Festive Fun this Christmas at Hampton Court Palace

This year, visitors to Hampton Court Palace are invited to join Queen Elizabeth I while she resides at her favourite yuletide residence. The festivities begin in Henry VIII’s Kitchens, where from 21 December until 5 January a team of historic cooks will be recreating some of the delectable treats served up for the court of Queen Elizabeth I, including traditional festive favourites such as roast beef, shred pie - the forerunner of the better known mince pie, containing meat instead of the currant mix we know today - and spiced marchpane. The bustling kitchen complex was created to produce elaborate banquets for Henry VIII and continued to whip up lavish dishes for his daughter Elizabeth I to serve to her guests and staff. At Christmas time during her reign these historic kitchens would have been a hub of activity, providing for hundreds of people at a time. This winter, visitors will be able to walk in their footsteps and find out how the most eagerly anticipated dinner plate of the year has changed over the centuries, while taking in the sights and smells of a working Tudor Kitchen. As they explore the palace, they’ll also be greeted by a host of familiar faces from Elizabeth I’s Court, with the invitation to bring in the season the Tudor way!

On selected Sundays in November and December, visitors can also immerse themselves in the festivities by trying out some of their very own Christmas crafting. This will include making wreaths using greenery from Hampton Court Palace’s famous gardens - ensuring visitors’ front doors are appropriately dressed for yuletide festivities - and perfumed pomander pouches, a traditional gift said to have been carried by Elizabeth I to keep her smelling rosy.  For the Christmas tree, craft sessions will also include lace bauble making, and unique wooden tree charms. 

For more tempting treats, head to the Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre, which runs from 6 -8 December and gives visitors the opportunity to experience the famous courtyards and East Front Gardens busy with Christmas cheer and joyous song from the Courtyard Bandstand.  This year, the Festive Fayre will feature over 120 stalls selling a range of street food and delicious treats such as luxury hot chocolate and gooey brownies, and with the return of The Humble Country Courtyard featuring a hand-selected collection of inspiring gifts and treasures, no one will be stuck for gift ideas! As well as an array of artisan producers and gifts, visitors can be inspired by a star-studded line up of chefs, including Michel Roux Jr and Alex Hollywood. These experts will be sharing their best tips and tricks in The Lexus Kitchen, and with all the demonstration sessions also included in the ticket price, visitors should leave brimming with ideas for their own culinary creations. 

This winter also sees the return of Hampton Court Palace’s popular ice rink (22 November – 5 January, excluding Christmas day), with extended opening hours to allow for even more ice-skating fun! Experts and novices alike are encouraged to take to the ice at night when the palace’s Tudor façade is illuminated providing a magical experience for all ages. This year, the ice rink will even be hosting skating parties, with children’s birthday parties including food and drink, and adult party bookings including party drinks and an exclusive VIP area. For post-skating refreshments, or for much needed hot drinks to warm up cold hands, the Ice Rink Café Bar will be open for tempting treats.

Hospital charity funds video messaging service for families of premature babies

A video messaging service to help reduce separation anxiety for parents of premature or sick babies is set to launch at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, thanks to the NHS Trust’s dedicated charity.

It allows neonatal staff to record and upload video diaries, which parents can then access when they are away from the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), helping to reassure them of their child’s wellbeing. When babies are discharged from the unit, the videos can be downloaded by the parent as a record of their child’s journey. 

Funded by Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity, vCreate will launch on World Prematurity Day (Sunday 17 November), a global day to raise awareness of premature birth and the sometimes devastating impact it can have on families. Parent support group and part of the charity, Positive Touch, will also provide cakes and milestone cards to families in SCBU, in celebration of the day.  

Parent Bridget Walton – whose daughter Zoe spent eight weeks in Royal Surrey’s SCBU – was instrumental in introducing the service to the Trust. Bridget first heard about the programme after seeing it in use in a hospital in Oxford, during her time spent as a parent reviewer of neonatal units around the country. 

She said: “Having a baby in hospital is one of the hardest things any parent has to go through, as you are unable to be with them 24/7. I spent every minute I could with Zoe, but it’s not possible to be there all the time – especially for parents with older children. 

“My husband John was working away at the time, so he felt he missed out on a lot and it would have been brilliant for him to be able to access the video service to keep updated on her progress. This could have made a huge difference to us and would have made it easier for us to be apart from her. I’m so pleased future families with babies in SCBU will benefit.”

Funding for the service, which is free for parents, was made possible thanks to a generous £5,000 donation to the charity from Surrey-based video games developer, Fireproof Studios. 

Damien Rayfield, Director of Fireproof Studios, said: “As with all brilliant ideas, vCreate is a simple concept that is very effective: it's fantastic to see the comfort it brings to the families whose children are being cared for in the Special Care Baby Unit.

"Here at Fireproof we are very proud to have helped support Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity in this venture and we are committed to supporting the hospital going forward.”

The company has also pledged to support the charity’s Closer to Care campaign, which will deliver a new SCBU at the hospital, giving parents the option to stay overnight next to their babies’ cot – something which is currently not possible at many neonatal units across the country. 

Fiona England, Practice Development Sister at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Putting families at the centre of care is what our Special Care Baby Unit is passionate about. We want families to be able to celebrate milestones and share precious moments, even when they are physically unable to be with their babies. We are looking forward to surprising families with snapshots of the truly amazing things their little ones can do.”

To find out more about the charity’s work or to make a donation to Closer to Care, visitwww.rschcharity.org.uk/closertocare or call 01483 464146.

The Lightbox has a smorgasbord of Christmas cheer to share

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with a visit to The Lightbox’s popular annual Christmas Fair, taking place on Sat 30 November and Sun 1 December 2019. Come along and find that extra special gift you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoy browsing the stalls featuring local artists and creators including illustrations by local artist Jed Tune, jewellery designs from Marissa Fernandes and cosy knits by Natalie Collyer. 

At the Fair Maybury School will be singing Christmas carols and tunes on the Saturday and the wonderful Wey Community Gospel Choir will be performing on the Sunday, filling The Lightbox with Christmas classics while you shop. Book now for a Christmas Wreath-Decorating workshop with florists Poppies & Peonies on the Saturday 30 November at 12.00pm and 3.00pm and make a bespoke festive decoration to take home. Christmas shopping undoubtedly works up an appetite and Seasons Café will be on hand at the Fair and over the Christmas season with traditional mulled wine and hot Christmas mince pies to spread some festive cheer. The Christmas Fair takes place during standard opening hours and general entry to the Fair is free. Wreath workshops are payable and require advance booking. 

If you love food and have an artistic flair, why not learn to decorate your own gingerbread house? Our Winter Wonderland Gingerbread House adult workshop with Jacqui Kelly is on Sat 14 December from 10.30am. She will teach you all the decorating tips and techniques to enable you to take this family favourite to the next level over the holidays. Pre-booking required. 

While the kids are off school and you’re looking for ways to keep them entertained even after Santa has been – The Lightbox has got you covered! Pop into a free drop-in workshop to create a New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock on Fri 27 December or a Baby Snow Owl using card, paper and other recyclable materials on Fri 3 January 2020. Drop in anytime from 1.30pm – 4.00pm. 

On a cold winter’s day come inside and warm up by exploring our award-winning art galleries which have on show Burning Bright: The Scottish Colourists in the Main Gallery and The Outside and The Inside exhibition in the Upper Gallery. Heritage fans can discover the fascinating story of Woking in our free local history museum, Woking’s Story, which has interactive exhibits and children’s trails. 

There’s no better place to browse for your Christmas gifts than The Lightbox Shop which has a wide selection of designer-maker gifts that will suit all the family. Every purchase from the Shop supports The Lightbox charity, as well as the independent small business suppliers that stock its shelves with their crafts and creations. Alternatively why not give the gift of art this Christmas and buy a Lightbox Membership which gives you free access to all exhibitions for a whole year as well as a range of other benefits like discounts in the Shop, Café and across the programme. 

Looking for an extra special Christmas party venue? Overlooking the Basingstoke Canal, The Lightbox is a stunning location to host a party or event. The light, airy and contemporary design and Modern British art lining the walls makes The Lightbox an unforgettable setting and quality catering and bespoke packages can be arranged to suit all budgets. For more information about all of the activities taking place over the festive period at The Lightbox please visit thelightbox.org.uk

All is bright…at the Christmas Lights switch on event in Guildford

Christmas is coming to Guildford on Thursday 21 November when our High Street will be full of entertainment for all the family at our annual Christmas Lights switch-on event. 

Bought to you by Guildford Borough Council, Experience Guildford, Guildford Fringe and GEEYOU, and supported by 96.4 Eagle Radio, the lights will be switched on at 7pm followed by a grand firework finale kindly sponsored by Experience Guildford. 

There will be lots to see and do; visit Santa in his sleigh in the Tunsgate Quarter, grab an #elfieselfie with the Experience Guildford elves, enjoy live music and don’t forgot the mascot parade. The Guildhall balcony show begins at 6pm, hosted by Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon who will be joined by the cast of the Yvonne Arnaud pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. 

Cllr Richard Billington, Mayor of Guildford, said: “Our annual community event in our historic high street marks the start of the town’s countdown to Christmas. With lots to see and do why not make a day of it with some shopping and a meal at one of our many places to eat.” 

He added: “The event does get very busy and can be very noisy, so again this year we are providing some dedicated quiet spaces for those who prefer to avoid the hustle and bustle of the High Street. You’ll find these at Skipton Building Society (walk in) or you can book a space in Caffe Nero at House of Fraser via GEEYOU by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..” 

Amanda Masters, Chief Executive at Experience Guildford said: “All eyes will again be on Guildford this year as we celebrate the start of Christmas in style with our much-loved Christmas lights switch-on event. A key date for visitors and retailers alike, the event is a fabulous showcase of all that the town has to offer over the festive season. 

“In what is the most important trading period of the year, the lights switch-on event also signals the start of late-night shopping for some retailers and the launch of our ‘Little Book of Offers’ Christmas voucher book, packed full of great deals for all to enjoy across the town. Thanks to all our partners and BID members for their ongoing support, and here’s to another great Christmas in Guildford.” 

The event does get very busy, so to ensure a good view please allow plenty of time and, due to the crowds and noise, also consider whether the event is suitable for young children or those with sensitivities. 

Timetable of events: 

1.00pm - 5.00pm - See Santa in his sleigh at Tunsgate Quarter! 

2.00pm - 6.00pm - Find the EG Elves around town and get your #ElfieSelfie with the chance to win a prize 

3.30pm - Experience Guildford stage opens outside Holy Trinity Church (enjoy music from local acts including Guildford and Godalming Rock Choir and Guildford Jazz Choir right up until the balcony show) 

5.00pm - Join the Mascot parade up the High Street, starting from White Lion Walk 

6.00pm - Countdown to the switch on with the balcony show from the Guildhall, with Eagle Radio's Peter Gordon, the cast of the Yvonne Arnaud's panto, Sleeping Beauty - plus special guests 

7.00pm - The Christmas Lights will be switched on, followed by a dazzling fireworks display sponsored by Experience Guildford 

The Balcony Show will also be broadcast to big screens opposite M&S and above the stage, so even more people can get a really good view! 

7.15pm - 8.30pm – Boogie the evening away with Latitude back at the EG Stage. 

(All information correct at time of issue and is subject to change). 

ODEON Kingston and ODEON Guildford are going full throttle this half term with family films and deals

  • Surrey locals can take advantage of a £40 All-In Family Saver offer featuring four tickets and five snacks at ODEON Kingston and ODEON Guildford this half term
  • Special 2-4-1 ticket offer will also allow families entry into a Merlin attraction with their ODEON ticket
  • Family films hitting screens during the break include Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: FarmaggedonThe Addams Family and Abominable

The October half term is just around the corner and as the weather makes its shift to colder and damper days, there is no better way to spend the break than a family trip to the cinema. With a stellar line up of films to entertain all ages, plus some great value deals to make the visit a little easier, ODEON Kingston and ODEON Guildford are the ultimate family destination this half term.  

From the return of Angelina Jolie’s dark queen in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (18 October release), to  A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmaggedon (18 October release), a comeback from showbiz’s most spooktacular family in The Addams Family (25 October release) and the introduction of a new furry big screen friend in Abominable (11 October release) there is something to keep every family member entertained.

ODEON Kingston and ODEON Guildford also has a number of great value deals for families to take advantage of including:

  • £40 All-In Family Saver: Grown-ups pay kids prices with this family saver of four tickets and five snacks for £40. Whether it is two adults and two children, or one adult and three children, Surrey families can get their blockbuster fun for less by simply selecting the family ticket option when booking online  
  • 2-4-1 to the UK’s best attractions: Along with a visit to the cinema, families can score themselves a free 2-4-1 pass to the UK’s best Merlin attractions such as Legoland, Thorpe Park, Sea Life and Madame Tussauds when they book to see a film at ODEON Kingston and ODEON Guildford between September 30th and October 31st 

For session times and to book tickets, families should visit www.odeon.co.uk

Please do check the Odeon Cinemas terms & conditions for this offer.