New museum – next steps towards a destination to showcase and celebrate innovation, creativity and place

The Executive will consider the latest progress and next stage in transforming our museum into a major focal point for heritage and the arts at its next meeting on 19 March. 

Lead Councillor for Skills, Arts and Tourism, Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith says: “We aim to create a new attraction and cultural destination, based around an exciting and modern offer, which opens up the Castle Grounds and showcases our borough’s tremendous story and collections. We are involving residents, organisations and businesses in our plans to make sure we offer national exhibitions, as well the best of Guildford’s past, present and future. Their feedback has been an important part of the last year’s work, as we continue to make progress on this long-term and complex project. 

“We have a unique opportunity to provide a destination that recognises Guildford’s status and position in our region and a new museum is part of a much bigger picture. It will provide a significant local and regional focus for heritage and the arts by linking with a wide variety of our own and other attractions across our area. Celebrating Guildford’s amazing innovation, creativity and achievements, from the past wool trade to satellite technology and the thriving gaming industry, will attract more visitors and boost our local economy. A vibrant cultural space also encourages inward investment and interest from new companies looking for a great place to locate their business and workforce.” 

Regeneration of Guildford Museum is a complicated and challenging process, and projects of this scale, aspiration and investment take time and involve many different partners and stakeholders. Work so far has focussed on shaping the stories the museum will tell, ideas for events and activities, analysis of the site feasibility and developing a sustainable model for the future, all based on extensive audience research. 

Cllr Nelson- Smith adds: “Demonstrating new and inventive ways to share our arts and heritage is just one strand of our ongoing innovation theme. Our innovation strategy, which will also be considered at next week’s Executive meeting, shows how we support, implement and encourage ground-breaking initiatives to benefit people across our borough.” 

The Executive will consider the external fundraising options and next steps towards a possible opening of a new attraction in the summer of 2023. 

For more information about the Executive meeting on 19 March - or to watch the debate via our online webcast - please visit 

Registration is open for Team Guildford's free taster sessions

Last night, local Olympian Liam Heath MBE and 30 young people nominated to be Specsavers Surrey Youth Games Young Ambassadors, came together to celebrate a new programme of free sessions aimed at giving young people the chance to try a variety of sports and physical activities in Guildford. 

The Young Ambassadors, who represented Team Guildford in the 2018 Games, heard how they could help promote the free local pre-Games taster sessions to pupils in their schools. 

Wey Kayak Club’s Olympic Sprint Canoeist Champion, Liam Heath MBE, gave a special motivational speech on his sporting successes so far. He also took part in a short Q&A session from the Ambassadors and had photos taken with 
each school group.

The Specsavers Surrey Youth Games target audience for the 2019 taster sessions is complete beginners- the sessions are not open to club players already participating.

Cllr Iseult Roche, Lead Councillor for Community, Health and Project Aspire, said: 

“Last night was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the opportunities available for young people in Guildford to get active, through the launch of the Specsavers Surrey Youth Games taster sessions - and for local school children to mix with an outstanding Olympian athlete from Guildford. Team Guildford’s free, beginner taster sessions give young people the opportunity to get physically active, try something new and make friends! I hope many local young people take part and benefit from this fantastic opportunity!”

Young people aged between 6 and 16 who go to school in, or live in Guildford, can now sign up to take part in the free taster sessions. There is a wide range of activities for both boys and girls and for different age groups. 

We have worked with local sports clubs and coaches to provide these fun and accessible taster activities. The sessions are held over 6-8 weeks across a wide range of different sporting activities and take place between April and June. The event weekend in June, brings participants together from across the county, to play, be part of a team and compete on a level playing field with other beginners.

Over 2000 young people across the county, are involved in the Specsavers Surrey Youth Games, making it Surrey’s biggest annual youth sports festival.

Cllr Iseult Roche, Lead Councillor for Community Health, Wellbeing and Project Aspire adds:

“It is amazing to see so many young people get involved and enjoy being active in our borough through the Surrey Youth Games. The Specsavers Surrey Youth Games provides a great introduction to sporting activity in a welcoming and fun environment. The development of opportunities for people to participate in sports and physical activity in Guildford is a key aim for the Council.”

The 2019 Specsavers Surrey Youth Games event, will take place over the weekend of Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June 2019 at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford.

For more information on how to sign up for these free taster sessions, please visit:

Chessington World of Adventures Resort comes to the rescue this World Book Day

  • For 20% of parents, costumes for World Book Day are a last-minute thought
  • Chessington will provide families with Room on the Broom themed costumes up until the eleventh hour
  • The family Resort will also offer DIY costume hacks across social media in the lead up to World Book Day on Thursday March 7

Ahead of World Book Day next week, Chessington World of Adventures Resort is launching an SOS service for parents who have left costume planning for one of the biggest days in the school calendar to the eleventh hour.

According to research commissioned by Chessington, 20% of parents leave their child’s outfit for World Book Day to the very last-minute, causing stress and panic.

To keep those woes at bay, the family Resort will be delivering costumes to a select number of families who are in need of a little helping hand this year.

Ahead of its opening of Room on the Broom – A Magical Journey on Sunday March 10, Chessington will gift costumes based on the characters, Witch and Dragon, from author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s  much-loved children’s story.  

For parents who have a keen eye for arts and crafts, Chessington will also be sharing some DIY costume hacks across its social media channels - families can keep an eye out@Chessington on Facebook and @CWOA  on Twitter.   

World Book Day 2019 takes place on Thursday March 7, ahead of Room on the Broom - A Magical Journey opening at Chessington World of Adventures Resort on Sunday March 10, which will be accompanied by two themed Room on the Broom bedrooms in the Chessington Safari Hotel. 

For more information, visit

The Boy at the Back of the Class and The Colours of History win 2019 Blue Peter Book Awards

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf and The Colours of History by Clive Gifford, illustrated by Marc-Etienne Peintre, have been revealed as the 2019 Blue Peter Book Award winners.

Managed by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, the immensely popular Blue Peter Book Awards honour amazing authors, imaginative illustrators and the best books for children, published in the last 12 months. The winning titles were voted for by over 300 children from 12 schools across the UK.

Winner of Best Story is: The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf

Onjali’s latest book, tells the story of how four classmates have a massive impact on the life of Ahmet, a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria. An inspiring tale that will help children be the best they can be and realise the power of kindness.

Discussing the award Onjali Q Raúf said: "What a wonderful, surreal, and truly epic honour it is to win this wonderful award! I can hardly believe that my childhood dream of owning a Blue Peter badge one day has come true in the most unexpected way possible! I am utterly bowled over by the love and support The Boy at the Back of the Class has received not just from the marvellous Blue Peter Judges, but all the children who voted for its place as a winning title this year – Thank You."

Winner of Best Book with Facts is: The Colours of History by Clive Gifford, illustrated by Marc-Etienne Peintre

Author Clive Gifford said: “To be recognised by a show I watched and loved as a child (and still do as an adult) is a remarkable thing. I’m tickled pink! I want to thank all the children who voted for The Colours of History. And a big thank to BookTrust for the remarkable work they do. Awards like these are so important in getting across how books with facts can tell incredible and important stories and excite, inspire and entertain young minds as much as fiction.”

Illustrator Marc-Etienne Peintre commented: "I was very lucky to get to work with Clive and the Quarto team on such an interesting subject. I am extremely honoured to have won this prize, and most of all, to know that the children the book is intended for have read and enjoyed The Colours of History."

On Thursday 7th March, the winning two authors will appear on a special World Book Day edition of Blue Peter, the longest running children’s programme in the world. Also appearing on the show are our judges, award-winning author and illustrator Alex T Smith and author and UK’s number one parenting vlogger Louise Pentland.

Alex T. Smith, Author, Illustrator and Blue Peter Book Awards judge said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of the Blue Peter Book Award judging panel this year, and such a delight to work with the other judges. It was a very competitive shortlist with brilliant titles, and it was a very close call but we think the students have made a fantastic decision!”

Blue Peter editor, Matthew Peacock said: “We’ve had a fantastically strong selection of titles for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 and it’s great to see children from across the UK voting to decide the outcome. Congratulations go to Best Story Book winner Onjali Q. Rauf for The Boy at the Back of the Class which is such an informative and poignant tale about a subject that is very important to many children today. I’m also incredibly pleased we are able to present Clive Gifford with the award for Best Book with Facts. The Colours of History is such an original take on a history book, linking colours to amazing facts.”

Diana Gerald, CEO, BookTrust commented: “Each year the Blue Peter Book Awards is an excellent opportunity to celebrate talented authors and illustrators who create amazing books. This year was no different, the nail-biting school verdict was a very close competition, but we are delighted that Onjali and Clive took the top places - two very deserving winners who continue to encourage so many young children to read and love stories.”  

Keep up-to-date with the Awards at and on Twitter by following @BookTrust and #bluepeter

Catch the world premiere stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson's Zog at G Live

The full cast and creative team has been announced for the world premiere stage adaptation of Zog, based on the book by Julia Donaldsonwith illustrations by Axel Scheffler, playing at G Live, Guildford from Monday 8 – Tuesday 9 April as part of a UK Tour.

The cast features Elliot MacKenzie (professional debut) as Zog, Emily Benjamin (Bat Out Of Hell) as Princess Pearl, Robert Ginty (Salome and Coriolanus, Royal Shakespeare Company) as SirGadabout the Great and Euan Wilson (Stick Man, UK Tour) as Madame Dragon, with Dixie McDevitt (National Youth Theatre alumni) as Ensemble. The cast of actor-puppeteers will bring the world of Zog to life with handcrafted puppets designed and created by Little Angel Theatre co-founder Lyndie Wright.

Zog is adapted and directed by Mike Shepherd (founder and Artistic Director of Kneehigh) with an original folk score by Johnny Flynn (currently starring in True Westin the West End) and designs by Katie Sykes (Jane Eyreat the National Theatre). Completing the creative team are movement director Tom Jackson Greaves (Billionaire Boy, UK Tour), lighting designer Ric Mountjoy (The Play that Goes Wrong), sound designer Julian Starr (Violet, Charing Cross Theatre), puppet designer Lyndie Wright (Little Angel Theatre), puppet director Sarah Wright (Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter)and movement and circus consultant Tina Koch.

Large in size, and keen in nature, Zog is so eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon’s school, where dragons learn all the things that dragons need to know.  Zogtries so very hard, perhaps too hard, and he bumps, burns and roars his way through years one, two and three. Luckily, the plucky Princess Pearl patches him up ready to face his biggest challenge yet…a duel with a knight, Sir Gadabout the Great! Zog promises to be roaring fun for all ages.

Zogis produced by Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre Kingston. Freckle Productions’ most recent show is Tabby McTat,an adaptation of the book by Julia Donaldson, following their acclaimed productions of Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales and Stick Man

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are the UK’s number one picture book pair and are creators of many modern classics, including The Gruffalo which is in 75 languages. 

Zogwas first published in 2010 and won the Galaxy National Children’s Book of the Year Award. Ithas gone on to become a perennial bestseller. On Christmas Day 2018, Magic Light Pictures premiered an animated film ofZog on BBC One featuring an all-star cast, following their award-winning films The GruffaloRoom on the Broomand Stick Man

Zog is suitable for children and families of all ages.