Simply had a wonderful Christmas Lights Time

The mood was right and the spirits were most definitely up at Guildford's annual Christmas Lights Switch-On event in the historic High Street last week. 

The town centre was filled with Christmas entertainment for all the family from the afternoon until late at the event organised by Guildford Borough Council, together with partners Experience Guildford, GEE YOU, Guildford Fringe Theatre Company, Eagle Radio, White Lion Walk and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

An exciting balcony show hosted by Eagle Breakfast DJ Peter Gordon with guests including Mayor of Guildford Cllr Mike Parsons, local sports stars and the cast of the Yvonne Arnaud pantomime including actress and singer Michelle Gayle, preceded the lights switch-on and the fantastic firework finale was kindly provided by Steve Cotney of White Lion Walk. 

Guildford MP Anne Milton, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills also attended the event and describes it as a "wonderful evening". 

Mayor of Guildford, Cllr Mike Parsons says: “This wonderful community event marks the start of the town’s countdown to Christmas. I was delighted to see so many residents and visitors coming together to celebrate the start of the festive season. A huge thank you to all of our partners and visitors that make this occasion so special every year.” 

He explains: “Each year we try to improve on the last and this year we were able to offer even more entertainment than previous years and new dedicated quiet spaces for those who prefer to avoid the hustle and bustle of the High Street. We worked with Social Change Company GEEYOU to offer this service with grateful thanks to Skipton Building Society and Cosy Club in Tunsgate Quarter." 

Nick White, Director of GEEYOU explains: "Making the Guildford Lights event as accessible as possible was one of our top priorities this year. We ensured we provided a safe and comfortable environment and were able to welcome everyone who made an equiries. The work of our staff and volunteers ensured our Quiet Spaces were a tremendous success." 

A resident whose family used the new quiet spaces said: "It really made my son's night (and his brother's and mine too). We were able to pop in and out over the course of the evening and the staff at Skipton were wonderful. Thanks to your service, our family thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.” 

Another added: "Please thank the Cosy Club staff and volunteers who kept my son entertained and safe. Lovely atmosphere and a great time at an event which we would have usually avoided completely.” 

Amanda Masters, Chief Executive at Experience Guildford says: “As ever, the lights switch-on event is a marvellous way to mark the start of the festive retail calendar and the beginning of our late night shopping. We were proud to introduce new lights at the top of the high street this year to help extend footfall throughout the town. We have also enhanced our retail and leisure mix to draw visitors from further afield and increase dwell time. Our new #ElfieSelfie competition was a big hit with lots of visitors enjoying being snapped with our mischievous elves. We have contacted the winner of the family panto ticket on social media.” 

She added: “Huge thanks go to all the partners involved in this year’s celebrations and here’s to a very prosperous festive season for all.” 

Nick Wyschna from Guildford Fringe Theatre Company, coordinated the extensive entertainment programme, he says: "It’s been amazing seeing the event evolve since I attended as a child with my family to being involved as an organiser for the past four years. Community is at the heart of what we do and as a Guildfordian, born and bred, I love helping the event grow each year as does the rest of the Guildford Fringe Team. This year was a triumph, a truly magical day.” 

BookTrust launches Under My Sky poetry competition

BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity and Nicola Davies, their current Writer in Residence, have launched a poetry competition encouraging primary school age children to write a poem about nature or their local environment.

One lucky winner will get a school visit from Nicola Davies and a wonderful stack of Nicola’s books for their school library. Then two runners up will each get a bundle of Nicola’s books. The winning poem, and 20 runners-up will also get their poem showcased on the BookTrust website. 

Nicola Davies said of the competition: “When you want to write about something you have to really look at it; When you want to write a poem about something you have to think about it, and about what it means to you. So, this poetry competition is to make young poets LOOK at the natural world around them, and think deeply about it, what it means to them and to us all. Their poems will help us all to learn to really see nature and really value it; this is the most important and urgent lesson humanity needs right now.” 

The competition is for pupils of a primary school age and children can take part as individuals or as a class. Their poems can be written in any style and any shape, just as long as it is about the environment. Children have until Friday 18th January 2019 to send in their poems. 

BookTrust CEO Diana Gerald said: “We are thrilled to be working with Nicola on this excellent competition, inspiring children to get outside and get writing. We hope the competition highlights to children the wonders of the natural world around them, encouraging them to explore their creativity through poetry.” 

Nicola Davies has some advice for the young poetry writers: “Look out of your window, even if all you can see is buildings, nature is all round you: the air and the clouds constantly changing are created by the life of our planet. Look at your face in the mirror, your hand holding the pen, evolution gave you a face, a hand that can hold a pen, a brain that can think. And evolution is the history of nature, a story that connects us all to each other and to every living thing alive now and that has been alive in the long journey of our planet.”

Full details of the competition can be found here.

Be enchanted in Camberley this Christmas

Camberley town centre is set to be a magical place this winter with an array of special events taking place every weekend through November and December until Christmas.

A Nutcracker Ballet themed weekend is taking place in Cambridge Square (outside House of Fraser), The Square shopping centre on 3 and 4 November.  See dance performances with dancers from Camberley’s Bluebell Ballet School.  Your child will have the opportunity to take part in dance workshops to learn ballet steps and take part in the final show at 4pm.  There will also be storytelling and a special craft session making mice ears. 

The popular Christmas lights switch event on will take place on Saturday 17 November.  Join in from 10am for Camberley’s Christmas market, festive entertainment and special guests, followed by the switching on of the lights, live music and fireworks at 4.30pm, even Peppa Pig is travelling to Camberley to see this show!  You can see Peppa at intervals throughout the day in The Square shopping centre. 

Eight unique reindeer are coming to Camberley town centre in December.  The reindeer have all been decorated by local schools and nurseries and will be positioned around town, can you spot them?  Pick up a form from The Square or The Atrium to record your reindeer sightings. Prizes to be won if you find them all. 

A very special Camberley Christmas Parade will take place at 4pm on Saturday 1 December.  The parade will include a mixture of community groups, schools, businesses and a marching band as we welcome Father Christmas to Camberley in a horse drawn carriage.  The parade will conclude on Park Street where there will be entertainment and festive refreshments for sale. There is still time for organisations to get involved in the day – please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.

Get even further into the Christmas spirit with live music in The Square. During late night shopping on Thursday 13 December there will be an evening of Christmas Carols, led by the Surrey Heath Singers, before a weekend of free Christmas concerts across Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 December featuring a mixture of professional artists and local community groups.

The Square and The Atrium have lots of festive fun planned too.  In The Square you’ll find Father Christmas in his magical grotto, children can visit for just £4 which includes a gift.  You can also join Santa for breakfast (all bookable in advance, find out more  To coincide with Camberley Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty panto there will be Sleeping Beauty themed activities on 1 and 2 December, including dressing up and arts and crafts.  You will also have the opportunity to take special Christmas photos in a snow globe on Saturday 9 December.

The Atrium are running an Elf School on 8 and 9 December.  Enrol and get trained up to be one of Santa’s little helpers.  

Is that all? Oh no it’s not! Camberley theatre has its panto!  This year ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – a brand new adaptation of the classic fairy-tale.  This spell-binding production features singalong songs, high energy choreography, beautiful scenery and a host of side-splitting jokes!  Find out more and book your tickets 

Councillor Richard BrooksDeputy Leader, Surrey Heath Borough Council said;  

“As part of our investment in Camberley town centre we are supporting our local retailers and businesses by working with our town centre partners; including The Square, Camberley Theatre, The Atrium and Collectively Camberley to organise some fantastic events.  These events also provide wonderful free entertainment for our local families and communities.  We hope everyone has fun in Camberley this winter.” 

Karen Whelan, CEO, Surrey Heath Borough Council said; 

“Camberley is all set to be an amazing place as we lead up to Christmas.  This events programme has been carefully designed to provide something for everyone, but in particular families and children as Christmas is such a magical time for this age group.”    

Frimley playground transformed in £50,000 makeover 

Evergreen Road play area in Frimley is the latest playground to be refurbished as part of SHBC’s £650,0000 play area improvement programme

Surrey Heath Safeguarding and Support Portfolio Holder and Parkside ward councillor Cllr Josephine Hawkins officially opened the playground with SHBC Executive Head of Business Daniel Harrison and Senior Business Officer Nicky Sherlow – joined by some happy local children making the most of the new facilities!  

Following the £50,000 makeover, children can now enjoy the new junior multi-play unit, a variety of swings, 4-way see saw, rope swing, surf rider, and trampoline. 

There’s new safety surfacing throughout, along with more seats and picnic benches. 

Cllr Hawkins said: “The playground has been transformed, and I hope local families enjoy using these excellent new facilities.

“This refurbishment has been achieved through regular consultation with local residents, to ensure it is a fun, friendly and safe place for children to meet and play.

“Thank you to all those involved in making it happen.” 

Last year the Council agreed a Borough-wide playground improvement scheme that will see more areas of Surrey Heath benefit from improved play facilities. 

The play area improvement scheme is worth over £650,000, with the improvements due to be implemented over three years.

Playgrounds earmarked for refurbishment/replacement as part of this scheme include:

  • Chobham Road Recreation Ground, Frimley

  • Frimley Lodge Park

  • Lightwater Country Park

  • Loman Road, Mytchett & Deepcut

  • London Road Recreation Ground, St Michaels

  • Old Dean Recreation Ground

  • Watchetts Recreation Ground

  • WhitmoorRoad, Bagshot

Children’s authors Nicola Davies and Dara O Briain join BookTrust to celebrate National Non Fiction Month

To celebrate National Non Fiction month this November BookTrust, the UK’s largest children's reading charity, has selected 12 brilliant non fiction books from its new Great Books Guide to help parents and carers get their children reading.

These engaging non fiction books approach subjects like nature, science and history in a variety of interesting ways and are suitable for children aged 4-11. Non fiction books are an excellent tool to help children understand the world around them and can often help reluctant readers turn pages.

We spoke to Dara O Briain, author of Beyond The Sky, about why he thinks non fiction is so important: “The thing about non fiction is that it’s about specialising and kids finding their passions. Start general, and then begin to find the things that children are really captivated by. Then you can burrow down and dive a little deeper. 

“I think there’s a bit of a fear around reading non fiction with kids, maybe in case they find it less interesting than fiction. We maybe have a tendency to think of non fiction as being linked to a school subject rather than an interesting thing in itself. We’ve got in our heads, bedtime stories not bedtime reading and I think we take that too literally at times. So my advice is fill their heads with facts, fill their heads with rockets, fill their heads with dinosaurs and all sorts of stuff that’s real and honest - and give them great dreams about science!”    

BookTrust Writer in Residence and non fiction author Nicola Davies said: “Reading non fiction is your key to the world and everything that’s in it. It can be the start of all sorts of explorations in time and space and send you off on adventures to find your way to see the world. And writing non fiction is a key too, a key you can offer people, so they can see how the world looks to you!”

BookTrust’s Great Books Guide 2018 has 100 book recommendations for children aged 0-12 and was delivered to 22,000 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland during October. This year the guide is beautifully illustrated by Mini Grey and features books from a host of wonderful authors and illustrators including current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, Taran Matharu, Judith Kerr and Chris Riddell. There are books in there about animals, space, mysteries and icons. 

Diana Gerald, BookTrust CEO said: “Non fiction books can help to teach your children about the world around them whilst also being fun, entertaining and beautiful to look at. Non fiction books can be a fantastic way to tempt a reluctant reader into sitting down with a book. We hope these non fiction recommendations and the other books in our Great Books Guide 2018 inspire you to help children find the right book for them.”

Non Fiction recommendations:

Creature Features by Natasha Durely (Big Picture Press) Age 4-5

This large format book about nature features tough card pages full of brightly illustrated animals, organised by their special features. Excellent for young readers building their vocabulary and learning about the natural world.

The Variety of Life by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Lorna Scobie (Hodder Children’s Books) Age 6-7

Jam-packed with fun facts and figures, and stunning illustrations, this book not only encourages children to treasure the world’s biodiversity, but also indicates which species are threated by extinction. 

The Zoological Times: The Animal Kingdom’s Wildest Newspaper by Stella Gurney and illustrated by Matthew Hodson (Lincoln Children’s Books) Age 6-7

This funny newspaper-style non-fiction book features tons of facts, puzzles, jokes and activities about all manner of animals, from giraffes to lions. 

Dogs in Space: The Amazing True Story of Belka and Strelka by Vix Southgate, Illustrated by Iris Deppe (Wren and Rock) Age 6-7

This informative and appealing picture book details the true story of two space dogs journey through training to orbiting the earth and returning to safety.  

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez, Illustrated by Felicita Sala (Andersen Press) Age 6-7

Atmospheric illustrations accompany informative text in this inspiration picture book biography of a pioneering female scientist. 

Sports are Fantastic Fun! By Ole Konnecke (Gecko Press) Age 6-7

Full of brilliant detail about a vast range of sports this humorously illustrated picture book gives children a good introduction to the rules ad ethos of all manner of sports. 

Corpse Talk: Ground- Breaking Women by Adam and Lisa Murphy ( David Fickling Books) Age 8-9

In this comic book, chat show host Adam Murphy interviews 18 historical women, including Joan of Arc, Pocahontas and Anne Frank, all freshly dug up from the grave. 

Real-Life Mysteries: Can You Explain the Unexplained? By Susan Martineau and illustrated by Vicky Barker (Small publishing) Age 8-9

This fascinating collection of case files covers everything from crop circles to monsters, with a view to examining and evaluating all the evidence.  

Splat the Fake Fact by Adam Frost, Illustrated by Gemma Correll ( Bloomsbury) Age 8-9

With a series of interactive activities, this book not only allows children to find out what is and isn’t true, but also gets them to doodle, lasso and deface the fake facts. 

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins 

This beautiful book celebrates a selection of black icons from history and the present day to inspire all children to discover what they can achieve. 

Alastair Humphrey’s Great Adventures by Alastair Humphreys illustrated by Kevin Ward (Big Picture Press) Age 8-9

An inspiring introduction to 20 adventurers and explorers from the last 700 years. This book will encourage readers to think a little more boldly and go a little further themselves.  

Beyond the Sky: You and the Universe by Dara O Briain, illustrated by Dan Bramall (Scholastic) Aged 10-11 

Packed with fascinating facts covering fundamental scientific questions, O Briain’s genuine love for science shines through, and his chatty, accessible style is perfectly complemented by the witty illustrations. 

Download your copy of BookTrust’s Great Books Guide 2018 here.