump from a crane that is set up near to the 02, London. This isn’t far for us to travel to and is an ideal spot for some lunch after or just a stroll along the River Thames.

We arrived in good time for him to be fully briefed by one of the experienced instructors, before being kitted up and securely fastened into the bungee cord.

He sat in line and watched the previous jumpers leap to the floor. Getting more nervous as he moved along the chairs, getting closer to his turn.

It was a lovely day, the sun was shining and it was a clear blue sky, perfect for us to watch and for him to jump in.

It wasn’t long and it was his turn.

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He was taken up to the top of the crane in cage and once at the top it was seconds before the cage door opened and out he fell, plummeting to the ground only to bounce back up again, dangling by his feet. I half expected to hear him scream, but he was very reserved and held it all back, Or maybe the force of the air in his mouth stopped him from making a sound.

Once he was lowered to the ground he was taken by the shoulders and guided to a mat on the floor where he was taken out of his cord by two instructors.

 

Jak says: “I was pretty nervous, even though I knew that nothing could happen to me I was still anxious about the experience and what to expect. The view from the cage at the top of the crane was amazing, but I didn’t get to look at it for long as I was soon guided over to the edge. I was told to stand still and put my arms directly out in front of me at 90 degree angle. They counted down from 3 and gently pushed me from the edge. I was told not grab anything as I fell from the edge of the cage. As I fell to the floor, it felt like  I was staying still and the ground was moving up towards me, however the feeling of falling was still there. I think the best part of the jump was seeing the 02 upside down. I almost felt like my heart had stopped until the moment I was pulled back up by the cord. It was an experience not to forget. I had a blast and almost wished that it had lasted longer.”

It was the perfect gift for him and I was so proud that he approached the experience with such maturity and gallant.

Jak gives the day a big thumbs up

I booked the bungee jump through Buyagift costing £59, the minimum age of the jumper is 14.

Photos courtesy of Bungee UK

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