Feature: Quirky October

National Chocolate Week

Summer has come and gone and as the weather turns chillier it's tempting to go back into hibernation. But this October, the UK is jam-packed with exciting events and festivals to suit everyone's idea of a good time. Whether you're entertaining the kids, charming your 'better half' or partying with your mates, we've explored the quirkiest events across the UK.

With Your Better Half

As the temperature drops around the UK and our days get shorter, couples are always amongst the first to surrender their weekends to DVD marathons on the sofa. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but there will be ample opportunity for that come December. Right now there’s plenty to do and not enough spare days to fit it all in.

Celebrate Thy Quirkiness! The United Kingdom is a pretty strange and wonderful place. It's not the biggest nation in the world, but there's enough space to accommodate all walks of life. I've tried to keep everyone in mind while compiling this list of suggestions. If you know of a great event we've missed out, leave a comment below or get hold of us on facebook.

World Porridge Making Championships, Carrbridge

Date: 6 October

Porridge is one of the primary building blocks that hold our weird society in place. It's a bridge between classes, creeds, eras – even continents. Everybody, from Prince Charles to Dizzee Rascal to your local postman, has been forced to soldier through a plate of lumpy gruel at some point. It's cheap, nutritious and tastes like old bath water when made hastily. However, that's not what you'll find at Carrbridge.

World Porridge Champs World Porridge Making Championships

Couples wanting to share childhood memories can visit the World Porridge Championships in Carrbridge, Scotland – a beautiful mountainside village in the Cairngorms National Park. The event started in 1994, when Roger Reed initially wanted to promote local tourism in the area by starting a unique competition. Today it's a huge weekend event that draws contestants from around the world. There are two main categories: Traditional and Speciality.

In the Traditional division, entrants must stick to old-school ingredients: untreated oatmeal with water and salt. The judging criteria is based on three areas: taste, consistency and colour – as so many of us know, getting this right is an underrated art form. In the Speciality division, participants can flex their creative muscles by adding new ingredients. According to the event's website, “the blending and harmony of the porridge with the other ingredients will be the criteria used” in determining a winner. There is also a third category, called the People's Choice Award, which is determined by a separate panel.

For booking information about the event and accommodation options in Carrbridge, follow the link to the competition's website.

Side Note: It's World Porridge Day on 10 October. To find out more about this quirky occasion and its message, check out the The Golden Spurtle.

Beer ‘n’ Bangers 2012, Western Lake District

Date:: 5 – 7 October

Beers and Bangers Beer 'n' Bangers Festival 2012

From something universal to something uniquely British, the third annual Beer and Bangers Festival is set to rock the Western Lake District off its tent pegs. 25 pubs, butchers and eateries between Broughton in Furness and Ravenglass will pay homage to a pair of the Lake District's finest local products: the Cumbrian sausage and its award-winning beers.

Beers and Bangers The Lake District's award-winning beers

The weekend is packed with tastings, walking tours of breweries, live music and pub events. The fact that this is all happening out in the Lake District doesn't hurt, either - especially during Autumn when the leaves are turning psychedelic shades of yellow and orange. You can balance out the food and drink fun with some quality walks, mountain biking and bird watching.

For more information about the weekend and accommodation options, follow the link to the festival website.

National Chocolate Week, London

Date: 8 - 14 October

Chocolate Week National Chocolate Week

No, you didn't read that incorrectly. There is, in fact, a National Chocolate Week and it's got a serious following in the UK. Chocolatiers, confectioners, suppliers, retailers, boutiques and vendors will be setting up tastings, exhibitions and tours throughout the city. You can find out more about what's going on by following the link to the main website. The highlight of the week will be Chocolate Unwrapped – the Glastonbury of Chocolate Festivals, only crazier and with more screaming. It's takes place at the London Film Museum (LFM) in Covent Garden. This incredible consumer exhibition draws thousands of visitors every year, all there to taste, learn, buy and eat the most amazing locally and internationally conjured chocolate.

Chocolate Ecstasy Tour Chocolate Ecstasy Tour

To celebrate this beautiful week, the good people at Chocolate Ecstasy Tours are adding extra tour times to their always busy schedule. Five divine chocolate tours will be available, along with their regular weekend tours. From 10 to 13 October, these highly touted specialists will take you into the lesser known, hard-to-access nooks and crannies of Mayfair, where chocolatiers will share a touch of the magic that goes into making the nation's finest product. This three-hour tour gives participants the chance to sample the favourites of the Queen and Roald Dahl (a famous sweety lover), as well as provides VIP discounts on purchases.

 

On the final day of Chocolate Week, organisers will host a tour of Chelsea, which highlights modern chocolate trends as practiced by more talented British and French chocolatiers working around this exclusive part of London. It's three and a half hours and will knock your socks off. Guests are once again privy to VIP discounts on purchases.

Reading Comedy Festival, Reading

Date: 30 September – 8 October

A bit of laughter goes a long way towards making a meaningful relationship last. You'll get a year's supply of it at the Reading Comedy Festival this month, taking place at venues around the Reading area. 2012 is featuring some of the funniest humans in the business, including Joan Rivers (who will likely to be dishing out some crass advice), Alan Davies and Kevin Bridges. The cool thing about a festival like this is having a wide range of time slots, venues and acts to work around. Be sure to book your tickets as soon as possible.

This year sees an extended programme for the 'New Act of The Year Competition', which unearths the best undiscovered comedians. The opening heats for this event will start on 18 October and carry on until 2 November.

For more information about the festival and booking information, follow the link to the festival website.

Fungi Foray, Painshill, Surrey

Date: 21 October

Fungi Foray The peaceful Painshill Park

Painshill Park is a romantic excursion any day of the week. This impressive landscape garden is spread out over 158 acres of peaceful Surrey countryside and makes you feel like you've stumbled into a magical garden from a storybook. An amazing set of follies and features are set up around the ground in pivotal locations, many of which were built in the 18th century when the park was established. There's also a crystal grotto, a ruined abbey, a Turkish Tent, an active vineyard, a working water-wheel built by Bramah & Sons in the 1830s and much, much more. You could spend weeks there and still find new, thought-provoking things to ponder over.

Fungi Foray The Fungi Foray

If you're looking for a decent excuse to head out there, Painshill Park are hosting 'Fungi Foray' on 21 October. Expert, Brian Spooner will be taking visitors around the grounds to have a close look at the fungal delights growing in one of England's most lauded gardens. The cost is £8 for adults (members pay only £3), while children under 16 get in for £5 (members pay £1).
There are two touring times, 11am and 2pm. Advanced booking is required, which you can do by calling 0193 286 8113.

For more information, follow the link to the Painshill Park website.

North American Wife Carrying Championship, Maine, USA

Date: 6 October

I thought the North American Wife Carrying Championship deserved an honourable mention in this article, purely on the basis of how much I'd like to see the sport grow into an Olympic Event one day – please note, the woman does not have to be the one getting carried, nor do couples need to be officially married.

Every October during the Fall Festival Weekend, the event takes place at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine. Teams compete with one another for the two fastest times in order to determine the finalists. It's an immensely technical sport that requires a good method, physical endurance from both parties and a healthy amount of trust. The website goes on to explain a bit about the most effective carrier/carry-ee methods:

Carrying methods often include the 'Piggyback' or 'Firemen's Carry', but teams are encouraged to create their own style. All winners to date have employed the highly technical 'Estonian Carry', which has the 'wife' upside down with arms wrapped around the man's waist and her legs draped over his shoulders. This highly-skilled method frees the man's arms for balance and negotiating the obstacles. The team will have a penalty added to their finishing time if the wife is dropped.

With the wife's weight in beer and five-times her weight in cash on the line, it's really best left to established couples or good friends. Definitely not what I'd recommend for a first date.

The UK Version

Wife Carrying is alive and well here in the UK. The annual championships were in June on a tough course out in Dorking. The winners braved a track that was laden with hay bales and booby-trapped by spectators with water pistols. Couples finding this enticing have just under a year to prepare themselves for next year's race. For more information, follow the link to the official website. In the meantime, check out the highlights package below.

With Your Mates

Summer may be over and Christmas Holidays are still a couple of months away, but that doesn't mean that you'll be left in lurch this October. With the range of activities on offer - from the famous London Bierfest to the Rock Paper Scissors Championships - you and your mates are sure to be thoroughly entertained this month. If you know of any other exciting events, drop us a comment on facebook or in the pop-up box below.

Run to the Beat

Date: 28 October

Run to the Beat Run to the Beat starting line

Athleticism isn’t exactly my forté - in fact I am more familiar with the term chicken legs than golden legs - I nonetheless, or perhaps therefore, have a great appreciation for runners. The ability, no, the desire to run hour after hour mile after mile relentlessly pursuing that indubitable natural-high, deserves the utmost respect.

Even more fascinating for me is that runners compete without the encouragement of a “running playlist”, always prohibited by traditional marathon etiquette. That's why Run to the Beat takes first place when it comes to marathons. This innovative event powered by Nike + is a footrace like no other and sees runners accompanied by the live beats of world-famous DJs such as 2011’s Calvin Harris, Tinie Tempah and Bashy.

Headlined by DJ Fresh (Dan Stein) and boasting performances by the UK’s most respected talent from across the musical spectrum, Run to the Beat 2012 will see over 18,000 participants taking part in London’s only Music Half Marathon.

General entries are already sold out, but it’s easy enough to enter through one of Run to the Beat’s official charities. Whether you’re an eager runner or an enthusiastic supporter, head to the main stage in North Greenwich on 28 October to revel in athletic prowess or just to soak up the musical artistry.

Rock Paper Scissors Championship

Date: 13 October

For centuries, people have developed strategies for making decisions and solving disputes. From the great wisdom of soothsayers to the educated ideas of monarchical advisors, resolutions have leant on calculated tactics. One strategy which took flight from ancient Japan, has proved its superiority the world over. Everyone from Ipswich town footballers to a judge (true story) and mates disputing whose turn it is to make coffee, have turned to one particular art of war: Rock Paper Scissors.

This October The Penderel's Oak at 283-288 High Holborn brings the world the sixth annual UK Rock Paper Scissors Championship. For just £9.97 anyone can enter this exhilarating knock-out tournament and attempt to psyche out over 250 other participants to secure the grand UK Champion title, and £100 cash.

For those not brave enough to jump into the championship, but who would nonetheless like to test their dexterity, the Rock Paper Scissors Challenge is open to anyone attending the main tournament. Just purchase ‘RPS Challenge money’, choose your opponent, and 1, 2, 3...

For more information, check out the official website or watch the video below.

London Bier Fest

Date: 3 - 5 October

London Bierfest London Bierfest

It’s that time of the year again. Aside from the merriment of December, no month brings with it as eager an acceptance of beer as October and its famous Beer Festival. 2012 will once again see the beloved Old Billingsgate Market transformed into 'Oompah Land' with live music, dancing, and traditional German fare pouring forth as freely as the unlimited steins of Bitburger on offer.

So grab your mates, dust off your lederhosen, and head to the great London Bierfest. To make sure you get a table (to dance on), book in advance at thelondonbierfest.com. Prost!

If you’re looking to experience the Oktober Festival in its homeland, check out this month’s 24 Hour Guide to Munich.

Cirque Du Soleil: Michael Jackson The Immortal Tour

Date: 12 - 21 October

Performances by Cirque du Soleil are unlike any other production across the globe. Famous for the acrobatic artistry and electrifying entertainment, they are now reviving the legend of Michael Jackson in an iconic collaboration of his music, style and vision. The concert seeks to recreate the magic that the late, great and somewhat enigmatic idol brought to the stage. With renditions of more than 30 of his songs and over 252 different costumes, Cirque du Soleil promises to take audiences on an emotional journey to the tunes of a musical legend.

The Immortal Tour has been entertaining audiences for the last year, including the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Beyoncé, Courteney Cox and Josh Groban. This October it comes to London’s O2 Arena. For more information and to make a booking, check out www.cirquedusoleil.com.

Alice Cooper: Night of Fear

Date: 24 October - 1 November

Alice Cooper Alice Cooper in concert

Alice Cooper is a rock legend. For over 40 years he has been headbanging to some serious musical stylings. The theatrical backdrop of his performances takes audiences on a macabre exploration of heavy metal music, with all the deliciously gory horror of a slasher movie.

Cooper has once again taken to the road, now with his third tour of Night of Fear, perfectly timed to treat the UK to a memorable Halloween. For seven days from 24 October, Alice Cooper - joined by special guests, Loaded and Ugly Kid Joe - will perform on stages across the UK.

The show promises to live up to its thrilling reputation and is definitely one of the best reasons to get dangerously dressed up this Halloween. Check out the video below for a tantilising reminder of Cooper’s famous Poison.

With The Kids

Finding something to keep the little ones busy can be challenging. Luckily October is filled with fun events and festivals all over the UK that promise to be a great experience for the kids and for you - whether you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher or older sibling. If you know of a great festival for children taking place in October that I haven’t included, please send us a message on facebook or drop us a comment in the box below.

Halloween Festivities

No matter what age you are, it’s always fun to dress up for All Hallows' Eve - better known as Halloween. Bright pumpkin jack-o’-lanterns, scarecrows, witches and ghouls are all themes of Halloween. The night of October 31st is a perfect time of year for little boys to be their favourite X-Men character and little girls to become a Disney Princess. Best of all for them, they get lots and lots of sweets and treats.

The Autumn Pumpkin Festival

Date: 13 October

Pumpkin Festivities Enjoy the great pumpkin-themed stalls

There is so much to do at this popular festival and it attracts families from all over the UK. Everything here is pumpkin and scarecrow themed and everyone involved makes sure it’s fantastic fun for children. The Autumn Pumpkin Festival is for charity and is in association with the Jubilee Sailing Trust - an organisation that enables people with all levels of experience to follow their dream of tall ship sailing. The successful festival is in its 15th year and they just revealed that Herbie Armstrong - Britain’s Got Talent Semi-Finalist - will be there to perform this year.

Scarecrow Avenue The scarecrows on Scarecrow Avenue

Besides the entertainment, there are plenty of stores full of treats for children. There are also have craft stores where kids can be creative, pumpkin-themed games and even storytelling. One of the best features of the festival is “Scarecrow Avenue” - a whole street filled with scarecrows. And what makes it even more exciting is that there’s a competition for the best-dressed scarecrow, so children can have a blast dressing up their own one in amusing outfits. To all you parents out there, you won’t be bored. With tons of music, food and drinks, you can also see the biggest pumpkins in the UK on display - last year’s winner weighed a whopping 1,334 pounds. Bring the kids when it opens at noon so they can have a great time from the beginning. The festival closes at 5:30pm and tickets are £2 for adults and 50p for children.


Where: Royal Victoria Country Park, Southampton

For more information on the festival, take a look at the video below:



Punkie Night

Date: 25 October

This is quite the interesting British folk custom that has somehow become a tradition for children. On the last Thursday of every October (this year it’s on the 25th), children march the streets of Somerset with their jack-o’-lanterns. Occasionally some trick-or-treating is involved and there’s even a competition for the best lantern. Traditionally, the lanterns used to be carved out of mangolds, but today they use pumpkins.

Jack-o'-lanterns Get into the spirit of Punkie Night

It's called Punkie Night because punkie used to be a name for a mangold. The origin of the custom is hazy. Some people believe that it dates back hundreds of years when there used to be a fair every year at the end of October. Legend has it that husbands used to get too drunk to go home, so wives would carve lanterns out of mangolds and go looking for them. It’s unknown how this changed into the tradition of children marching the village streets every year. Kids have a great night out doing this as they are led by a Punkie King and Queen and they chant this as they march:

"It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Adam and Eve would not believe, it’s Punkie Night tonight
Give me a candle, give me a light
If you don’t, you’ll get a fright
It’s Punkie Night tonight"

Where: Hinton St. George, Somerset

Creativity And Education

Children’s minds are absolutely bursting with fantasy and ideas. Their vivid imaginations make it easier for them to be creative and come up with interesting questions and games. Their minds are thirsty for knowledge and this is why it’s so important to take them to events or exhibitions where they can learn a lot of things in very entertaining ways.

The Big Draw

Date: 1 - 31 October

Campaign for Drawing Image courtesy of Campaign for Drawing

The art of drawing is one of the best ways for people to express their creativity. Children are some of the most creative thinkers, thanks to their young, fresh minds. For the whole month of October, kids can be a part of the biggest drawing event in the world - with over twenty participating countries.

Since 2000, Campaign for Drawing has hosted The Big Draw for the whole of October. In just 11 years, it already has two world records; one for the longest drawing in the world and the other for the most people drawing at the same time. Taking place all over the UK - from museums, schools and parks to Windsor Castle - it’s ideal for parents to take their kids or for teachers to organise as a class trip. The Big Draw’s main aim is to get rid of a very popular statement, “I can’t draw”, and to make people aware of the fact that drawing is vital for learning, thinking and communicating.

Campaign for Drawing Image courtesy of Campaign for Drawing

Children get to enjoy fun, drawing activities such as looking at a model of a life-size tiger and drawing it. It's also a great chance for kids to make loads of new friends. Best of all, registration is free. This event is run by a non-profit organisation so they do however ask for any donations to keep the event going every year and so they can make it bigger and better for everyone. It is a great opportunity for kids to explore their creativity and create anything they want.


Where: Across the UK. You can find a Big Draw venue nearest to you here.

Bed Bugs Sleepovers

Date: 13 and 27 October

Opened in 1828, the London Zoo is the oldest in the world. Home to over 755 different species, this is an exciting place to visit with your animal-loving kids. Lions, tigers, gorillas, Komodo dragons, giraffes - you name it and the London Zoo has it. And October brings something very exciting for children - the Bed Bugs Sleepovers.

London Zoo Reptile House The Reptile House featured in Harry Potter

Kids between the ages of 8 and 11 get to enjoy a sleepover at the zoo in the Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival (BUGS) building, which houses over 140 types of insects and bugs, of course all of them kept behind glass. For £50 per child and per accompanying adult, you get to sleep in the BUGS building and learn about the species kept there - children even get to touch them if they want to. After supper, the kids are led out into the zoo by torch light and taken on a tour. Here is where they’ll get to see things that regular visitors don’t, as many animals are more active during the night. Once they are all tired out from the tour, they snuggle-up in their sleeping bags and listen to the guides telling them exciting stories about the animals in the zoo.

By the time morning comes, the children will have perhaps already been woken up by the calls of some of the animals. They will enjoy a breakfast and then go on an exclusive tour of the zoo to all the popular exhibits before the visitors come. Many of them will be very excited to go to the reptile house where the snake scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was filmed.


Where: Regent’s Park, London

Royal Albert Hall’s Victorian Experience

Date: 27, 28 and 31 October

Victorian Experience at Royal Albert Hall The famous Royal Albert Hall

Whether you’re a teacher wanting to take the students on an educational outing, or a parent taking your child on a tour to learn more, the Victorian Experience is definitely the perfect place to go. Children between the ages of 9 and 11 will be taken on a grand tour back in time to the Victorian Age to learn about history and literature. What makes it even more enjoyable for them is that they get to dress up in Victorian costumes, making the experience even more authentic.

Victorian Experience at Royal Albert Hall A Victorian tour guide

The tours are led by two characters from different Victorian societies who engage and interact with the children throughout the tour. Kids are shown all around the Royal Albert Hall and even taken to one of the private boxes in the auditorium. They learn about what it was like to work there or watch a show there 140 years ago and they also get to take part is some Victorian roleplay. The school tours are just under two hours long and they can take up to 40 children. The family tours are 70 minutes long and cost £11 per adult and £5 per child. The running dates for October are the 27th, 28th and 31st. This is a great way to engage your child in education in a very entertaining way and give them an experience that they are sure to take away with them.


Where: The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London

From The Movies

There’s no doubt that film plays a big part in a child’s imagination. From the appealing characters with distinctive traits and outfits (sometimes even powers), to talking animals and the general outline of the magical stories, children all over the world get absorbed in the world of movies. The ability to experience something in real life that has to do with their favourite characters is bound to be pleasant for children - and maybe even their parents.

Robin Hood Pageant

Date: 27 - 28 October

Robin Hood Statue Robin Hood statue by Nottingham Castle

Robin Hood is probably the biggest hero of British Folklore. The classic tale has children all over the world enthralled. They have grown up listening to stories about Robin Hood and their interest was further piqued thanks to Walt Disney’s animated film version. Now, you can take your kids to the Robin Hood Pageant held in and around the actual Nottingham Castle and Sherwood Forest where they can relive the classic moments of this fine legend.

The lush green Sherwood Forest is transformed to set the scene of medieval times taking you all the way back to the 12th century. People arrive here dressed as their favourite character from Robin Hood and they get to relive his antics and those of his sidekick, Little John. Children will love this pageant as they get to interact with the famous characters, such as Maid Marian, King Richard and the hero himself. Then there’s live jousting where you and the kids cheer on Robin Hood as he battles arch rival the Sheriff of Nottingham. There are also other activities designed especially for children, such as kiddies archery and a falconry display.

Major Oak Tree - Sherwood Forest The Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest

If you feel like you’ve had enough action for one day, why not head to the forest for a little picnic. Make sure to show the kids the Major Oak. This tree is said to be about a thousand years old and legend has it that this very tree was Robin Hood’s hideout. The pageant is open from 10:30am until 5pm and tickets cost £8 for adults, £6 for children with adults, £20 for a family of four, and kids under the age of four enjoy the festivities for free.


Where: Sherwood Forest & Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

Here’s a sneak peek of the fun your kids can have at the Robin Hood Pageant:



Disney’s Fantasia Live In Concert

Date: 21 October

Fantasia Poster Disney's Fantasia:1940 poster

Experience one of Disney’s most famous classics, live in concert. Fantasia was released all the way back in 1940 and features the iconic Mickey Mouse. This animated film has eight different stories, or segments, each showing Mickey Mouse in different situations. What makes this a masterpiece though, is the beautiful orchestra music that accompanies the scenes. A famous scene shows fairies, fish and nature coming to life with the music of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. What is perhaps the most famous scene is Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey in The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Children will be blown away at the live concert in October at the Royal Albert Hall, as it features some of the best moments taken from the film. The stage is filled with a live orchestra and the colourful animations are synchronised with the music on huge high-definition screens. The finale is said to be spectacular, ending off in true Disney style with a phenomenal display of fireworks above the stage.

Giraffe Restaurant Giraffe has a great menu for the kids

As this is going to be a late night out for the little ones, you might want to take them to a nice dinner before watching Fantasia. There are some fantastic restaurants to take children to close to the Royal Albert Hall. One of them worth mentioning is the colourful and vibrant Giraffe in Kensington. Giraffe has an extensive menu for people of all ages. Make sure to check out their Kids Meal Deal where they can get a meal and a drink for as little as £4.95.


Where: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London

Last Updated: October 2012

Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy

Having grown up in a small city at the bottom of Africa, Caitlin couldn't wait to experience more of the world's diversity. She spent the last few years living in the Emirates and Korea and sought out colour and charisma in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. She currently lives in Cape Town, taking every opportunity to travel locally and explore the exuberance of South Africa.