Picture © NT Fisheye Images
May's been an action-packed month for culture vultures, sandwiching Museums at Night in between two bank holidays and merciful helpings of sunshine. Culture24 picks a few family-friendly events for the latest holiday…
Try military drills and uniforms, treasure hunts, firing ranges, bungee runs, tank commands and, apparently, the chance to fire a 25-pound gun from World War Two at Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum in Greenwich (open all week, 10.30am – 5pm, admission £2.50 - £5, small additional charges may apply, call 020 8855 7755.)
The Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood's Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle show, exploring the characters of Roald Dahl, has proved popular in the first month of a stint until September. There are also Toy Stories this week (10.30am – 12.30pm and 2pm – 4pm, limited spaces, call 020 8983 5200) aimed at bringing the collections to life through trails and activities.
You can fire a 25-pound gun at Firepower
The Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire is usually perfect for children aged between six and 12, but everybody can have a crack at chocolate decorating on Sunday courtesy of local experts The Chocolate Source (40-minute sessions between 11.15am – 3.45pm, admission £9.50/£7.50, £6/£4 for museum entry only, call 01494 892192.) There are also drop-in storytelling and craft exploits for families.
June 6 2009 is the 65th anniversary of D-Day, so Dover Castle is gearing up with World War Two weekend full of skirmishes, drills led by Sergeant de Forges, wound-dressing under the tutelage of a wartime nurse and living history encampments by English, German and French soldiers (Saturday – Monday, 10am – 5pm, admission £5 – £10, family ticket £25, call 0870 333 1183.)
Coconut shies, hooplas, magic shows in travelling theatres and games and races are up for grabs in The English Village Green at Audley End House and Gardens in Essex (Saturday – Monday, 11am – 5pm, admission £5.40 – £10.70, family ticket £26.80, call 0870 333 1181).
A week of pirate fun at the Historic Dockyard Chatham offers storytelling, puppet shows, a treasure trail, costumed characters, giant snakes and ladders, magic shows and more in the 25th anniversary year of the attraction, which offers unlimited readmission with entry tickets (from Saturday, 10am – 6pm, admission £6.50 – £14, family tickets available, call 01634 823807.)
Chichester District Museum's programme of half-term activities kicks off on Monday with pottery, moulding and sculpting at The Guildhall in Priory Park for children aged between seven and 11 (10am – 12.30pm and 1.30pm – 4pm, admission £5 per session, 25 places per session, call 01243 784683 or email to book or for full programme of events.)
Chichester, Chatham, Essex and Buckinghamshire join in the fun in the South
Check out the Wartime Weekend at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall (Sunday and Monday, 11am – 5pm, admission £4.50 – £8.50, family ticket £21.50, call 01326 316594.)
Costumed performers sing, dance and spin a few yarns and Medieval Knights clash as part of Bolsover Castle's Medieval Courtly Pleasures and Pursuits weekend (Sunday and Monday, 11am – 5pm, admission £3.50 – £7, family ticket £17.50, call 01246 822844.)
Children can become a knight themselves, participate in circus skills workshops, have their face painted, follow a treasure trail or watch puppets and birds of prey at Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden’s Victorian Beach in Warwickshire (from Sunday, 11am – 5pm, admission £5 – £8.50, family ticket £22, car parking £2, free park and ride available, call 01926 852078.)
There's a Bug Hunt for colourful creepies and butterflies at Charnwood Museum in Loughborough (from Saturday, 10am – 4.30pm, admission free, call 01509 233737).
Pirate fun at the Historic Dockyard
A wedding, dance and music, games, drills and archery sessions visit Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk for a Medieval Fayre (Saturday – Monday, 11am – 4pm, £2 – £13.80, call 01366 328258.)
The 70th anniversary of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk is celebrated with a Garden Party on Sunday (10am – 5pm, admission £2.95 – £6.50, family ticket £16.45/£14.95, call 01394 389700.)
Mr McGregor's Garden at Melford Hall in Suffolk is open for exploration, adding advice on growing seasonal food, hedgehogs and seed planting to the mix (Saturday – Monday, 1.30pm – 5pm, admission £6/£3, family ticket £15, activities £1 per child, call 01787 376395.)
Tate Liverpool lays on an urban and extreme sports festival
The residents of Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Ironbridge in Shropshire, will be marking the 81st birthday of Queen Victoria with "style, pomp and pageantry", starring the Shrewsbury Town Crier as master of ceremonies curating an extravaganza of Morris Dancers, theatres, players regiments, vintage bicycles, authentic houses and shops and craftsmen (Saturday – Monday, 10am – 5pm, admission £12.95 – £19.95, free for under-5s, family ticket £54.95, small additional charges may apply, call 01952 884391).
Skirmishes, drill displays and living history encampments based on the Civil War will take over Caldicot Castle in Monmouthshire, including pikemen and musketeers, cooking, music and talks (Sunday and Monday, 11am – 5pm, admission £3.75/£2.50, call 01291 420241).
Roald Dahl at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood
Another caper of conflict hits Scarborough Castle, where the Northern World War II Association presents more than 100 soldiers and civilians in the 1940s Wartime Weekend. Two explosive battle re-enactments each day, music of the period, singalongs and demonstrations take place until Monday (11am – 5pm, £6/£5, family ticket £16, call 01723 372451).
There's a Fairy Trail for Children at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in South Yorkshire, hiding tiny Victorian fairies for nippers to find within the enchanting gardens (from Saturday, 10am – 5.30pm, £4.20 – £8.30, call 01723 372451).
The Great North Museum will be open for the first time
A Duck for Mr Darwin, the evolutionary show at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, has spawned a multitude of activities on the themes of the exhibition. Drop-in sessions invite young artists to "get stuck in" to this merger of science and art (Saturday and Sunday, 2pm – 4pm, admission free, suitable for accompanied under-13s, call 0191 478 1810).
No visit to Tyneside could overlook the launch of the Great North Museum this weekend. Replacing the Hancock Museum, the buzz around the place should enhance the draw of the impressive opening exhibitions.
Meet the Scientists at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
Young Tate, the UK's largest free urban and extreme sports youth festival, takes over Liverpool's Wellington Dock on Saturday (12pm – 4pm, admission free, call 0151 702 7400). Run by Tate Liverpool, it invites teens and young adults to express their thoughts in a diary room, sit on the festival couch or tell a camera what they think an artist is.
Birdoswald Roman Fort in Cumbria lets some Roman soldiers reveal their drills and tactics, including a cavalry charge from a horse-riding duo (Sunday and Monday, 11am – 5pm, admission £3.50 - £5.70, call 0870 333 1183).
The Extraordinary Life of Prisoners of War opens at Imperial War Museum North on Saturday, uncovering the truth behind The Great Escape, Colditz and The Bridge Over the River Kwai through multi-sensory trails, games and hands-on escapades. These feature Open Studio sessions of paper-weaving and instrument-making (until May 31, 12pm – 3pm, admission free, call 0161 836 4000) and performances in the Special Exhibition Gallery (Monday).
At the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester, the interactive Meet the Scientists Day on Saturday offers giant phones and exploding crème eggs in an exposé of inventive work by Salford's Merlyn Electronics to prove that "there's more to electronics than widgets and wim-wam wheels."
It's accompanied by the start of a week of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the first all-British flight, including costumed performances and hands-on workshops. Visit the website for the full programme. If you prefer grounded vehicles, the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts' Club bowls in for good measure on Sunday, with up to 20 vintage examples of their weapon of choice.
The Extraordinary Life of Prisoners of War, Imperial War Museum North. Picture © Imperial War Museum
It's Party at the Palace at Linlithgow Palace this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, 12.30pm – 5pm, admission £6 – £12, family tickets available, call 01506 842896). Described as a "signature event" of the national Homecoming Scotland 2009 celebrations, it marks King James IV’s marriage to Margaret Tudor and the signing of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with England in 1503, starring actors, dancers, horses and nights in what Historic Scotland boss John Graham calls "one of the largest events we have ever staged."
Interclan horseback jousting from the 16th century and 80-foot warriors will also be on the cards. "It will be a weekend absolutely packed full of medieval colour and spectacle, with jesters, poets, storytellers, musicians, dancers, falconers, cooks and an alchemist trying to turn ordinary metals into gold," adds Graham. Just as well they've got a whole Palace to play with.