REVIEW: A Manchester fairy tale at Z-Arts
What I loved about it:
I have a real soft spot for Z-Arts as it’s a hugely important part of the young arts community here in Manchester – it’s the only arts centre in the UK whose purpose is to provide best practice in the development and nurturing of children and young people’s creativity.
Seeing the kid’s faces light up when they saw the exhibition was really special – the amount of care and effort put into this was amazing and made having a Manchester fairy tale such a wonderful experience for everyone!
Value for money (out of 10):
When we were invited to come and check out Fairy Tales at Z-Arts I knew right away that it would be something special for my little ones. We have Archie who is almost 6 and has always gotten completely absorbed in a good story, and Evie who is 18 months old and loves nothing more than to explore the world around her now that she can leg it everywhere. So the idea of being able to get immersed in our own story in an interactive fairy tale land was completely perfect for them, even if Evie was a little young to connect the stories to the environment yet.
We went along to the launch weekend at Z-Arts on a Saturday morning and it was really straightforward to get to; the venue is on a main road near the city centre with plenty of street parking around and on a major bus route. Easy to find, with access into and around the building for all – we didn’t bring Evie’s pram but plenty of other parents did and found it easy.
After being greeted by a friendly member of staff at the doorway, a group of us were soon welcomed into a large room at the back of the venue where the Manchester fairy tale magic soon began!
It was cosy, inviting and beautifully decorated as the grassy woodland garden of a well-known fairy tale cottage. There were around seven or eight families including ours and we all took a seat on some floor cushions and tables. A fuzzy-costumed character appeared and introduced himself to us and where we were, and the kids were able to interact with him and his amusing banter. We were then invited into the little cottage behind him, where the kids were able to guess right away who lived there (I won’t spoilt it!)
Whilst we were briefly in this cute cottage with the fuzzy guy the story unfolded – there was a fairy tale mishap, and the kids were asked to go on a special one hour quest to hunt for some missing items using a special map…
This is where the real fun began and it still makes me smile thinking about it – a door was opened at the back of the cottage where we were then free to explore the fairy tale town, and it was gorgeous! This section of the exhibition isn’t too big so that you can easily lose little ones, but isn’t too small so that it gets too overcrowded either.
Split into different sections, the children were encouraged to visit different parts of the town so they could play, learn, relax and of course, complete their mission. There was a bit of everything; the post office where children could write out and send postcards, the building site complete with soft bricks and helmets, the disco with its sparkling disco ball and fog machine and loads more! The children were in their element, excitedly discovering what they could find and do in each section and even playing with others who they didn’t know.
The sets were colourful, engaging and so well designed that it was easy to become absorbed in the magic of it all.
We loved seeing Evie tear up the disco dance floor with her groovy moves after having a go at making some music with the instruments there.
Archie focused on building a brick wall with the help of a fellow builder he’d just met, and the two of them worked together to make it the sturdiest wall in the land.
We really liked that the kids had the freedom to just play and didn’t have to worry about the quest at all if they didn’t want to, and that there was enough to do to fill the whole hour they had in there. We also liked how safe the venue was – we watched as Evie toddled back into the fairy tale cottage at one point to see what was in there and there was no way for her to leave the exhibition and get lost. The costumed cast member who sent the kids on the quest was waiting in there to assist anyone, interact with the kids and probably to stop any of them from escaping!
Once their hour was up the church bell rang to summon the kids back to the cottage with their findings. We briefly gathered back in the comfort of the cottage to complete the experience and say goodbye to the fuzzy character, before heading off back into reality with big smiles on our faces. The kids were buzzing about their experience of their own Manchester fairy tale all weekend and I’ve promised to take them back!
Fairy Tales will be exhibiting at Z-Arts until February 2023 but tickets are already booking up fast for this year!