It’s ‘crazy house’ time … school holidays are here!

delta Park playgroundJozi has much on offer to add to kids’ holiday excitement – wonderful activities, fun places to visit and great shows to see. The playground at Delta Park is always a firm favourite with active youngsters, and there’s plenty of space to take a picnic and relax in the winter sun. Other special places for picnics are the Walter Sisulu Gardens (where you can walk to the waterfall and see the black eagles) and Emmarentia Dam.  The Zoo Lake is always a win if you can keep the gaggle of geese from taking bread out of toddlers’ hands!

AJ's in the Park, Craighall Park

AJ’s in the Park, Craighall Park

There are 2 excellent family-friendly places to eat near Liz at Lancaster: Delta Café borders on Delta Park (see  and A J’s  in the Park at the tennis club offers ‘Great affordable food, friendly service & is the perfect place for kids’.  They’ve  got a jumping castle, jungle gym, trampoline & childminders to keep an eye on children whilst they play. Kids are also able to make their own pizzas.  Now how perfect does all that sound? And like DeltaCafé, AJ’s is only  a few blocks from Liz at Lancaster at 33 Abercorn Ave.  See

Serendipity is a great play centre at 48 Keyes Ave Rosebank. There’s an arts

Serendipity offers light meals and drinks and has great playground area

Serendipity offers light meals and drinks and has great playground area

and crafts studio, a dress up area an outside activity area with trampolines, houses, sandpit, climbing equipment, scooters, etc. And best of all there are fabulous people who help manage the overseeing of children, so it’s even possible to have a relaxed cup of coffee and a toasted sandwich (There’s also a very good kids’ menu). Closed Mondays R45 per child.

Crazy Farmkids   at 9 Daniel St Randburg is an unpretentious property with chickens, ducks, rabbits, a pony and an emu (who is quite an arbitrary companion!). There’s a huge sandpit and playground equipment. And best of all it’s ony R20 entrance. You can take your own picnic too – lots of tables. Very pleasant low-key outing.

I have just heard about  the Kinder Theatre at 39a Greenhill Rd in Emmarentia which seems to have amazing resources including wonderful puppet shows  during the school holidays. So am definitely going to give it a try with my grandsons  kinderspiel_awning_460_wide

June  Saturday performances at 10; Tuesdays at 3.30

Tues 7th  The Princess, the Knight and the Unicorn; Sat 11th  Goldilocks and the 3 bears ; Tues 14th Greenosaurus and Fairy Wings; Thurs 16th  10 Darin the Magician and at 11 Big Dreams; Sat 18th  Kallie the Clown; Tues 21st  Dream Big A story about believing in yourself; Fri 24th  Book reading: Nombulelo and the Moth by Susie Dinneen, read by the author; Sat 25th  Dream Big; Tues 28th  Professor Bronkenhorst and his amazing Robot ZED, Machteld van Nieuwkerk makes children laugh with her beautiful marionettes.  For ages from 3 years R55 pp  Contact Ruth or Rita Tel: 011 646 0870

little maestrosAnother favourite for +3 year olds is the monthly concerts run by Little Maestros  at the Foxwood Theatre in Hougton .  Set in a beautiful garden with ponds and paths, swans and ducks, there’s a small theatre where the  Little Maestro programme introduces children to different musical instruments. Coming up on 21st June at 3 pm is Hello Cello. My grandchildren love being able to see the instruments up close and of course have a turn at playing them.  Marimbas, piano, flute and violin have been a great success so far.  Venue address: 13, 5th St, Houghton.  You can get tickets at the door (R100 for adult and R20 for Children) or through

There is lots of children’s theatre too: Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvelous Medicine shows at the National Children’s Theatre in Parktown (3 Junction Ave) from 7th June to 17th July.  Tickets R90 for cushions, R110 for chairs, children 1-3 sitting on lap R50.

Shrek 2From 6 June to 31st July you can see Disney’s Peter Pan at the People’s Theatre in Braamfontein (attached to the Joburg Theatre Cnr Loveday/Hoofd St).  There are shows are at  10.30 and 2 pm and tickets vary from R85-R125.

You can make a trip to Gold Reef City and apart from the funfair you can also see Shrek the Musical at the Lyric Theatre from  24/06 – 17/07  There are matinees at 2.30 Wednesdays to Sundays and shows at 19.30 on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are R150 – R290. But no children under 4.

dora-explorer-live-doras-pirate-advent-08Emperor’s Palace is not a venue of my choice but Dora’s Pirate Adventure is showing for 5 days (5th to 12th July) at the Theatre of the Marcellus. This outing will set you back a whack with tickets from  R250 per person. But enquire about family discounts.  There are 3 shows a day at 10 am, 2 and 6 pm.

Also not cheap but a real treat for slightly older kids is Disney on Ice at the Pro-Dome: 24/06 – 03/07 with tickets from  R175-R475.  Last year we had several families from around the country stay at Liz at Lancaster when they came to see the show. There was lots of frenzied girlish excitement at breakfast with little pink tutus, wands and princess crowns!

WebsiteJosephAnd of course the wonderful ‘old faithful’ Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour is back for another rerun at Monte Casino Pieter Toerien Theatre. I still love the music – cheesy and dated as it might be – and anything Johnathan Roxmouth is in is bound to be superb. So although I saw the play several times as a youngster, I might just persuade somebody to come with me to see it again! Tickets are R100 to R350.

Also at Monte Casino at the Teatro, is Slava’s SnowShow from 26th July to 14th August. Sounds like good escapist stuff which we perhaps need at the moment -described by London’s Daily Telegraph as touching ‘the heart as well as the funny bone. Full of laughter and joy’. There are matinees on Saturdays at 3 and Sundays at 2 and evening shows Tuesday to Sunday at 8. Tickets range from R175 to R350 (slightly more for the matinees) with family packages available.  It’s recommended that children should be 8 and over.

Despite being very Americanized (well it is after all a Disney production),  the 3D special effects of The Jungle Book are apparently amazing. But children have to be 10 or over for entrance.

For older kids there are some wonderful exhibitions:  Gateway to Space at the gateway to spaceSandton Convention Centre 1st June – 31st July with tickets from R 120-180; Body Worlds at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Newtown until 30th June, tickets are R140 for adults, R110 for seniors and students, R90 for youngsters between 6 and 17 and R400 for a family booking. Wildlife Photography of The Year (from London’s Natural History Museum) runs until 31st July at Fox Junction 1 Main St. in Ferreirastown. Entrance R50 with children free.

And finally there are lots of activities which are open all year round: canopy swinging in Melrose; skiing and snowboarding at in Cedar Square, Fourways, putt-putt Fourways Mall and Brightwater Commons at; iceskating at Northgate Ice Arena; mosaicking workshops at to name but a few things to do.

And if this isn’t enough you can always check out Great website !

Enjoy the holidays!



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Joey and Topthorn at Circa on Jellicoe

06 5 June Joey and Topthorn 2 .docxThis week’s pick has to be the exhibition at Circa: Joey and
Topthorn – 
featuring the 2 main puppets from War Horse along with other graphic works and sculptures by the Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of the Handspring Puppet Company.

In the staging of Morpurgo’s Warhorse, Topthorn meets Joey as a cavalry horse and Joey is the only horse who can keep up with him.  When the cavalry is captured by the Germans, Topthorn and Joey are put to work as cart-pulling horses.  Because he is unused to pulling carts, Topthorn needs Joey’s help to do his job.  One day, after a particularly gruelling hill, Topthorn just can’t manage any more. He silently asks Joey for help, but Joey cannot help and as Topthorn dies, Joey mourns and the audience weep.

South Africa has such talent and so many international successes and Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones are but 2 of these.  I felt so privileged to hear them speak in person about the puppets at Circa on Saturday. I had listened to/watched their amazing Ted talk (You can see it on ) and have seen
every one of Handspring productions, bar one, but to have been party to their real-life generosity, humour, passion, and extraordinary creativity as well as their obvious love for each other and their work, was truly special.  (I suggest that if you go to see the two puppets ‘in the flesh’ you watch the Ted Talk beforehand as it will explain the mechanics of the puppets).

And of course one can’t help but be deeply proud of our local talent: War Horse is the most successful play ever mounted by the Royal National Theatre of London and has been performed to over six million people worldwide. Apparently income from the play rendered the theatre relatively independent of National Arts Council funding, and allowed the building of the now famous Shed Theatre for experimental work.



Also Joey is famously beloved by Queen Elizabeth. Adrian had some wonderfully human and humorous stories to tell about the Queen’s response to Joey and War Horse – which she went to see. Joey was invited to Windsor Castle for the military tattoo and led the Royal Household Cavalry in royal salute. He also led the National Theatre’s tribute to the Queen during the Diamond Jubilee.

Adrian explained that it takes 28 people eight months to build a complete set of puppets for War Horse. They are made of cane, leather and tyvec, (for the manes and tails) a very strong material used in book-binding which is light but durable. Some of the challenges include making a horse puppet strong enough to carry a rider but light enough to be manipulated by the 2 body puppeteers (the hind and the heart puppeteer).  Puppeteers have Self & Joeyintensive training for 2 weeks (including observing the behaviour of live horses) and then many weeks of training in rehearsals. Their training also includes Handspring’s basic principles based on breath as well as communicating with each other as the only noises they are allowed to make are horse noises (of which there are about 8 – neighing, whinnying, snorting, blowing,nickering, sighing etc.)  For more on War Horse see

The exhibition at Circa is a taste of what is still to come at a charity auction at Bonhams in London where a set of War Horse puppets which will be sold off later this year (13th Sept).  This auction is to raise money for the annual 16th December parade of puppets in Barrydale, a small Karoo town. The Handspring Trust, the not-for-profit arm of the Handspring Puppet Company,  gets together annually with other NGOs like Net vir Pret which organises after-school and holiday activities for local children, and the Magpie Art Collective that runs craft projects in the community. They all work together with the Barrydale community and help train young people to make puppets. This year they will be making seven life-size puppet elephants. The proceeds from the Bonhams auction will go towards this.

Altogether, eight sets of War Horse puppets exist. Two sets are still in use: one in China and one is reserved for the next UK tour of War Horse, which will start in September 2017.

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Sputniks, squirrels, skeletons and sculpture gardens: Joburg has it all this June

gateway to spaceFrom space travel, to wild-life photography, to outdoor sculpture to the workings of the human body – four blockbuster exhibitions are currently showing in Johannesburg. Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse currently has guests staying who are amazed by the current Joburg offerings – they are so pleased they are staying in such central accommodation and are making sure they get to all of these exhibitions.

Gateway to Space opens today 1st June at Sandton Convention Centre and will show until 31 July.  Exhibits include the first space craft; a battery operated space vehicle that transports astronauts around the moon; Yuri Gargarin’s 1961 space suit; a space shuttle cockpit; space food; moon rock and lots more besides. There are at least 40 explanatory videos and an interactive space area. Tickets for adults are R180; under 18s R120; Seniors R150 (weekdays only).

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Newtown

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Newtown

At Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown until 30th June is Body Worlds showing Dr Gunther von Hagens’ plastinated bodies.  Don’t be put off by the fact that these are real bodies and actual body parts on display – their presentation is in no way macabre or sensationalized and you won’t feel squeamish at all.   (Apparently there is an oversupply of people wanting to donate their bodies for this kind of educational initiative). When I visited the exhibition, there were busloads of school children leaving. What an opportunity to learn about biology and the human body in an absorbing and fascinatingly direct way.

Tickets are R140 for adults, R110 for seniors and students, R90 for the young  between 6 and 17 and R400 for a family booking. For more see www.jhblive/events/dead_bodies_everywhere/13695

Fox Junction before any development and upgrade

Fox Junction an amazing industrial heritage site, before any development and upgrade


Remaining in the city centre, there is another international exhibition of a completely different order: Wildlife Photography of the Year is currently on a global tour from London’s Natural History Museum. Showing at Fox Junction 1 Main St (further south of Newtown and formerly Sheds@1Fox), this exhibition showcases some of the very best wildlife photography taken around the world during the past year and includes all the winning images and finalists from the 2015 awards. On until 31st July. Entrance is R50 with children under 6 free.





Nirox 010

And if you want to get out into the country away from the urban buzz, (only 45 minutes from Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse) the grounds at Nirox Foundation are quite sublime and they are only open to the public when there is an event or an exhibition.  So make the most of  Nirox’ winter sculpture exhibition A Place in Time (until 30th July) curated by Helen Phebey, Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The best news of all is that entrance is free. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful art works and a breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful landscape setting out in the Cradle of Humankind.

Desperate for things to do with children over school holidays (schools break up on 24th June)?  You can see there’s lots for locals and tourists to do during these shorter winter Jozi days. (And watch this space for more kids holiday activities.)

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