31 December 2016

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

2016 has marked 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl - the world’s number one storyteller. Throughout 2016, there were celebrations for Roald Dahl 100, focusing on Roald Dahl's ‘gloriumptious’ stories and characters and delivering a year packed with ‘squiffling’ surprises and treats for everyone.

So during 2016 My Boys have been lucky enough to follow The BFG Dream Jar Trail in London; watch THE BFG at the Tyneside Cinema followed up with themed food; see the James and the Giant Peach Live Show at Northern Stage and enjoy Revolting Rhymes on TV this Christmas; as well as continuing to read some of the best books they will ever read.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children's books for their unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His books champion the kind-hearted and feature an underlying warm sentiment. Some of his best-known books for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine.

His stories have gone on to capture the hearts and imaginations of children and adults across the globe, making him the world's number one storyteller. Many of the books have gone on to be adapted into movie blockbusters, plays and musicals.

The BFG Disney Movie at the Tyneside Cinema

At the start of the summer we took a trip to the Tyneside Cinema to watch the new Steven Speilberg blockbuster ‘The BFG’. A magical adaptation of the book it is definitely a scrumdiddlyumptious feast for the eyes and ears.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

The film offers magic and visual delights but undoubtedly it is the scene at Buckingham Palace that steals the show. It’s here that the BFG introduces the Queen to the majesty of “whizzpopping”, the bottom-burping “sign of true happiness” brought on by the downward-spiralling bubbles of his favourite fizzy drink, “frobscottle”.

I can still hear the raucous laughter that came from two gentlemen sat towards the back of the cinema – they didn’t even have children with them but enjoyed the film as much as anyone else there that day. Their laughs were infectious.

To top it all off we then enjoyed a Big Friendly Giant Meal and Whizpopping Pudding in the Cafe.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

The BFG Dream Jar Trail

In summer 2016, the streets of London were transformed with magical giant Dream Jars as part of The BFG Dream Jar Trail celebrating Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday and The BFG movie release. 

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl
2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

The BFG Dream Jar Trail brought to life the long-held dreams of celebrities and artists with 50 Dream Jars across London and beyond over seven dream-filled weeks. The Dream Jars could be found in iconic spots such as Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. In August on our trip to London we managed to see a few including On The Wings Of A Dream By Aston Martin and The Duchess' Dream.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

When the “wondercrump” trail ended the Dream Jars were auctioned, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for children’s charities.

James and The Giant Peach – Northern Stage

James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl’s first classic novel for children. Published in 1961 it tells the story of James Henry Trotter to whom something rather peculiar happens after living with his aunts for three years.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

When we first meet him, James is a lonely boy living with his two aunts "in a queer ramshackle house on the top of a high hill in the south of England." This is because, right at the beginning of the story, poor James is orphaned when his parents are killed by an angry rhinoceros. His aunts are horrible. They make James do all the cleaning and never let him away from the house to meet other children or make friends.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

But James's luck starts to change when he meets a mysterious old man who hands him a magical gift that will change his life - and introduce James to some of the most unusual friends a young boy could ever have...

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

The live show adaptation at Northern Stage is wonderful. It is so full of energy, songful and has so much interaction with the audience through seagulls, bubbles, sharks, tentacles and beach balls that (especially when sitting in the front row) that you feel as you’ve actually been part of the show, not a passive viewer.

Sadly there are very few tickets left for the performance at Northern Stage but if you don’t get the opportunity to see it there is still the very magical book to read. It's at Northern Stage, Newcastle, until 31 December.


Revolting Rhymes Christmas special

The Revolting Rhymes book is a favourite in our house, my eldest has also performed in two of the short stories at school so we are well versed in them. So we were very excited to see that Roald Dahl’s mischievous Revolting Rhymes were to be brought to the screen this Christmas as a festive highlight on BBC One this year. And they certainly didn’t disappoint. 

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

Shown as two half-hour animated films, shown early evening on Boxing Day and the following Bank Holiday, rather than go through each story individually as we were expecting, all five rhymes - Little Red Riding Hood, Snow-White, Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella - were ingeniously interwoven into one story told by a narrator. 

If you haven’t seen it watch it on Iplayer now.

My Boys Favourite 5 Roald Dahl quotes

1) ‘A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’ – The Twits

2) ‘You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony.’ – Danny the Champion of the World

3) ‘So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.’ – Matilda

4) ‘Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.’ – James and the Giant Peach

5) ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.’ The Witches

Although he died in 1974 his books, writing and storytelling thankfully live on and Roald Dahl's stories continue to inspire children and adults around the world.

The  Roald Dahl website, has amazing resources for kids, parents and teachers – go check it out.

What is your favourite Roald Dahl book?

Deb x

James and the Giant Peach Press Image Credit: Topher McGillis

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Share your 2015 - Belle du Brighton

30 December 2016

After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar (REVIEW)

We all know that Newcastle is a City that is ‘Alive after Five’.  But now the City has an additional reason to celebrate with the new ‘After 5  & Weekend Menu’ plus cocktails on offer at Zapatista Burrito Bar on Grainger Street, close to Central Station. We were invited to come along and sample the new menu just ahead of its launch earlier this month.

Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle

29 December 2016

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Looking for plans to celebrate this New Year's Eve? There's plenty of free events to choose from in the north east, including Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and South Shields that'll help you and your family see in 2017 in style.

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Christmas Wonderland at South Shields

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Head down to St Hilda's Church Gardens (just next to The Word in South Shields Town Centre) and discover illuminated festive characters including penguins, polar bears, Santa and his reindeer and sleigh.

Discovery Museum Lanterns 11am – 3pm

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Try your hand at lantern making at the Discovery Museum – there is a drop-in workshop between 11am and 3pm before heading to the Newcastle Winter Carnival and joining in the procession

Newcastle Winter Carnival 4.30pm – 6pm

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

The Newcastle Winter Carnival Parade is an early evening family celebration which rings in the New Year in style. The Winter Carnival Parade can be viewed for free as it moves through the city centre and culminates in a dramatic fireworks display at Newcastle Civic Centre. The best viewing points for the Winter Carnival Parade will be at Monument and along Northumberland Street. Then enjoy the Carnival Parade finale and fireworks at Newcastle Civic Centre, bringing the celebrations to a spectacular close. 

Sunderland New Year Celebrations 5pm – 6pm

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Transformers, fire-performers, live music and a fantastic firework finale will be helping visitors celebrate the start of a new year at the seafront in Sunderland. Sun FM will host some great entertainment for all the family at Seaburn’s Cliffe Park including Sunderland based artist Penella Bee and her team performing a range of dazzling acts using fire and lights. Other attractions on the day include a children’s fairground, on-site catering and live music performed by local singer Ashleigh Humble. The fireworks display will start at around 5.50pm, with perfect viewing from Cliffe Park and along the seafront.

Special Service at Durham Cathedral 6pm

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Join with the churches of Durham and gather for a service of reflection on the past, of thanksgiving for the blessings of God in the present and of hope for the year to come. You are invited to gather in Durham Market Place at 6.00pm with lanterns and join the procession up to the Cathedral for 6.30pm.


And don’t forget just before the clock strikes twelve, step outside on Newcastle Quayside to see the free Midnight Fireworks display, drawing 2016 to a close and welcoming the start of 2017 with a bang.

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Happy New Year!

Deb x

Please note: Events details and timings are subject to change - please check with event organisers.

28 December 2016

A Good & Proper Place - We Try Out George's GBK

A Good & Proper Place - We Try Out George's Great British Kitchen

Although it opened in October we hadn't yet had the opportunity to try out the food at one of Newcastle’s newest restaurants – George’s Great British Kitchen in the multi-million redevelopment of intu Eldon Square, called the Grey Quarter. That all changed last week.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

The idea behind George’s Great British Kitchen is all about being different. From its beach huts to gin bar, it is all about bringing proper British dishes all with a unique twist to the heart of Newcastle. As they say, it’s a ‘good & proper place for jolly good times and seaside shenanigans’.

Now this was December, and during a weekday Christmas shopping trip, me and the hubby decided to try it out. As we walked through the new Grey Quarter in intu Eldon Square, from Grey’s Monument entrance we were impressed by how many new places there are to try. It’s not that long since Newcastle had hardly any restaurant chains at all in the city centre, but a healthy balance of independent restaurants and cafes, alongside small and large chains makes for a vibrant feel.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

It was only a quick lunch so we skipped starters but there seemed to be plenty of choices for another visit for meat and fish eaters, as well as vegetarians. Cod Pakora and Mushy Pea Fritters took our eye.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

There is a gin bar but on this occasion, we stuck to soft drinks. And with Ginger Beer and Dandelion and Burdock (a personal favourite) on the menu it’s a hit for us. Not sure I need an alcoholic drink when I’ve got that option, but the drink topped with candyfloss served to the table next to us, did look amazing.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

Instead, we decided on two dishes that we could share. A Proper Fish Finger Sandwich (£7.95) and a Cod Dog (£9.75). The sandwich had cod goujons inside two doorstep slices of brown bread, layered with chunky tartare sauce and mushy peas and served with a pot of ketchup on the side. I’ve never had mushy peas inside a sandwich before. I don’t usually like mushy peas and never eat them when just dolloped on a plate but inside the sarnie was fine. 

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

The Cod Dog looked like a hot dog but was actually crispy battered giant cod finger in a brioche bun with a layer of mushy peas and a topping of chunky tartare sauce. A nice twist.

The Fish Finger Sandwich was served with twice-cooked chips whilst the Cod Dog comes with a side order of your choice. We chose Stilton chips – one of my favourite cheeses. The hubby wasn’t sure if he’d like them, but I was disappointed when he did – less for me!

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

The food was tasty, a little different and quirky but delicious all the same. The service was excellent, friendly and efficient – there is plenty of time to have a quick lunch and get back to work if you need to. Luckily we were just heading to more shops!

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

As it was just after 12 noon when we arrived we easily got a ‘beach hut’ table. Seahouses to be exact – but it did quickly fill up inside. The outside area, with blankets, although not really outside (simply within the shopping mall) remained empty though – it’s the little quirky things like the condiment trays, the cuddly fish, beach huts and blankets on ‘outside’ seats, as well as the traditional English seaside cut-out to have your picture taken in, that make this place really welcoming and comfortable, as well as the delicious food.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

Cost: Drinks and food came to £23.20 for two people.
Location: The Grey Quarter, intu Eldon Square, Newcastle.
Boys Club Rating: At less than £25 for two people, it’s a great place for a spot of lunch. Can't wait to try it again in 2017.

What's your favourite restaurant in The Grey Quarter?

Deb x

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22 December 2016

Festive Food: Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

I love this time of year. Have you guessed I really like Christmas yet? One of my favourite things about this time of year is the food. It's not a time to be worrying about how much you eat, as long as you don't overdo it - a little bit of everyone does you good, right?

I love trying out new ideas and was inspired by an image of a Chelsea Bun Christmas Tree for this recipe. However, it's not Chelsea Buns but Pizza Swirls, made out of ready rolled puff pastry, that are creating my foodie Christmas Tree this year.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

So what's a Pizza Swirl? I saw a recipe on Pizza Swirls on the Feeding Boys blog and have been making them for my boy's packed lunches at school, however, I fancied a more grown up version for my tree.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

I know it's not to everyone's taste but I adore blue cheese. The combination of blue cheese with red onion, mushroom and fresh spinach to me was going to be a winner. Fairly classic, I can easily see it actually topping a pizza, but with a Pizza Swirl it runs through the middle - a bit like a swiss roll.

Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

  • Makes: Two trees of 16 individual pieces
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 15 mins


  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 100g blue cheese crumbled
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced thinly, dry fried to take out any moisture
  • A handful of fresh spinach

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Grease and line two baking trays or use a re-usable baking sheet.
2. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry and spread evenly with a layer of the sliced red onion. 
3. Then crumble the blue cheese over the onion, before topping with the chopped mushrooms and spinach.
4. Tightly roll the pastry back up, like a swiss roll, being careful that the filling does not fall out. Cut into 16 equal slices.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

5. Place the slices on the baking sheet. For our usual pizza swirls, you want to keep them, apart however for the Christmas Tree you need to place them in the shape of a tree, close together so there are no gaps in between.
6. Then bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool then serve or store in an airtight tub.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

It really is that easy and the filling was so tasty. My next combination to try is going to be brie or camembert with cranberry and then maybe a sweet filling of coffee and walnuts.

If you are having a family gathering or celebrating with friends this festive season why not try a making a Pizza Swirl Christmas Tree?

Deb x

21 December 2016

Hubby's Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

We all love a great Christmas film. Whether you're looking for a classic black and white film, a romantic comedy, a kids' flick or even an action movie, there's a Christmas go-to for everyone. 

However, Christmas films don’t all have to be about Santa or be an over-sentimental festive flick. Luckily, there are many Christmas movies that are guaranteed to charm, entertain and in the odd case terrify. 

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

As an antidote to all that sugary over-indulgence this year, hubby has come up with his Top Ten alternative Xmas movies.

1: Die Hard 1 & 2

Like the meme says "It's not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber fall off of the Nakatomi Tower". Everyone has adopted Die Hard as their alternative festive flick these days but I'd have to go as far as to say that Die Hard 2 is probably, even more, Xmassy.

2: The Empire Strikes Back

Imperial Walkers in a Winter Wonderland. What can I say, I'm a hardcore Star Wars fan, of course, I'm going to include Empire! 

And if you want to know what I thought about Rogue One (NO SPOILERS) click here.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

3: Gremlins

Little ones causing chaos at Christmas and loving it... Need I say more.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

4: John Carpenters The Thing

A close knit group are cooped up amid harsh winter weather conditions. Cabin fever is setting in and those sprouts seem to be causing all manner of physiological horror! Sounds a lot like Christmas to me.

5: Edward Scissorhands

It's a fairytale much in the mould of the Brothers Grimm and while it's set in the masquerade of sunny suburbia, it's festive love fuelled heart is revealed during its wintery climax. It's also the tune we walked down the aisle too.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

 6: A Nightmare Before Christmas

A slice of Halloween that you can also watch with the kids at Christmas?... Perfect!

7: It's A Wonderful Life

You could argue that this film belongs at the top of a traditional Christmas movie list, what with its uplifting 'Christmas bells and angel wings' concept and It's prophetic 'gloom to glory' theme which is very much akin to Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. However, that opening gambit of George contemplating suicide is so stark that it has to be firmly wedged in my category of dark alternatives

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

8: The Wizard of Oz

There were only 3 channels on TV when I was a kid and this was the default festive blockbuster. They repeated it EVERY SINGLE YULETIDE! It's a great movie but it's only really on the list thanks to some prepubescent brainwashing.

9: Trading Places

What better way to distract you from over-exuberant indigestion than with a good belly laugh at the expense of evil big Corp owners receiving a vengeful comeuppance.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

10: Batman Returns

It seems Tim Burton knows how to satisfy my alternative festive needs with his 3rd entry into my list. Batman battling a circus of killer penguins and clowns in a bizarre film-noir winter wonderland. Why would this film ever NOT make the list?

Honourable mention: The Exorcist 3

I'm not sure exactly why I always think of this movie at Christmas? Maybe it's the use of iconic religious imagery or maybe it's purely and simply because it heavily references 'It's A Wonderful Life'. Either way, Christmas just isn't Christmas until you've purged festivities with a good old fashioned supernatural chiller, don't you think? 

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

Merry Christmas everyone!

Which films would make your top ten list of alternatives?

Deb x

19 December 2016

Recipe: Fresh Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese

Last month fresh figs were on offer at my local supermarket - less than half price - and I couldn't resist. However, I then spent what I'd saved (and some more) on blue cheese to try and recreate a dish I'd had in a lovely restaurant a few year ago.

Recipe: Fresh Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese

I remembered it being figs cooked with blue cheese, but I have no idea what accompanied it so I made up my own dish, and experimented on the hubby.

Although not juicy, a fig is soft inside and has an incredible sweet flavour and lovely smell. Kind of oval in shape, the purple fruit is delicate and requires gentle handling, and is delicious when cooked. You can also buy them dried, which is how I bought them in the past, mainly to use at Christmas in puddings.

Fresh they are available from late summer to late autumn. When buying pick ones that are plump and soft but not split. To prepare gently wipe the skins with a damp cloth, trim off the stem if it's hard. Then they are ready to use.

Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese with stir-fried vegetables

For this recipe, first I quartered the figs, stuffed them with blue cheese and put them in the oven on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. For two of us, I used four figs.

Recipe: Fresh Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese

Whilst they were cooking, I chopped some spring onions, pak choi, mushroom, red pepper and garlic and then stir-fried this in coconut oil, added a splash of soy sauce, a handful of nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts and cashew nuts) and some seeds (chia, linseed, pumpkin & sunflower for a few minutes on a high heat. 

All things I had in the fridge or store cupboard.

Once the cheese had melted, the figs were served alongside the stir-fried vegetables and some wholemeal bread.

Recipe: Fresh Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese

Cost: Figs were on offer at 19p each 
Time: 15 Mins to prepare and cook. 5 mins to eat.
Boys Club Rating: Quick and easy and it was as tasty as I'd remembered. Hubby said "actually that's pretty nice" (and that's from someone who doesn't like blue cheese) "I'd eat it again".

Did you know... Fresh Figs 
  • have only 74 calories per 100g 
  • contain soluble dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, and pigment anti-oxidants 
  • have poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein, tannins, chlorogenic acid 
  • contain adequate levels of some of the anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E, and K 
  • can help lower blood sugar levels and contain good levels of B-complex group of vitamins 

Have you tried cooking with fresh figs?

Deb x

16 December 2016

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

With just over a week to go there are still lots of ways to get into the Christmas Spirit this year for FREE. There's so many fabulous family festive activities in the North East at this time of year, and many of these are free. So if you are looking for festive ways to make the budget stretch here are our top ten FREE ways to get into the Festive Spirit between now and Christmas Day in North East England.

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

1. The Frost of Forgetfulness Winter Quest at Woodhorn - Saturday 17 to Friday 23 December

Set out on a FREE wintry quest for families at Woodhorn this Christmas! Approximately an hour long, The Frost of Forgetfulness Winter Quest is open Saturday 17 to Friday 23 December from 10am to last entry at 3pm.

Between 12noon and 3pm you can also get that festive feeling by creating your own Christmas bauble to take away and add to your tree. 

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

2. Craft a Christmas Card at Shipley Art Gallery - 17 December & 24 December

At the Shipley Art Gallery, you can craft a Christmas card at drop-in sessions between 10am – 5pm 

3. Get Crafty at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery - 17 December

Why not try Christmas wrapping and card printing at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery between 12.30pm – 3pm.

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

4. intu Metrocentre’s Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Grotto – every day until Christmas Eve

The intu Metrocentre’s free Santa Grotto offers a treat for all good North East girls and boys this festive season until December 24. Every child who visits Santa and his elves at the free Grotto, situated in the lower Qube, Yellow Mall, underneath the giant Christmas tree, receives a free gift.

5. Vineyard Berwick Family Carol Service - 17 December

Family Christmas Carol Service takes place from 4-5pm on Saturday 17th December, followed by festive refreshments. Children can dress as a nativity character and take part in the walk on nativity!

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

6. Elf Direction at Sage Gateshead – weekends and the run to Christmas

Enjoy the Christmassy sounds of Sage Gateshead’s very own ‘Elf Band’ during these festive and very fun concourse performances, taking place on December 17-18, and 21-24 at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.

7. Fenwick Windows – throughout the festive season

Take a stroll up Northumberland Street in Newcastle to view the annual amazing spectacle of Fenwicks Windows. Available to be enjoyed daily from 8am to 10pm until the New Year. Combine it with a visit to see Santa if you’ve been lucky enough to book a slot, if not make time to see the fabulous Christmas Department. One of my faves. 

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

8. Christmas in the Park - Wharton Park, Durham - Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December

Enjoy brass bands in the amphitheatre, meet Christmas characters and watch a festive animal parade at Wharton Park near the train station in Durham between 11am and 3pm. (Please note the event is free but an additional ticket can be bought to see the reindeer and donkeys from the parade up close and get to pet and feed them.)

9. Grand Lantern Parade in Alnwick – Sunday December 18

Led by ‘Spark’, this promises to be a magical evening featuring live music, light and movement. The procession will make its way through The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland - starting at the main car park - and into Alnwick town centre creating a spectacular visual feast for visitors. The parade will start at 5.15pm on December 18 and will last until 6.30pm.

10 More Free Ways to get the Festive Spirit in the North East

10. Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Durham Cathedral – 22nd and 24 December

Enjoy a traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which always starts in darkness with a solo chorister singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. These services are a highlight of the Advent and Christmas season and are very popular services, so you are advised to arrive in good time. Starts 7pm on 22nd and 3pm on the 24th.

And if that's not enough you can always amble the streets of our many lovely market towns and city's taking in the Christmas lights, or get away from it all with a festive walk along the coast or across the countryside!

Merry Christmas!

Deb x