Sunday, 20 April 2014

Taking what's on offer

It's the end the Easter school holidays here in Leeds. The weather has been up and down but we've had a marvellous couple of weeks. Our city does us proud when it comes to kids' activities, and we were hard pressed to choose between all the events on offer.

I love Leeds. It would take a great deal to get me to leave it. I came here when I was 21, and had only a 7 month period in the last 24 years away from my city. I love the people, the theatre and arts, the beautiful buildings in the city centre, the sense of community in all the little villages that make up the city itself.
But most of all I love the things Leeds offers its citizens.

For many years I went to the free Opera in the Park in July, performed by our own Opera North. We'd enjoy the busking in the city centre through the summer weeks as part of a street performance festival. We've gone to almost every Light Night arts festival, heard brass bands in the park and tired the kids out at the Breeze roadshows offering them chances to try loads of activities and sports. Last summer we had a beach set up in the centre of town, complete with helter skelter and swing boats.  

This year Leeds is having a March of the Robots theme.  It is a series of events and activities to engage both adults and children in a playful way with technology, creativity and the cityscape. We'd already built cardboard 'Robots' at Light Night - Luke decided to be the robot, climbed in a box and had other kids write questions on it which he'd answer through a slit he'd cut in the side. When he was sealed up in it I named the box Schroedinger's Teen.

For the Easter holidays Luke went off to the Leeds Young Film Festival to see things for free as part of the jury. Mark took Miss B to a circus skills morning where she made new pals, learnt new hula hoops tricks, balanced peacock feathers on her fingertip and passed spinning plates back and forth. Z and I went to a workshop to build a sentry robot. 

It was AMAZING. We built a little computer using a clever little chip called a shrimp and a 'breadboard' to connects all the wires and circuitry. I was a little intimidated as I know nothing about electronics but I came out feeling as proud as Z of our joint effort. He now has a room guard with a heat and motion sensor that triggers a tune and flashing lights. "To alert me when siblings or, erm, other people come in," as Z explained to the interviewer.

Incidentally, Z hit new levels of geek that morning. He wired up and programmed his own computer, used different colour LED lights for eyes like David Bowie then inserted it into a robot form he'd decorated to look like My Neighbour Totoro if he existed in Minecraft universe. Yep - computing, music, anime and video game geekery in one activity. 

The next day meant even more free robot creating. We had a fantastic time building Doodlebots: little things with marker pens for legs that spiralled, lurched, glided or juddered across a paper floor. 80 odd kids built them and the sight of their diverse inventions making patterns across the paper was amazing.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Leeds will bring us next.

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