Places To Go, theatre, Things To Do

Shows in 2023

This ended up as rather a long section in my Christmas Gift Guide so this is a little off shoot. I’ll keep adding highlights as and when I stumble across them. This is not designed as a full theatre listings page but things I’ve seen and thought “oo, that looks fun/cool/interesting”.

Tickets

The ultimate gift with no obligation on the receiver to find a space in their house for it, no adding to all the stuff. This can require a bit more research, but I love getting tickets that I can use for a show, concert or gig later in the year. It’s a Christmas treat that brings joy months after the baubles come down and the Quality Street tin’s emptied.

There are so many options, and it obviously depends on the tastes of the person you’re buying for but aside from the sold out tickets (sad face for missing out on PULP in Cardiff but happy face that I got my Self Esteem at the Tramsheds ticket in time), here are a few little ideas for you (in the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan area).

Musicals

A marmite of art forms, some love them, some hate them but for fans of them, there are plenty of musicals coming to our corner of the world such as:

Live Music

I thought I’d found the perfect gig tickets for my step daughter to see Loyle Carner but that one’s sold out. I’ve tried to only include ideas with tickets still available but don’t wait around too long just in case.

Comedy

You’ve missed out on Peter Kay tickets in Cardiff but there are plenty of other stand-up and other comedy shows coming up to give the gift of laughter:

Theatre

I know it’s not as razzle dazzle but tickets for a play are a dream for the drama lover in your life.

For the Kids

I’m not convinced that all children really get the whole waiting for an event thing, so I’ve not really used tickets as a prezzie for younger family members but it’s worth a look, especially at:

If you work for a production company, venue, or festival and you’d like me to review your show, slide into my DMs or email valeofglammam@gmail.com. I’ve not been paid to include any of these above, they’re just shows I’ve heard about or read about and wanted to spread the word.

books, theatre, Things To Do, top tips

Christmas Gift Ideas 2022

I know we’re in the depths of a cost-of-living crisis, and I’m not massively into buying tat for the sake of it. I have hoarding tendencies so get a bit nervous about accumulating even more stuff. I’m a fan of shopping local and buying experiences with tickets but sometimes I head for internet shopping for the convenience and choice.

My sister made the excellent suggestion to do a Secret Santa for my siblings and our partners, which will make a big difference budget and time wise. Strong recommend this approach for big families. I also love the something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read approach, so here’s a mishmash of suggestions!

SOMETHING YOU WANT

It’s giving me flashbacks to that flirty girl in Love Actually who turned Alan Rickman’s head saying “get me something I want, not something I need”, but we all know what she means. It’s about a treat, about something that shows the giver knows the receiver inside out.

Scriball

For a football loving kid or a kid who just loves colouring in, these Scriballs are perfect. At £10.50, they won’t break the bank and they definitely don’t need batteries. There are a few different designs out there, I bought a Star Wars one last year for a nephew because I got bored looking at sporty things and got excited about a ball that comes with its own colouring pens.

Head Jog 25mm Hair Tongs

A real-life professional hairdresser recommended these to me as they’re the tongs used in her salon. I’d never heard of the brand but she knows her stuff. If you’ve got a tween, teen or adult who’s desperate for curling tongs, these are incredibly good value for a main present at just over £30 full price but closer to £24 at the moment. You can also get a 32mm version. I needed a little practice as I’m used to using a bit of a different style, but these create a lovely loose wave.

Tickets

The ultimate gift with no obligation on the receiver to find a space in their house for it, no adding to all the stuff. This can require a bit more research but I love getting tickets that I can use for a show, concert or gig later in the year. It’s a Christmas treat that brings joy later in the year.

There are so many options, and it obviously depends on the tastes of the person you’re buying for but aside from the sold out tickets (sad face for missing out on PULP in Cardiff but happy face that I got my Self Esteem at the Tramsheds ticket in time), there are some great shows to be seen in 2023.

I came up with such a long list that I’ve bunged some ideas in a whole separate blog post so click on the button below if you want some suggestions.

Local Spirits

Not the spirits of Christmas past, present and future but the delicious boozy kind of spirit. I’m talking about Gin 64’s range of Penarth Gins, Barry Island Spirit’s Rum, Gin and Vodka, Bont Gin in Cowbridge and Hensol Castle Distillery’s wide selection and distillery tours. With prices for a 75cl bottle around £30-£40 these are a real treat and support local makers.

SOMETHING YOU NEED

This is a bit trickier and potentially boring, but I tend to think about their hobbies and sports, and all those extra bits that they need through the year. Or something that you need for the home but getting a jazzier version for Christmas saved trawling the shops for it.

Music Bag

My youngest’s working on his trumpet exam at the moment and he looks like Buddy (little 90s school book reference there for you) with his carrier bag of music. The bag for life does the job but without breaking the bank, this fun little personalised music bag is even better.

Boot Buddy

It’s that time of year where many of us are stood in the rain every weekend while our kids run around in the mud chasing a ball. Whether they play rugby, football or if you just want to clean up your wellies after a winter woodland walk, the boot buddy has been brilliant for us. Less than £20 and really handy for scrubbing muck off their studs.

A Fancy Flask

Sure, there are prettier flasks out there but for the person in my life who loves camping and having a hot drink after driving his fork lift truck, I go function over form. That said, this is a classic design and does the job it’s meant to do. It’s cheaper and better for the environment to take a massive flask on a journey if you’re travelling with work or maybe it’s just an upgrade for the picnic lover in your life.

SOMETHING TO WEAR

Disco Daps

These rechargeable trainers were a huge hit with my youngest and his penchant for jazzy footwear. The perfect party daps for the festive season, you can change the colour of the lights or set them to flash. There are a few different versions out there for around £25-£30 but they’re worth it as he wore them until he outgrew them.

Fizz Goes Pop

A local fave of mine, Fizz Goes Pop makes incredible statement jewellery, handcrafted in Cardiff. Whenever I see one of those dainty adverts saying something like “the perfect gift for your mum/wife/generic woman in your life” I think NO! It’s only perfect if it’s your thing and it’s not my thing. Fizz Goes Pop however, is very much my thing and I’ve been lucky enough to get a few pairs of earrings over the years from her. So support local and make someone look fabulous in the process. (photos by Cara Heath photography)

Isolated Heroes

I love Isolated Heroes, their clothes and accessories are extra AF. Sequins, froth and fabulousness. They’ve recently launched an incredible range of personalisable denim jackets for kids and grown ups. They’re not cheap but they’re made sustainably and by an indie company in Scotland. For just a touch of bling, how’s about this glorious sparkly headband? The dream!

SOMETHING TO READ

Press Here by Hervé Tullet

Press Here and Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet are a couple of my favourite board books for arty little kids. There are some weird negative reviews from adults who assumed something different from an interactive book but ignore them, these are both delightful and engaging. My boys enjoyed the books when they were little, and my younger nephews were glued to the experience of going through the pages. It feels magic when they’re invited to press a yellow splodge of paint and turn the page to see what’s happened to the splodge.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? The very thing that reflects the themes, genre and general vibe of the writing within? Maggie O’Farrell’s new release The Marriage Portrait is gorgeous. I’ve not read it but I enjoyed her previous novel, the much awarded Hamnet. This would make a beautiful gift for the fiction lover in your life. Griffin Books in Penarth recently hosted an evening with the author which sold out. More from them in the next idea.

Signed Books

Nine book covers with different designs, colours and fonts. The only clear text on the front of each is the same as listed below. In the top right corner the book cover features a photo of Agatha Christie, in the bottom left corner the book cover features the face of Nadiya off the telly baking shows. In the top left there is an illustration of a car flying through space with an astronaut on board. below this is an illustration of a girl in a hot air balloon.

A book signed by the author elevates the gift to super special status. The fabulous Griffin Books in Penarth has an amazing online selection of all sorts of books with the autograph of the writer. There’s something for everyone, including YA, science, autobiographies, history, fiction, children’s books. Gift ideas that jumped out at me that you’ll find on Griffin Books’ online shop:

  • Meanwhile Back on Earth by Oliver Jeffers £16.99
  • Colours, Colours Everywhere by Julia Donaldson and Sharon King Chair £14.99
  • Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory £17
  • Dear Dolly: On Love Life and Friendship by Dolly Alderton £16.99
  • Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley £25
  • Black Holes by Brian Cox and Jeffrey Forshaw £25
  • Undoctored by Adam Kay £20
  • The World by Simon Sebag Montefiore £35
  • The Final Whistle by Nigel Owens £20
  • Nadiya’s Fast Flavours by Nadiya Hussain £22
  • Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson £17

Amazon Affiliate: a girl’s gotta eat and in a bid to help pay for my own Christmas, I’ve taken the plunge and joined Amazon Associates. This just means that if you buy through a link on this blog, I get a little (very little) monetary thank you from Amazon. It won’t cost you any more than just googling in the first place. Do support local where you can though!

A large yellow wall poster with a monochrome image of Connor in a tracksuit and baseball cap. The Text reads THE MAKING OF A MONSTER 9-19 NOVEMBER 2022. A grime-theatre mash-up by Connor Allen. The rest of the text is too small to read.
Reviews, theatre, Things To Do

The Making of a Monster Mashup Masterpiece

Connor Allen’s autobiographical grime-theatre mash-up blew us away and impressed a teenager who is pretty hard to please at the moment.

“I like it when it’s real. It felt really true. It’s how school actually is.” – 14-year-old

The universe aligned with unexpected shifts in our usual Thursday evening schedule to free my older boy and me to head to Wales Millennium Centre to see The Making of a Monster.

Wales Millennium Centre at night. The sky is black, the ground is dark except for a feint green glow from the wide screen yellow advert that reads THE MAKING OF A MONSTER with an image of Connor's eyes. The letters on the front of the Wales Millennium Centre building are lit in a dark blue, you can't make out all of the words but HORIZONS is clear.
The iconic Wales Millennium Centre

Performed and created by the Children’s Poet Laureate Wales Connor Allen with David Bonnick Jr and Oraine Johnson, this Wales Millennium Centre production explores Connor’s experience growing up mixed race, and mixed up in trouble in Newport through grime, rap and a bit of audience interaction.

My son nearly cringed up his own sphincter when he thought he’d be called on to talk but these moments of direct communication and play with the audience were handled really well. It set the tone for the piece as a conversation. It’s a story from the 00s but it’s about now too, about race, about a man becoming a boy, and I’ll let you find out for yourself what Roget’s Thesaurus has to do with all that.

A large yellow wall poster with a monochrome image of Connor in a tracksuit and baseball cap. The Text reads THE MAKING OF A MONSTER 9-19 NOVEMBER 2022. A grime-theatre mash-up by Connor Allen. The rest of the text is too small to read.
Big fan of the striking marketing for The Making of a Monster (Parental Warning sticker just out of shot!)

We agreed that the set was great. A giant half pipe with a towering circular screen dominated the stage, the live drummer and incredible projections keeping us glued to the visuals throughout. I always wonder how tourable a set is and this screamed NOT AT ALL but it’s such an integral part of this show. It spoke of place, youth, energy and with skilled lighting and projection playing a key role, took us all over Newport and into Connor’s mind.

“I really liked that scene with his Dad. Looked like a 3D TV screen.” – 14-year-old

A major theme of the show is absent fathers. This prompted my son afterwards to talk about his very present Dad who grew up without a father-son relationship. Watching a show with Connor’s honesty laying bare his confusion, anger and hurt as a teenage boy made my own teenage boy think about his Dad’s school days in a different way. He’s at that age where my husband’s teaching him to shave, helping him train at the gym, all of that, and The Making of a Monster gut punched him, knowing his Dad grew up in the same town as a father who lived with his other kids and didn’t engage with him at all, but with a Mum who gave him everything.

If you’ve got a teen, or you just remember being a teen, you know these kind of conversations (or any kind of chat beyond a grunt) are rare and precious. That a live performance can make young people reflect on their own lives, experiences and identities is powerful and this show does just that.

the foyer of Wales Millennium Centre with shiny concrete floor, two curving wooden balconies, stage lights on the ceiling, an art installation of musical instruments with wings and hanging tubular bells. A few audience members stand in the area. A large yellow poster hangs from one of the balconies reading THE MAKING OF A MONSTER
Wales Millennium Centre’s foyer last night

With open captions and creative captions integrated into the design, it was another excellent example of the Centre considering accessibility in their Weston Studio productions.

If your teen is studying Drama, they need to get out and see all sorts of work. If your teen isn’t into Drama or Theatre, this show is packed with characters, issues, themes and music that makes all that not matter, it’s like a gig about identity, it’s full of power and truth and part of that is a lot of F bombs.

The Making of a Monster comes with a Parental Advisory of Explicit Content, there’s swearing, rap battling lyrics with sexual references, references to domestic violence and racism. But as a mum, I’d rather my older kids engage with this work to better understand the world and the people in it, to have difficult conversations, than live in a frothy bubble.

Go and see it. It’s at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff until 19th November so no excuses. I paid just £15 for my ticket and under 26s are only £10. Get there early for pre-show performances from emerging South Wales music talent from 6.30pm and to try out the free augmented reality experience The Museum of Nothingness. Check the Centre’s website for opening dates and times but there’s no need to book for the AR.

Book your tickets here: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2022/the-making-of-a-monster

(Not invited to review, I bought our tickets and wrote this up because I think more people should see it.)

Places To Go, Things To Do

Halloween Half Term Overwhelm

Halloween half term overwhelm hitting you hard already? Me too. The FOMO is high and rising. Scariest thing about this Halloween is that I’ve booked us in for too much organised fun. There’s a lot going on, loads of it’s sold out, so this post is just the tip of the Calon Gaeaf iceburg. I’ve included some not so Halloweeny options too for those of us who’ve had a gutsful of ghosts and ghoulies already.

Gŵyl Calan Gaeaf Cosmeston Halloween Festival at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval Village, Penarth

We’re checking this out tonight. Created by the team behind the light trail at Cosmeston last Christmas, we’ve been told to expect special effects and petrifying performers along with a traditional fairground. Sessions are available to book from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. My kids have been off on an Inset day today so I thought it would be a fun thing to do in the evening. Tickets still available.

https://www.penarthevents.wales/halloween

Vale Pick You Own Pumpkin Picking, Bonvilston

Soz huns, they’re all sold out for daytime and twilight sessions. I went last year and had a delightful yomp through the fields in the autumn sunshine. My mum took my kids and nephews today. If you’ve not booked already, get in there early next year I guess.

https://valepickyourown.digitickets.co.uk/tickets

Fonmon Castle’s Halloween Night-Time Scare Trail, Paranormal Investigations, and Halloween Daytime, Fonmon

My 14 year old and his mates experienced the Night-Time Scare Trail last night twice. They booked it a while ago and from what he’s told me, they had an amazing time. He doesn’t say very much these days so when he enjoys something it’s high praise indeed.

https://fonmoncastle.com/whats-on

Barry Island Charity Fireworks Fiesta, Barry

Does what it says on the tin. It’s an early bonfire night innit. Fairground open from 2pm, prizes for Halloween fancy dress, free Halloween train ride. If you get the eeby jeebies at fireworks displays, this is the one for you as they’re released from Friar’s Point but you can see the whole thing from the safety of the Barry Island prom. It will get mega busy and there are road closures so plan ahead. It’s free with charity bucket collections. The rugby clubs are holding firework displays the following weekend if you’re a big fan of bright lights and explosions.

https://www.facebook.com/Barryislandfireworksfiesta

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

I know, it’s not midsummer it’s autumn but go with me on this. Under 25s are half price, you might be eligible to join Sherman 5 (check on their website) for discounted tickets. It’s a silly, mad introduction to Shakespeare for younger theatregoers. I’ve heard great things about the run and the last shows are on 29th October so get in there quick. We’re heading to the Saturday matinee.

https://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream/

Spooktacular Barry Trick or Treat Trail, Barry

Saturday 29th October 2022. Pop on your Halloweeniest costumes and follow the map to pick up some treats and have some fun. Expect spooky street entertainers, face painting, special deals for participants, pumpkin patch selfie stage and a trick or treat bag for gathering all the Halloween sweeties from the brilliant Barry businesses who are taking part.

Coco and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile movies at the Memo Arts Centre, Barry

This Day of the Dead get crafty at the Memo with some Dia de los Muertos vibes before watching one of my absolute favourite animations EVER on 2nd November. The big half term film Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is also on during the week with croc crafts before the showing. Check film times on the website.

https://memoartscentre.co.uk/Shows/coco-pg/

As Halloween’s so early in half term this year (oh my days has this term draaaaaaged) if you’re lucky enough to be off work at any point, there are all the usual places to visit too. Is it even half term if you’ve not been to St Fagan’s? Don’t forget to use your Escape into Autumn free entry to Dyffryn Gardens. And if you’ve been following my blog for the past few years you’ll know I’m a fan of the Mountain View Ranch Family Trail. If all you manage to do this week is survive, that’s cool too. If you’re working through the week, I see you, I am you and that’s why I’m jampacking the weekend with too many plans.

Places To Go, Things To Do

Stuff to do in the Easter Hols 2022

How is it the Easter holidays already?! Why didn’t I book more time off work?! I must make the most of my precious time off with some wholesome days out. If you suffer from FOMO and want to tear your offspring away from their gadgets, good luck and here are a few local, vaguely seasonal ideas in no particular order:

The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Dyffryn Gardens

12 March – 15 May 2022

This gorgeous little exhibition from Seven Stories invites your little ones to play with the tiger in an indoor tea party. There are plenty of fun tiger themed activities to keep your young ones busy and playing through the Arboretum, gardens and the Log Stack play area. There’s also a £3 Easter trail if you fancy it. The usual National Trust entry fees from £5.50 per kid and £11 per adult apply so take a picnic and make a day of it.

Tiger Who Came to Tea at Dyffryn Gardens | National Trust

The Golden Egg Treasure Hunt

10 – 24 April 2022

A treasure hunt competition to find the locations where Beach Academy Wales photographed a shiny replica of Harry Potter’s golden egg. They’ve included some stunning Vale locations, and there’s a cracking prize for a lucky family to win the golden egg used in the pics and a two-day trip London with a Family Studio Tour at Harry Potter World and hotel stay. Register and read the instructions on their website:

The Golden Egg | Beach Academy (beachacademywales.com)

Fonmon Castle Joust

16 – 18 April 2022

This Easter weekend get a taste of medieval times, brought to life with jousting, owl displays, archery, and more. You can also visit in the rest of the holidays for the usual family fun of dinosaurs, story trail and playground. Under 3s are free, adults £16.50, children & concessions £13.

https://fb.watch/ck0juMKOJU/

https://fonmoncastle.com/whats-on-at-fonmon-castle/

Salmon Leaps Walk

This three-hour (or three-mile, depending on whether your want to do the full figure-of-8 route or not) stroll through Dinas Powys woodland and fields is a dreamy and free way to while away a day with family and dogs. We loved tootling about, flinging ourselves about on the rope swing we found and having a good old chat as we ventured along the path. There’s a guide available with details of where to park if you’re not from Dinas Powys (or you could walk from the train station) and the route:

Vale Trail 6 | Walks in the Vale of Glamorgan (visitthevale.com)

Twitchy Curtains

Launched 9 April 2022

Use the QR stickers to experience this free audio trail of Barry’s Holton Road. Local characters will tell you tales from that spot in the past. Based on real stories, use your smart phone and stereo headphones to follow the gossip. For more information and a map of the story route in Barry town centre, head to this website:

Twitchy Curtains – Barry

Cinema, Wrestling and Pop Divas at Memo Arts Centre

The Bad Guys (U) 16 – 21 April 2022

Welsh Wrestling Live 14 April 2022

Pop Divas Live! 22 April 2022

This Easter holiday, the Memo are showing The Bad Guys on the Vale’s biggest cinema screen. If Ocean’s Eleven was a cartoon and all the characters were animals, that’s the vibe of this film. Popular family events Welsh Wrestling and Pop Divas Live return to Barry.

Home-New – Memo Arts Centre, Barry

Amelia Trust Farm: The Big Easter Event

11 – 14 April 2022

All the fun of the farm with extra Easter treats. Included in the cost of entry there’ll be face painting, lawn games and tractor rides. If you complete the Easter trail, there are chocolate prices. Costs £7.50 per child and from £4.50 per adult.

The Big Easter Event at Amelia Trust Farm – Amelia Trust Farm

Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival 2022

17 & 18 April 2022

Head to the Old Hall Gardens and AJ car park for stalls of delicious grub and drinks. Pick up an edible treat or two and have a wander around the pretty town centre. Closes at 5pm both days. Expect plenty of the best foodie businesses in the Vale to exhibit their wares, and demos of their culinary skills.

St Fagans National Museum of History

Open all fortnight, including bank holidays

A classic Easter hols trip. It’s the perfect time of year to mooch around the site. We like to take our dogs so they get a day out too. Doggos must be on a short lead and can’t go in the buildings. There’s a £3.50 Easter trail or you can take yoursleves on a time travelling adventure exploring the cottages, chapel, shops, school, farmhouse etc. Free entry, you just pay £6 for parking. There are a few busses that go to St Fagans, route details on their website.

The Big Museum Easter Trail   | National Museum Wales

A Dog’s Trail

How many Snoopy sculptures will you find? Dog’s Trust is celebrating their new rehoming centre with a free public art trail, a Wild in Art Event. There’s a map of all the decorated Snoopys, designed by local and national artists, school children and community groups, dotted around Cardiff, the Bay, Caerphilly and Porthcawl. And it’s free.

Art Trail – A Dog’s Trail : A Dog’s Trail (adogstrail.org.uk)

Mountain View Ranch: Ranch Easter Trail

On top of all of the usual fun, hunt for the Golden Eggs. We’re big fans of the Fairy Forest, the Jumping Pillow, the Adventure Playground, the Tree Houses, the Vomit Comet, Roly Poly Hill, and of course, the only licensed Gruffalo Trail in Wales. Take a picnic or treat yourselves to one of their amazing stonebaked pizzas. Dogs allowed on a short lead. Under 2s free, children and adults £8. Book online.

Mountain View Ranch

This isn’t a list of everything, it’s just a few ideas if you’re struggling. The photos of my own visits used in this post are all paid for by me. If anywhere wants to invite me along to review or promote, that’s grand, pop me a message. I’ll always let you know if that’s the case.

Each year I feel less motivated to share a “things to do in the Vale and nearby in the school hols” type of post. Last summer I prepped and research a load of things with photos, links, dates, prices etc but then photos of handwritten pages in a notebook of all the parks, beaches etc got shared all over the place by loads of people and I just felt sort of pointless and stupid for wasting my time. So, if you do end up going along to any of this stuff, I’d blooming love it if you could let me know.