Sunset and starlight for spectacular end of summer celebrations at Warwick Castle

Sunset and starlight for spectacular end of summer celebrations at Warwick Castle

To mark the end of an extraordinary summer, a five-night extravaganza at Warwick Castle announces the arrival of the new Sundown Spectacular celebrating the Biggest Summer in History at the famous Castle.

Warwick Castle, Sundown SpectacularLive bands, DJs, unique bars and street food courtesy of the Digbeth Dining Club, one of the UK’s leading operators, in the unique confined atmosphere of the castle grounds will be providing the perfect backdrop for this fun-filled festival. As the sun disappears, visitors will be able to marvel as the castle comes to life under the stars with stunning state-of-the-art projection mapping and unmissable lighting illuminating the towers. Each evening will end with an amazing fireworks finale.

From Thursday (26th) to Monday (3oth August) the Castle will come alive after dark with a festival vibe for the ultimate end-of-summer celebration. Tickets priced at just £25 can be booked online.

Commenting on this new exciting event for 2021, Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director at Warwick Castle, said: “After the trials and tribulations of the last 18 months, we wanted to celebrate everything Warwick Castle, its staff and guests have achieved this year, marking the end of a significant period in the Castle’s history with a Sundown Spectacular – providing an experience that will truly resonate with our regular visitors and attract first-timers to take a closer look at the fantastic ambiance the Castle creates as the sun sets over our historic site.

“We are excited to activate this new event in 2021 and will make sure it will be an evening to remember for everyone.”

To book visit here

Local solicitors’ firm goes extra mile(s) for domestic abuse charity

Local solicitors’ firm goes extra mile(s) for domestic abuse charity

A local solicitors’ firm has gone that extra mile to help a domestic abuse charity in Coventry rise to the challenges of the pandemic.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk
Some of the walkers before setting off from the Alsters Kelley Coventry office.

Staff and friends of Coventry & Warwickshire law firm, Alsters Kelley Solicitors Ltd raised £775 by walking a 10-mile route between two of their offices in Coventry and Leamington.

The challenge is a welcome boost for Coventry Haven Women’s Aid. The charity, which marks its 50th anniversary next year, has seen a sharp rise in the number of calls post-pandemic as more women experiencing any form of domestic violence and abuse seek their services and support.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk, Jaime Richards

Jaime Richards, Development & Funding Officer from Coventry Haven, pictured right, said: “We were extremely concerned about lockdown and knew it would significantly reduce the safe space for victims to be able to reach support; victims became invisible literally overnight.

“We worked hard to ensure women knew that they could still leave throughout lockdown, including TV and radio campaigns, and we delivered our posters to supermarkets, local shops and chemists.

“We saw an increase in third party contacts discussing concerns with friend, family and neighbours, and we delivered various online training sessions to employers and managers around how to recognise signs and deal with any disclosures.

“As expected, as lockdown started to ease, we saw a huge increase of helpline calls and referrals into service and this has remained consistently high throughout the last 18 months. All our services remained open throughout including our three refuges, and the refuge team were there to support our residents through such unprecedented and uncertain times.”

She added: “The last 18 months have been so difficult for everyone and in particular the charity sector, so we are very grateful for Vicky and the team at Alsters Kelley for their ongoing support this year and for all the funds raised by the charity walk.

Coventry Haven is just one of the nominated charities being supported by Alsters Kelley, which was established in the 1980s and now has offices in Coventry, Leamington, Southam, Stratford and Nuneaton.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk

Vicky Smith, Conveyancing Assistant and one of the firm’s charity champions who organised the walk, said: “We had a great day – there were about a dozen of us who took part plus children and a dog! The weather was perfect for walking that distance and as well as raising a great amount of money for Coventry Haven it was also an opportunity for us to see colleagues that we haven’t seen for such a long time.”


Donations can still be made at:

Jaime Richards added: “We support women and children through all types of abuse; we listen, we believe and do not judge, and we aim to empower victims to live a life free from fear.”

Further information about Coventry Haven can be found here

Further information about Alsters Kelley’s services can be found here

Choir of Man strikes perfect chord (Review)

Choir of Man strikes perfect chord (Review)

Coventry’s pop-up Assembly Festival Garden venue is the gift that keeps on giving as part of the UK City of Culture programme.

And one of the bill’s real highlights is The Choir of Man, which makes its debut in England after international acclaim – acclaim, by the way, that’s well deserved.

Choir of Man, Assembly Festival Garden, Coventry City of Culture

Cue 60 minutes of unadulterated entertainment combining high-energy dance, foot stomping choreography and incredible vocal talent from a nine-strong crew of, self-described ‘ordinary guys.’

But there’s absolutely nothing ordinary about this experience.

The Queen of Flanders spiegeltent is the perfect intimate setting for this contemporary and immersive show that is set up as a traditional pub with the audience very much at its heart.

On entering the magnificent tent, you are invited to (quite literally) drink in the pub party atmosphere – on stage there’s a real working bar from which the cast serve pints of lager to the audience! We immediately know this is going to be a unique and memorable theatrical experience – and it didn’t disappoint.

But don’t be fooled by the frivolity of the setting. There is an abundance of musical talent on display. I was left in awe at some of the best vocal and instrumental performances I’ve witnessed in some time. (And not just because of the pandemic!)

Performing everything from sing-along classics and rock to folk, choral and even acapella, this is a whirlwind of a show which has everyone on their feet – and there’s a cheeky sprinkling of comedy throughout.

The Choir of Man is the perfect tonic after the past 18 months. What better way to celebrate the return of live theatre than this? Make this pub your new ‘local’ while you can because last orders are being called on September 19th.

Choir of Man, Assembly Festival Garden, Coventry City of Culture

A simply joyous and uplifting show for all ages and exactly what we all needed. So a hearty ‘cheers’ to that!

If you book just one ticket the rest of this summer – make it this one! Visit:

Read my review of Circolombia here

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Review)

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Review)

Just a few weeks after waving off my eldest to his new temporary home in Portsmouth (where he is embarking on a university work placement), we followed him down for a long weekend.

With early positive reports reaching us of this previously unexplored Hampshire island city, it was definitely the perfect excuse to experience it properly as a family for the first time.

It was an opportunity to appreciate Portsmouth at its most authentic – through its rich maritime history. No better place to start then than at The Historic Dockyard area, where the history of the British Navy dates back 1,200 years to its earliest days under King Alfred the Great in the 860s.

This is the first of a three-part blog, in which I review most of the Portsmouth and The Dockyard’s 12 museums and attractions, all of which can be enjoyed throughout the year with a great value Ultimate Explorer Ticket.

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
The preserved remains of the Mary Rose take spectacular centre stage in the museum.

The Mary Rose

History: The flagship of Henry VIII, it served in his fleet for 34 years before sinking during the Battle of the Solent in 1545, with the king watching from nearby Southsea Castle.

The Museum: Her remains, which were raised in 1982, are now on display along with thousands of the original objects recovered alongside the ship, giving a unique and moving insight into life in Tudor England. She is the only ship of her kind on display anywhere in the world. The Museum tells the stories of the 500 men who lived, worked and died on-board. With some 19,000 artefacts on display, recovered from the seabed in one of the most challenging archaeological excavations of all time. You can even listen to the sounds of the past, smell real Tudor smells and see the ship brought to life with cutting-edge technology telling the emotionally compelling stories of what life was like on-board when she sank in the Solent in 1545.

What’s New: This summer visitors can re-live the final moments on board the Mary Rose as it sinks during the Battle of the Solent on 19th July 1545 in the Mary Rose 1545 Experience. Step back in time to hear from King Henry VIII and the crew of Britain’s most famous shipwreck and even experience the immersive Tudor warship sinking. Don’t worry – no sea sickness tablets required!

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
The new Mary Rose 1545 Experience

My verdict: This impressive museum certainly does what it says on the tin and is packed to the rafters with thousands of genuinely fascinating artefacts through which we get a glimpse into everyday Tudor life. The new interactive experience is a great addition, especially for families and immediately engages the visitor. It’s easy to see why this museum has won awards and definitely takes centre stage in the Dockyard.


HMS Victory, The National Museum of The Royal Navy, The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum

HMS Victory and Gallery

History: The Royal Navy’s most famous warship, best known as Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.

What’s New: Opened in May, HMS Victory: The Nation’s Flagship exhibition retells the extraordinary story and lesser-known history of the oldest naval ship still in commission in the world. The gallery at the neighbouring National Museum of the Royal Navy, displays previously unseen objects from the ship including a section of HMS Victory mainmast, damaged at the Battle of Trafalgar and displayed in Portsmouth for the first time. Through a mixture of large format cinematic film, interactives, newly displayed and previously unseen artefacts including a shot-damaged section of original Victory mast from the Battle of Trafalgar and a spectacular ten-foot-tall, 200-year-old figurehead, it charts her decline and rescue in the 1920s by the Society of Nautical Research (SNR) and the dramatic events when she could have been permanently lost to the nation.

This enhanced visitor offer also includes a self-guided audio tour of the ship and a dedicated walkway to take you down into the dry dock to view the hull of the enormous 3,600-tonne ship.

Battle of Trafalgar, HMS Victory, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Wyllie’s The Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Victory Gallery.

My Verdict: The new gallery is a fabulous addition to the all-round HMS Victory experience. Nothing quite beats standing in the ship directly in front of the spot, marked by a plaque, where Lord Admiral Nelson fell. Being part of the bowels of history in this way is both mystical and magical. And I highly recommend tuning in to the new audio tour which really helps bring the stories to life. A personal highlight from my Dockyard experience so far.


HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
HMS Warrior upper deck

HMS Warrior 1860

History: The largest and fastest of all Royal Navy ships, HMS Warrior is Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship and the newest member of the National Museum of The Royal Navy’s fleet. Launched in 1860, at a time of empire and Britain’s dominance in trade and industry, HMS Warrior 1860 was the pride of Queen Victoria’s fleet.

The Museum: Warrior has undergone a re-interpretation, reflecting what she was like in 1863 by opening up new areas of the ship and bringing stories from the period to life. With every room you discover and every object you hold, you immerse yourself in a time gone by. Whether you meet a gunner getting ready for battle or a Victorian tourist who’s wowed by the ship’s beauty, history is brought to life like never before. Her story is also told through characters that lived, breathed and worked during the Tour of Britain thanks to the Dockyard Alive team.

What’s New: New spaces including the captain’s cabin and galley have been reinterpreted to reflect how it was 156-years ago. Authentic set dressing you can touch transports you to another time when the grandeur of Queen Victoria’s favourite ship ruled the waves.

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
First stop was HMS Warrior

My Verdict: A fascinating experience, not dissimilar to the HMS Victory one, and worth including on your Dockyard museum itinerary, but if you want to visit it’s one to prioritise as it closes for the winter season at the end of October.


Harbour Tour, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum

Harbour Tour

What to Expect: On the 45-minute Harbour Tour you can expect to see many of the fortifications that were built to protect Portsmouth over the centuries, in particular the Round Tower at the harbour entrance and the Solent forts which formed the centre of a string of fortifications along the coast during the Napoleonic Wars. This wide natural inlet in the coastline is a flooded river valley protected by a deep narrow entrance on two sides of the dockyard, here and at Gosport, which makes an ideal harbour.

Harbour Tours, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
Interesting Naval history made up a major part of the Harbour Tour commentary.

My Verdict: Fascinating insight whether or not you’re a maritime or naval enthusiast. There’s lots to learn and even more to see, including unrivalled views of modern frigates, destroyers and helicopter carriers, as well as historic buildings and the dramatic skyline. We’re appreciating this city from its most unique and beautiful vantage point – and there’s even the opportunity to alight at Gunwharf Quays for designer shopping and entertainment. (Also a must-visit on any trip to Portsmouth.) Worth making time for ships AND shops!

NB: The Harbour Tours operate hourly throughout the summer but are weather-dependant so it’s important to keep a check on their up-to-date timetable.

Visit: Harbour Tours (

Read second part of my Portsmouth Review here

Circolombia: Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride (Review)

Circolombia: Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride (Review)


Circolombia, Coventry City of Culture, Festival Garden

In case it had escaped your notice (where have you been?!) there’s a lot going on as part of City of Culture in Coventry these days.

And, for the large part, the focus is on the city’s Festival Garden currently dominated by the world’s largest spiegeltent, where a host of exciting entertainment is unfolding daily.

As you approach the stunning double-decker Queen of Flanders (the flagship venue, supported by the pint-sized Piccolo spiegeltent and the Treehouse performance space) it’s instantly apparent you’re in for a treat.

This is the epicentre of a scintillating programme of shows throughout the summer, including comedy, circus, cabaret, music and more. And it’s here that last night we were introduced to the phenomena that is. . . Circolombia.

Jaw-dropping has never a more apt description. Indeed two members of this high-energy modern circus troupe can, in one act, quite literally be seen to be hanging by their teeth!

Transporting us to the streets of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, this hour-long emotional rollercoaster will leave you feeling exhausted – in a good way. Whether it’s marvelling at the acrobat who is balancing a huge metal ring on his forehead while a gymnast coils herself into geometric shapes around it – or watching in awe the man hoisted by just a rope tied across the back of his neck as another performer clings to his legs – you’ll find yourself spellbound throughout.

What makes this show extra special is the intimacy of this beautiful venue. Bag yourself a front row seat if you can to really feel like part of the action. – Although, at times, one can’t help but find themselves tensing in readiness for the arrival of an errant acrobat on your lap!

Columbian carnival beats help the show to keep skipping along at high-octane pace, with some stunning vocals to enjoy into the bargain.

But it’s undoubtedly Circolombia’s nerve-jangling and mind-blowing stunts that have us mesmerized.

If you’re still carefully planning your return to the live entertainment scene post-lockdown, there couldn’t be a better place to start than this talented troupe of acrobats and contortionists who will blast those cobwebs away.


Welcome to Circolombia and Coventry City of Culture. Grab a front row seat, buckle in and enjoy the ride. . .

Tickets cost from £15 and are available from:

Review The Choir of Man here