25 March 2018

What was Secret Cinema: Blade Runner like?

If you've never heard of the Secret Cinema, the best way to explain it is to say it is a London-based immersive theatrical experience based around a film. You dress up, you get ready, and at the event you engage with the setting and the actors as much as you want (but no-one is going to force you if you rather not).

This spring the film chosen was the sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner. I thought I'd share a quick review of the experience, and a couple of tips for anyone attending it in the future - all spoiler-free of course! You are not allowed to use your phone inside, so photos are from outside only. (I wouldn't want to spoil the surprises for anyone attending, but once the run is over in July I might update this post with a more detailed description!)

I've never been to Secret Cinema, have wanted to go for years, but never got around to it until now. In fact, thanks to a friend on Facebook who posted how they were waiting for the ticket website to open, made me impulsively buy tickets the same day. Blade Runner is a cool film, and I was excited to see what kind of a treatment it got.

dressed up for secret cinema in goggles and a scarf over face

The whole experience and the setting were just fabulous. I loved the attention to detail, from futuristic food and vending machine snacks to the variety of actors mingling with the audience. As soon as you got through the gates you are transported to the Blade Runner world and were treated as your character. As part of the online process, you get assigned a character (we were scavengers) and your entrance and treatment in the world is dictated by that. All the actors and staff stay in character and help you get into the atmosphere. 
As we got in the venue the actors directed us to do a few activities to get in the mood. The venue was fantastically decorated, exactly the way you would imagine the streets of Blade Runner world be. There was something to look at everywhere, stalls and rooms to explore, and acting and dancing scenes to watch. It really was quite spectacular. And interestingly, the website states that "Check meteorological forecasts before heading Downtown. High levels of rain may occur. Please dress appropriately". Just to say, when Secret Cinema says something, they do mean it. In addition, during the film, actors enact the scenes around the screens, which adds interest to it. 

The world was really fantastic and I loved it. It felt like we were in Blade Runner.

standing in front of a burning car

The only bad but unfortunately a very big point was that watching the film was not enjoyable - and that's a big part of the whole Secret Cinema experience. 

Throughout the film the bars remained open. The one at the main venue was right at the back of the seating arrangement behind a curtain and as people were there sitting, drinking and chatting it was so noisy it seriously distracted from the movie, particularly the quiet parts. The sit-down bar should be located at a further distance, maybe on the other side of the venue or in a separate closed room. Additionally, perhaps because we went there on a Friday, it was much more geared towards drinking and some people in the audience were getting tipsy and disruptive during the film. 

Even worse, the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. I am 5'7 or 5'8, and I was finding it difficult to fit in the tight space between the benches. I felt pity for the men in the audience - there were lots of big blokes around. Now, you get what you pay for - if you went for the VIP seats they looked very luxurious... But the cheapest and the middle range ticket seats looked about the same level of uncomfortable.

couple standing in front of graffiti

graffiti saying do not fear the darkness

woman standing next t discarded suitcases props

Would I go again then? And did I think the tickets were worth it?

Like I mentioned, we got the cheapest tickets, which were on a weekend night about £75 per person. So yes, pricey. In addition we spent about £40 on food and drinks. Drinks were about normal London bar prices, food was on the expensive market stall prices, think Borough market. 

As for outfits, we scavenged what we could find from home so didn't spend anything but you can go as full out as you want obviously. And many people did. And if you feel like spending a bit more, the venue has a shop and vending machines with some key items! Like those see-through umbrellas and raincoats you might need in the future world of sudden acid rains... 

There are different ticket price levels - the cheapest (weekend prices) were £75 and the most expensive £150. I felt the cheapest tickets were alright, I didn't feel like we missed out on anything crucial. During the film there was at least one scene that was enacted only for the holders of more expensive tickets, and obviously some areas were restricted to more expensive tickets, but  there was plenty of everything else going on we didn't even notice it. 

After the film during the weekend there was also an extended after-party, which meant the dance floor was open for another hour and a bit after the film. However, as the location was in Canning Town and we wanted to get home using the train we had to leave well before midnight. 

Overall, yes, I thought it was a brilliant night out and I would definitely go again! It was pricey, but well worth the experience. 

I for one can't wait till they announce the next one! 

21 March 2018

A Japanese cherry blossom dress: Kids outfit of the day

I used to love sharing outfit photos of Aili when she was younger. Now, well, most of the week she is in her school uniform and the weekends are just manic-panic rushing around trying to do everything, so we rarely have time for those nice leisurely photo-shoots. These ones I snapped on route to a NumNoms-party a while back - she is wearing her new favourite dress, a gorgeous Japanese cherry blossom dress from Kiki Crafted with Love

girl smiling in a pink flower dress

It's just the season for cherry blossoms right now, that is, if you are in Japan. When I went to Japan (gosh, it was over 15 years ago!) I arrived just at best time for hanami, and loved the pink flurry that was everywhere. One of my early Japanese memories is of sitting for a picnic on a cherry blossom tree alley, eating onigiri (rice ball) stuffed with pickled plum and inarisushi (sweet tofu-wrapped sushi). 

Ever since I have been a huge fan of all things Japanese. Every time I pop by Spitalfields Saturday market I always make a beeline for Kiki's stall, and check out what new products she has made. OK, granted, I haven't got the time to visit the market very often nowadays, but when I do, you find me at her stall. I've first dressed Aili in one of her designs when she was just 1.5 years old

close up of girl smiling

girl with eyes closed

girl in a pink japanese flower dress

Last time I had a chance to visit we had a good natter and she gave me this dress for Aili. It being pink and having flowers meant Aili loved it instantly and wanted to wear it straight away, so on we popped it and went our merry pinky way. And now that I've got a new baby on the way I can't wait for a chance to pop by Kiki's stall again and buy one of her gorgeous babygrow kimonos

four year old girl smiling

girl showing off her dress

You might also like: Baby OOTD: Baby kimono and A year of toddler outfit posts

8 March 2018

10 inspirational women I want my daughter to know about

I want to talk about strong women. Of women that are inspirational, courageous, and you probably have not heard of.

Last summer we saw a pilot doing aeroplane aerobatics - loops, rolls, you name it. Our four year old was predictably excited and we talked about who the pilot might be. After we talked about how he must be so brave for doing all those rolls, my husband mentioned, well, it could also be a she. 

My daughter's eyes lit up. It COULD be a she. A girl, just like her. Doing rolls, doing something exciting, scary, brave. And for the rest of the day, and several days afterwards she talked about her, the pilot, how "She was certainly having fun". 

That made me realise that we don't talk about women's achievements enough. We don't make that connection between something exciting and interesting, and a woman doing that. Think about it - if you hear something amazing that has been done and you start thinking who did it, your default option is probably always a male. And that really matters in the way we raise our kids. So for the International Women's Day, I wanted to share ten women, you may have, but probably haven't heard of. Women that were inspirational, that were courageous, and who every little girl and boy should know of.

here's to strong women quote on chalkboard

Irena Sendler - a Polish nurse in the World War II. Codenamed Jolanta, she was estimated to have smuggled 2,500 children (of which 400 directly herself) out of the Warsaw Ghetto as part of her work in the Polish Underground. She provided them with false identity papers and hid them in Christian families. She kept details of their real identities hidden in glass jars buried in secret locations intending to return the children to their families after war. She was arrested, tortured, and interrogated by Gestapo, and sentenced to death, but never revealed her secrets. Almost all of the parents were killed at Treblinka or went missing during the war. 

Nellie Bly - In the late 19th century women rarely worked as journalists, and if they did, they were confined to the society "gossip" pages. In 1887 Bly put herself in jeopardy as a deep cover investigative journalist and set to expose the oppressive conditions in women's asylums. She faked a mental illness and was committed to an asylum in Blackwell's Island. The only guarantee she would get out, was the promise from her editor to come to her rescue. Her expose detailed the brutality and neglect women endured, prompted reforms and additional funding for the "poor unfortunates". 

Katherine Johnson - An African-American mathematician, who worked for NASA and provided critical calculations to United States aeronautics and space programs, including the first moon landing. When she started her career in the 1950's she faced not just gender but also racial biases, and started work as a one of the "computers who wore skirts" (essentially data entry) and worked in the office titled "Coloured Computers". She soon proved herself though. 

Mary Anning - A British paleontologist in the 19th century, who made her living through the dangerous trade of discovering fossils, started her trade when she was just 12. She was nearly killed in a landslide while on her expeditions. She discovered many complete skeletons, including the first complete plesiosaurus, and learned paleontology on her own, through dedicated efforts. As a working-class woman she was an outsider in the scientific community, and in Britain at the time, could not vote or attend university. She is now however understood to have made a lasting contribution to science. 

Ada Lovelace - An English mathematician and writer, she published the first algorithm written for an early computer and is often recognised as the world's first computer programmer. Daughter of the poet Byron, her mother taught her mathematics from an early age in order to "cure" her from her father's insanity, but she often integrated poetry and mathematics, questioning basic assumptions.

mum and daughter in front of chalkboard

Margaret Sanger - Born in 1879, Margaret Sanger is credited as the founder of modern birth control movement. A Nurse in the early 20th century, Margaret fought against the illegal and dangerous back alley abortions and believed the best way to prevent them was to guarantee birth control for women. 1916 she opened the first birth control clinic in United States and was arrested - she later lobbied extensively for legalisation of birth control. 

Alfonsina Strada -  A daughter of a peasant family, she loved cycling even if her family considered a woman cycling to be the work of the devil. She grew up as a tomboy, and as an adult, she competed in three major Italian cycling races, disguising as a male and beating many men. One of her Italian records in cycling stood for 26 years, and her world record in women's cycling stood for 17 years.  

Violette Szabo - After the death of her husband in Second World War Violette joined the British Special Operations Executive. She learned fieldcraft, navigation, weapons and demolition, and parachuted twice to occupied France to gather intelligence - and her reports helped Allied Forces destroy bomb factories. She was captured on her second mission, and executed, at the age of twenty-three. 

Hedy Lamarr - A starlet in the 1940's, described as "the most beautiful woman in the world" also loved science and was a self-taught inventor. Between takes and in her trailer she would concentrate on her other passion, inventing. She is today credited with contributing to the invention of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology through her work on non-jamming signaling system for torpedoes. 

Betsi Cadwalar - Born in 1789, Betsi is today recognised as one of the greatest Welsh of all time. She worked as a nurse in the Crimean War alongside Florence Nightingale, who disliked her for being Welsh and working class. While the two did not get along, Nightingale recognised her efforts in improving the hygiene and fighting the bureaucracy while ensuring her hospital got supplies. Betsi worked close to the frontline, tirelessly, giving up her own health in the process. 

chalkboard wall with here's to strong women quote

10 inspirational women of history to teach our children about

So there, ten inspirational women from history, in science, adventure and war. Who inspires you?

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