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Half-term fun to keep your children happy

IF you're running low on ideas to avoid half-term parental meltdown, Sam Wonfor offers a slice of culturally-seasoned sanity.

The Kurdish Gardens

IF you’re running low on ideas to avoid half-term parental meltdown, Sam Wonfor offers a slice of culturally- seasoned sanity.

DEPENDING on your position on the optimism versus pessimism spectrum, blackberry- picking half-term is either just getting going or there’s still a long way to go.

Either way, we reckoned the parents, grandparents and other child-carers among you may well appreciate a few culturally-flavoured ideas of how to fill the remaining days until school’s in again.

Many of the following are free and have come via Arts Council England, North East which works to get great art to as many people in the region as possible.

With that in mind, the powers that be are challenging schoolchildren and college students to get creative and enjoy free, arty activities.

And as an organisation which supports pretty much every arts genre going, it is perfectly placed to put together some suggestions.

In addition, we thought now was a good time to give a gentle reminder of what’s on offer this week from Juice, Tyneside’s first festival dedicated to children and young people.

So stick a DVD on for 10 minutes, plonk the associated youngsters in front of the telly for a short, healthy snack break and digest a few of these keeping-them-occupied notions.

A schlep to Baltic: Baltic on the Gateshead side of the Millennium Bridge offers sessions called Busy Bs – drop-in art activity opportunities for youngsters up to 13 which have been inspired by current exhibitions, which at the moment means Wang Qingsong and David Shrigley, among others.

Saturdays and Sundays are the days to drop in between 2pm and 4pm – and the cost is zero.

Half-termwise, Happy Halloween events will be taking place between 11am and 4pm tomorrow and Friday.

Hosted by Couples (a current exhibition) Baltic are trying to get as many pumpkins carved as is humanly possible – by people dressed in spookily appropriate outfits.

The reason? The Halloween Pumpkin Parade on Friday at 4pm, since you ask. Prizes for best pumpkins and fancy-dress efforts will be handed out.

A trip to mima: The only cost associated with a journey to mima – the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – will be the price of getting there.

Entry to the very family-friendly gallery, which has been open since 2007 and is smack in the middle of the town, is free.

Current exhibitions include The Naked and the Nude: works from the Tate Collection and Eric Bainbridge: Forward Thinking 1976-2008.

In addition, the sentiment behind the gallery’s regular Family Hour every Saturday at 10.30am has been extended into half-term to include activities like The Big Draw – a daily session at 10.30am encouraging experimentation with drawing and a Family Life Drawing drop-in session, aimed at the family audience, tomorrow from 6pm.

For more information, visit www.visitmima.com  or phone (01642) 726720.

Talking of how people can become more involved in the arts, Mark Robinson, executive director, Arts Council England, North East, said: “We are lucky to live in such a vibrant and creative part of the UK. Baltic and mima are just two major flagship projects which help to bring the arts to more people in our region.

“There are also hundreds of other arts-based activities which people can enjoy. The good news is that these include plenty of free exhibitions, galleries and events, too. Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house to be creative and have fun – your only limit is your imagination.”

There you go – told you.

Now on to Juice , which may not be free across the board, but has nonetheless put together a programme of top-notch entertainment worth using your hard-earned pocket money for.

Plus, they’ve pushed the boat out to offer a selection of free activities for half-term ... you can’t say fairer than that.

The Kurdish Garden has been brought to Newcastle’s Castle Keep by Italian theatre company TPO.

Aimed at children from four to eight (but promising to thrill people of all ages) the installation is essentially a touch-sensitive Children’s Cheering Carpet that triggers images and sounds. Half-term open-play sessions in the Garden are free, see www.juicefestival.co.uk for times or call (08448) 112121. Normal tickets cost £4.

Stretch , as the name suggests, involves miles and miles of elastic, which is used to mesmerising effect as a moving, interactive sculpture, sound and vision experience. Installed at the Robert Stephenson Centre behind Newcastle Central Station, each performance by Norwegian dancer Ragnhild Olsen, together with sound and video artists, will be unique.

And then the best bit ... the audience get to have a go.

A free workshop is taking place tomorrow between 11am and 1pm. Call 08448 112 121 to book a place. Performances will be taking place on Friday and Saturday at 11.30am and 3.30pm. Tickets are £4.

The free Newcastle and Gateshead Treasure Hunt can also be undertaken at your leisure.

Simply download the map from www.juicefestival.co.uk  and complete your route(s) of choice before the end of October half-term.

The trail will take you to a host of family-friendly attractions on the way and there’s also a chance of winning some Juicey goody bags, too.

Visit the festival website for a full round-up of everything on offer from Juice.

Of course, this is only a small taste of all that there is to fill your half-term with cultural delights ... but hopefully enough to be getting on with. Enjoy.

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