a sneaky halloween experience - preview

Can anyone else not get over the fact that it’s almost NOVEMBER? I’m nostalgic already for those two glorious August days of 30-degree sunshine we had. Now, darkness sweeps in at 5pm. The amber leaves swill to create a blood orange hurricane. The skeletal trees hang along the canal. The city grows spooky as Halloween approaches.

This week the beautiful Kirkstall Abbey will transform into a ghoulish interactive outdoor cinema thanks to Sneaky Experience, the Leeds equivalent of Secret Cinema. There’ll be face-painting for the little’uns, special effects make-up, photobooths, creepy cocktails, food and drink stalls, fire performances, and plenty of opportunities to be spooked shitless.

Depending how brave you feel, upon arrival you can enter into the Sneaky Game Changer -- a live, interactive board game experience. Hidden within the ruins, 30 actors will be waiting to thrill and chill you as you move forward on the board. You'll need to overcome numerous scary challenges in order to escape out the other side.

The film fright-fest begins tonight with Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.  I don’t know about you, but I reckon I’ll be having scary dreams for days on end after watching Freddy Krueger’s terrifying tango with teenagers on the big-screen.

On Friday 30th October, step into Bates Motel to celebrate its 55th anniversary as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho gets the outdoor treatment.

On All Hallows’ Eve, in the shadow of Sneaky Experience’s very own handmade 12 foot tall Wicker Man, Robin Hardy’s creepy flick of the same name will turn up the fear-factor.

American Werewolf in London will close out the weekend on Sunday 1st October. If you’re after a supernatural way to contend with your hangover, this could be perfect for you.

Halloween is a holiday that always sneaks up on me. Weeks before the big event plans of elaborate costumes roll into my head, before evaporating into eyeliner whiskers. At least this weekend I’ve got my outfit sorted – lots and lots of jumpers. We’re in for a cold, dark, Sneaky treat.

All photos taken from

why we all need a bit of wild

As I think is pretty evident from this blog, I’m enamoured with the countryside. Something about tall trees comforts me. My heart pounds with an urbanite rhythm, but the fresh, clean air of a riverside ramble will always be my favourite way to unwind.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of a bout of cabin fever, I watched Wild for the first time. Have you seen it? If you haven't, you've probably heard of it. It's a film in which Reese Witherspoon does a helluva lot of hiking. The movie's an adaptation of the insanely cool and amazing Cheryl Strayed's memoir of the same name, in which she walks the Pacific Crest Trail from California right up to Washington State. She's 26, and flies into the feat while recovering from the trauma of her Mother's death and the falling apart of her marriage, which have catalysed into a string of dangerous sexual dalliances and heroin use.  Did I mention that the PCT is roughly 1000 miles? And she did the whole thing SOLO?

I really love a good Wilderness film, TV show and/ or novel – anything that portrays a story of somebody leaving society behind and trekking into the unknown. Into the Wild. Kevin McCloud's Escape to the Wild is the perfect example of this, following British families as they shack up in obscure, isolated regions of the world. I know it’s obviously contrived, but the premise is intoxicating.

Why do we, as a modern audience, fangirl so fiercely over people pulling a WaldenI can’t help when I think of Wild to compare it to another film I love: its cinematic predecessor, 2007's Into the Wild.  Both are lifted from true accounts. Both follow a young voyager, 'breaking free' from civilisation on some sort of endurance-based quest for a catharsis in nature. In Into the WildChristopher McCandless (played amazingly by Emile Hersch) goes in search of the "ultimate freedom," instead of enslaving himself to a career post-graduation – much to the chagrin of his abusive, dysfunctional, stiff upper lipped parents. "Is there anybody out there?" Chris yowls into the barren whiteness of the Alaskan mountains. "Guess not!" He looks elated.

Maybe we love these films because in this day and age the idea of falling off the grid, of going out there and getting completely lost, seems a little impossible. Both Cheryl and Chris escape with no phone, no iPod, no Netflix (and no chilling). The Millennial idea of solitude is going for dinner by yourself, phone in hand, flicking continuously through emails and Instagramming the whole experience #solo #edgy. Those who have bid adieu to the daily grind and gallivanted to the far corners of the world still keep my Facebook feed afloat with envy-inducing snaps. We’ve become so reliant on technology that it’s a little terrifying.

Look at us: the Boomerang generation – a nation of young people either living at home with our parents, or in insanely expensive cramped flats, sometimes working two jobs to pay the bills. We’re still incredibly privileged, yet, in an age of increasingly bleak prospects, we CAN'T HELP but romanticise the notion of a life off the beaten path. A life untouched by personal branding, social media, CVs, and escalating Council Tax.

The expeditions in Wild and Into the Wild are not for the faint-hearted. Things do not end well for Chris, the golden wanderer. Cheryl fares better, yet her journey to self-discovery is not without its immensely perilous moments -- for all of her inherent freedom on the track, she's still vulnerable to human nature. 

For some, wrestling with the Wild provides them with strength in the fact that if they can survive the elements, they can survive anything. I don’t think I’ll be hiking a thousand miles anytime soon, but I feel there are certain things we can take away from these films, books, and stories. For one, sometimes it’s necessary to escape for a little while. Even if it’s taking a week off work and throwing oneself back into independence. Even if it's as simple as taking a phone-free weekend, or going for a walk in the park without a screen glued to your face. Even if it's watching Wild and feeling empowered in the knowledge that no matter how small you feel right now, there is a big, wide, wild world out there. 

london, the big smoke

On the platform, the man dressed in black boldly foxtrots across the orange line. His mouth propels open as he SHOUTS towards the tall buildings, arms towards the sky. He jumps back. Wide eyes turn to meet mine, toothless smile ravages the space between us. 

On the train, the woman in yellow discos wildly. Afrocomb in one hand, the other placed protectively over her earphones. Her eyes are closed, her body is joyously convulsing. 

In the lift, on the way up to the street, the man with the backwards cap ripples his body by design to the soundtrack of divas. He swings against the steel walls of the cage. 

The ponytailed man at the flower stand speaks with unremitting sarcasm. "Stop that orchid hunter!" he yells straight-faced at the assemblé of straight-laced bedheads who've spent two hours getting ready. The small Asian woman he's referring to beats away torsos in order to locate the perfectly hued stem.

In the greyness of an Autumnal evening we sashay past chicken shops, market stalls, and promises of loans. We find a crafted cocktail of coffee havens, clothes rails, and vegan cuisine running parallel.

 Underneath the railway tracks, we find glittering lights and a congregation stewing in the glimmer with a shimmer of their overpriced drinks. 

There's so many sides to London.

I always tell myself I never want to live here. Too much money poured into dusty bricks. Narrow hallways. Smashed bottles strewn within leaves. 

Tall regal windows looking out onto small cavernous portholes. The sinking ship of the wrong side of the road. 

It feels a lot different today, though. Red roses through the blackened blinds.

Maybe it's the hypnotic bustle of busy bodies. Maybe it's the village feel of South East. Maybe it's the unattainable idea this week is selling me of expensive brunches, and lunches, midweek coffees and museum trips. 

The clean leafy apple tree in the garden; the lemon tree nestled on the mantelpiece. 

Majestic historic brick standing grandly in the background.

 Overpowering sense of vitality in the big city in the moment. 

Visiting is not the same as living. 

Is it? 

I dance with the idea.