Sunday, 31 December 2017

7 Years of WhatLauraLoves

Back in August, my blog turned 7.

Life was pretty hectic back then so I’ve only really had the chance to truly acknowledge and reflect on such a big milestone now.

I say milestone because in terms of blogging, a relatively new industry, 7 years is a long time.

While I never knew for certain that my blog would become quite such a big part of my life, from the very beginning I knew blogging would take off in the online world and that branding my space on the internet would be important.

WhatLauraLoves was born and has grown into what it is today; a space for me to share my thoughts, style, tips and experiences.  I was just a girl when I started out sharing reviews as my hobby but now I’m a woman who has turned writing about her passion for being the best version of herself into her career, inspiring others to do the same and I couldn’t be prouder of the fact.

This year has been a battle for many reasons but my career has gone from strength to strength as I’ve worked hard on campaigns with big companies and collaborated with brands I’ve only ever dreamed of working with in the past.

Most significantly, I became an ambassador for plus size fashion brand, Yours Clothing, after winning a spot on their Be The Blogger competition.  I cannot begin to describe how much that meant to me as discovering their stores was where my love of dressing my body and shape really began. I talk a lot about this story in this post.  I have some AMAZING things coming up with Yours Clothing in 2018 so watch this space... especially for #TakeThePledge launching on 4th January!

2017 has also been the year that I became a digital ambassador for The Princes Trust; an honour which I hold with such high regard. The Princes Trust work to help disadvantaged children and young adults get the best start in life through building their self esteem, abilities and career prospects.  I’m going to be working more closely with them in 2018, focusing on the North East area which I’m really passionate about.

People often say that bloggers are really lucky to do the job that they do but in a lot of cases, luck doesn't really come into it; a hell of a lot of hard work and determination does.  In this social media savvy world, it’s hard to stand out and not get caught up in the hype and comparison between one another.

Jealousy can be rife from products and content to collaborations and opportunities and it’s hard to rise above it at times. I felt as though my ship was sinking a couple of years ago and it took a strong and clear mind to pull me out of it.

I discovered that the key to true happiness in my career and life was to not focus on what everyone else was doing but to keep my own vessel ship shape.

In my 7th year of blogging, I learnt even more about the company I keep and the importance of letting the right people in and letting go of the wrong ones. Making sure that those who are in your boat are rowing with you and not drilling holes when you’re not looking is paramount and I feel as though I have the most perfect people around me right now.  Most notably, Mark Dawson who has encouraged and supported my vision for my blog and YouTube channel and has worked with me to bring our ideas to life, Sarah who is the most positive, organised go getter I could ask for in a right hand woman and Rosie and Charlee who have believed in me, supported me and left me to my own creative devices. THANK YOU.

However those that deserve a special thank you are those who have supported me, read my blog, shared, liked and commented over the last seven years.  I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had if it hadn’t been for all of you reading, commenting and supporting me.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Laura xxx
*Images taken by India Jackson

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Feeling Comfortable & Confident Wearing The Lady Voluptuous Black Lyra Dress

Lady Voluptuous Black Lyra Dress Yours Clothing UK Plus Size Blogger WhatLauraLoves

When it comes to party outfits, I'm all about feeling comfortable, confident and ultimately, my best self.  My new dress from Yours Clothing makes me feel just that.

I'd let the Lady Voluptuous Lyra Dress pass me by too many times online.  Sure it looked beautiful on the model but I just didn't see what was so special about the dress that I'd heard so many people rave so frequently about.  Then I ordered it, tried it on and fell in love.

This is certainly a dress that looks far better on than it does on the hanger.  It hangs beautifully and has this gorgeous elegance to it that isn't found too frequently with shorter dresses.

The v neckline is subtly sexy and a gorgeous shape that I really appreciate on my figure.  The long sleeves don't feel as though they're there to hide the arms; they're soft, slinky and are actually a really pretty addition to the dress and one that's certainly welcome on these cold winter nights!

Lady V have crafted this dress from an incredibly soft jersey fabric that stretches and glides over the skin.  It has a seamed waist and ties at the back to pull you in and help to enhance that beautifully feminine shape that this dress gives the figure.

Lady Voluptuous Black Lyra Dress Yours Clothing UK Plus Size Blogger WhatLauraLoves

For a dress that I'd overlooked for so long, I've certainly got a lot of wear out of it over the festive season and I'm sure there'll be countless opportunities for me to wear it heading into 2018 too.  A staple Little Black Dress will never go out of fashion and that's why I choose to invest in such pieces but particular cuts and shapes of garments are really important too.  The Lady Voluptuous Lyra Dress is completely timeless and can be enjoyed in several other colours and patterns too.

I don't have the budget to spend a fortune on an outfit that I'll only wear once and so I like to choose pieces that I can wear time and time again, styling them up in different ways with the many accessories and shoes I've collected over the years.

Black is complimented by so much of my wardrobe, especially these incredibly glittery platform heels from Primark that are surprisingly easy to walk in and my trusty Ted Baker clutch bag that I bought from House Of Fraser MANY moons ago!

I'm all about investing in key pieces like this clutch and combining them with cheaper items like the heels.  If I'm ever to choose between the two, I'll always invest in a bag; I can look after my things better when they're not on the floor after all!

I like to mix and match my outfits with the jewellery in my collection too which is far downsized compared to years gone by.  I rarely buy fast fashion jewellery now so when I do, it tends to just be one piece that I can pair with my more expensive, higher quality items such as the River Island earrings that I've paired with my sparkly gold Swarovski bracelet.

The Lady Voluptuous Black Lyra Dress from Yours Clothing on UK Plus Size Blogger WhatLauraLoves

No matter the outfit, the important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident in it.  If you're not genuinely smiling, that'll show through even the most glamorous of looks!

With New Years Eve fast approaching, if you love the look of this dress, you still have time to order one from Yours Clothing; they're available in some stores too!

What items do you feel comfortable and confident in?

Monday, 25 December 2017

5 Christmas Favourites

North East Blogger WhatLauraLoves with David John Hopper as Arbuthnot at The Customs House

Merry Christmas One and All!

To keep the festive spirit alive, I'm sharing my five favourite things about Christmas in a video over on my Youtube Channel, featuring some of my favourite places in the North East; The Customs House and The Alnwick Garden.

Huge thanks to David John Hopper for featuring in my video. He plays Arbuthnot in The Lambton Worm Panto at The Customs House.  It is running until 6th January and tickets are available online here and you can check out my review of the panto in this post.

My outfits are from Yours Clothing and they have the most amazing winter range right now, including this lovely ivory jumper and plenty of dresses that'll have you looking incredible on for New Years Eve.  Check out the AX Paris Curve Black Sequin Embellished Midi Dress that I'm wearing in the video if you want something thats sophisticated, classy and glam.

I do hope you enjoy the video, please give it a watch here and let me know what your favourite things about Christmas are in the comments!

What are your favourite things about Christmas time?

Friday, 22 December 2017

Where To Celebrate NYE Around The World

Champagne Glasses New Years Eve
Image Source

With 2017 about to come to an end, now is the time to plan where you will be ringing in the New Year. Travelling abroad for the festivities is a cool ideal if you have the budget and there are lots of options.

Here are three places for you to consider...
One of the world’s most iconic New Year’s Eve celebrations takes place in New York every year in Times Square. For over a century now, at 11:59 PM a glittery ball begins its descent as the countdown to the New Year begins.
The mood here is festive with the party starting well before midnight. Musical acts are booked to perform as more than a million people gather here. A wishing wall is also found here where guests can record their resolutions for the New Year.

Perhaps the party capital of Spain, Barcelona features street parties all over the city to end the year. At the far end of Barceloneta Beach, fireworks are launched to ring in the New Year. The Casino Barcelona is another possible venue that many visitors enjoy as they ring out the old and usher in the new. People all around the world are gambling online, this is ensuring that land-based casinos are also gathering in popularity. There are special party packages available here, as well as their usual array of popular casino games including poker. Visitors staying into the first week of the year can also partake in the 3 Kings Parade.

This sunny South American city is well known for the festivities of Carnival. However, Rio also knows how to celebrate the New Year. Many different celebrations occur at the iconic Copacabana Beach. They include dancers clad in special costumes, music and other attractions. Fireworks are also fired at midnight from a flotilla of boats.

As you make plans to see in the New Year, you could consider one of these international travel destinations for a memorable experience. I'd love to go to Rio one year as I love hot locations and from what I've seen online, the atmosphere in Rio is electric.
Jason Cooks New Years Eve Comedy Club at The Customs House in South Shields

However just as memorable is staying at home and this year, I'm not travelling too far at all.
The Customs House in South Shields will be host to Jason Cook's New Years Eve Comedy Club and I for one, couldn't be more excited.
Jason Cooks Comedy Club at The Customs House in South Shields

If you've been following my updates for a while now then you'll know that I've been to many of the comedy events that Jason puts together. Details of who is headlining and featuring are always kept under wraps until the eleventh hour but one things for sure, you're always guaranteed a great night. This is the best comedy club in the North East and its always a sell out.
Jason Cook pulls together world class comedians from household names like Chris Ramsey and Sarah Millican to up and coming comedians like Carl Hutchinson and future talent needing a platform to harness their talent.
It's a friendly atmosphere at The Customs House, heckling is off the cards as JCCC is all about supporting the acts, especially when they're trying out new material. Its an honour to be able to get a sneak peek at what some of the big names will be performing on far larger stages and on TV in the future.

Jason Cooks Comedy Club at The Customs House in South Shields

This will be my first NYE comedy club and I'm excited to see what it has to hold. I'm not one for going out clubbing for NYE; I've been there, done it and the anticlimax was unreal. I know that with The Customs House, I'm guaranteed a great night that wont break the bank; affordable tickets, loads of laughs and variety on stage, reasonable drinks prices and stellar service from the box office throughout.
Jason Cook's Comedy Club is recommended for those aged 16+ and tickets are priced at a reasonable £25. Buy yours online here, from the box office in person or by calling 0191 454 1234. Tickets are still available but the closer you get to the date, they sell like hot cakes so be quick!

Where will you be spending New Years Eve this year?

Monday, 18 December 2017

A Christmas Story with Yours Clothing at The Alnwick Garden

WhatLauraLoves A Christmas Story with Yours Clothing at The Alnwick Garden

This winter, I ventured to The Alnwick Garden to create a special Christmas video.

It tells the story of me and Olaf giving back to Father Christmas; he's always so buys giving lots of gifts to children on the nice list but what about him?

Get into the spirit of Christmas with us as we surprise Santa at the fabulous Alnwick Garden that has been transformed into a winter wonderland this Christmas.  There's plenty to see and do there from visiting Santa Claus and shopping at the Christmas market, to watching the pretty lights when it gets dark, taking photos in the giant snow globe and skating on the rink.

All of my outfits are from Yours Clothing.  They have the most amazing selection of Christmas themed clothes this year as well as loads of cosy outfits to keep you warm and stylish all season long.

The video is up on my Facebook page right now (edit: you can also check it now check it out on  my Youtube channel!)

Many thanks to Mark Dawson for filming and editing this video, to The Alnwick Garden for allowing me to film there, Yours Clothing for the lush outfits and to Olaf, J and Santa for appearing in the video; you guys rock!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Happy Christmas Jumper Day with Save The Children

Christmas Jumper Day with Save The Children Yours Clothing The Alnwick Garden WhatLauraLoves

Happy Christmas Jumper Day to you all!

I love Christmas Jumper Day because it brings so much cheer and perks up what can be a very cold and wet December day.  Mostly, I love it because of the sentiment behind the day; raising money for Save The Children.

Christmas Jumper Day with Save The Children Yours Clothing The Alnwick Garden WhatLauraLoves

This year, my Christmas jumper is from Yours Clothing who have a fantastic range of plus size Christmas jumpers with many still in stock (check out this cute penguin design) if you'd like to pick one up to wear for drinks with friends over the festive season or for on Christmas Day itself.

I love the girly reindeer on mine; I mean check out those lashes, its perfect for me!

Christmas Jumper Day with Save The Children Yours Clothing The Alnwick Garden WhatLauraLoves

Whatever the design of your Christmas jumper, make sure you're donating to Save The Children if you can.  Helping children in poverty to have a healthier , safer start in life and to have the chance of an education is so important.

You can find out more about how they save children's lives and build better futures here.

Christmas Jumper Day with Save The Children Yours Clothing The Alnwick Garden WhatLauraLoves

Have you gone into work today wearing your Christmas Jumper or perhaps your little ones are off to nursery in theirs?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

*Photographs by Mark Dawson taken at The Alnwick Garden

Monday, 11 December 2017

Top Girly Girl Christmas Gifts from River Island Kids

Top Girly Girl Christmas Gifts from River Island Kids

With each year that passes, more of my friends are having children and that leaves me with more worry each year with what to get them for Christmas.  I don't have any children of my own and if truth be told, I don't know a thing about kids but what I do know is girly girl fashion and accessories.

Kids clothing is far more stylish that it was when I was rocking my sailor girl dress circa 1992 and with stores like River Island on the highstreet and online, there's so many high quality choices available without breaking the bank.

I've been checking out the selection and have put together my edit of my top picks for girly girls this Christmas from River Island Kids.

River Island Kids Girls Rose Gold Scuba Mesh Runner Trainers

When I saw the Girls Rose Gold Scuba Mesh Runner Trainers, I knew that I had to include them.  They're so similar to mine that I featured in this post and would look awesome on a little girl.  Imagine having Balenciaga runner dupes as a kid, how lush!

River Island Kids Girls Grey Chenille Knit Hat and Mittens Set

Equally as gorgeous is the Girls Grey Chenille Knit Hat and Mittens Set. This is a two piece set aimed to fit girls from 5 to 12 years of age.  The pom pom hat and mittens are in a gorgeous grey coloured chunky chenille knit with a contrasting white faux fur pom pom detail on the top.

The mittens are fingerless which I think makes it easier to hold and open things, plus I find that if gloves are fingerless then you're less likely to take them off and therefore less likely to lose them!

River Island Kids Girls Blue Unicorn Snap On Watch

Unicorns have taken the world by storm in 2017 and they certainly seem to be everywhere this Christmas.  The Girls Blue Unicorn Snap On Watch would be perfect for a girly girl as its pretty, functional and can help them when they're learning how to tell the time too.

River Island Kids Girls Rose Gold Sequin Round Cross Body Bag

For the little girl who has lots of parties in her festive calendar then the Girls Rose Gold Sequin Round Cross Body Bag would be absolutely perfect.  Its super pretty, very sparkly and will look perfect with so many of her party dresses!

River Island Kids Girls pink and rose gold nap queen PJs
Finally, I honestly believe that you cannot go wrong with a set of PJs no matter who you're buying for this Christmas.  These pink and rose gold nap queen PJs are so gorgeous, I'm sure any little girl would be delighted to receive them!

So those are my top picks from River Island Girls.  Shop them all by clicking on the images below and don't forget to check out the rest of the range.  There's some really high quality, fashion design led pieces that don't cost the earth and I really think that they're a great place to start your Christmas shopping for the little fashionista in your life!


Which is your favourite piece from my top picks?  What will you be buying the little girl in your family this Christmas?

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette Review

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

Urban Decay have released their brand new eyeshadow palette, Naked Heat and of all the Naked palettes they have released, this has to be my favourite.

It takes the Naked line in a completely new direction with all of the shades having the most stunning warm, amber hues, from warm browns and burnt oranges to rich siennas.  Even before swatching it, I was captivated and knew I'd love it.

This palette gives me what I so wanted the Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette to; wearable reds and burnt oranges.  While I do still enjoy using the ABH palette and it does have plenty of differences between it and the UD palette, especially because of the pink shades, I do find the Naked Heat palette to be so much more wearable and I can create far more looks with it with my current application skill set.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review by UK Beauty Blogger WhatLauraLoves

Naked Heat is very much a collection of eyeshadows that I'm sure anyone can wear and use effortlessly; I've found all of the shadows to be buttery soft, easy to blend and they all look fantastic with one another.  They don't crease on me and last all day long with the vibrancy of when they were first applied.

In creating this palette, Urban Decay were inspired by the hype around the cult-favourite neutrals that makeup addicts are loving right now; warm, burnt reds, coppers, siennas and butterscotch, as well as drawing inspiration from some their own popular shades like Bitter, a reddish-brown matte from the Vice4 palette and Extra Bitter, a burn orange matte from the Naked Ultimate Basics palette that I've been lusting after since it first hit the shelves.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review by UK Beauty Blogger WhatLauraLoves

Inside there are 12 completely new neutral shades that are perfect for creating any number of looks from a sultry daytime eye through to an intensely smokey night out look.  I've used this palette on countless occasions already and I cannot see the day when I'll no longer need it in my collection.

This palette really turns up the heat on summertime makeup and with shades like the smooth red-brown matte, the shimmering copper and the deep shifty bronze, it would be perfectly suited to the autumn and winter makeup trends too.  I used this palette LOADS when I was creating my Halloween and autumn fashion lookbook.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

The shades from left to right are as follows; Ounce (ivory shimmer), Chaser (light nude matte), Sauced (soft terracotta matte), Low Blow (brown matte), Lumbre (copper shimmer with a gold pearl shift), He Devil (burnt red matte), Dirty Talk (metallic burnt red), Scorched (metallic deep red with gold micro-shimmer), Cayenne (deep terra-cotta matte), En Fuego (burgundy matte), Ashes (deep reddish-brown matte) and Ember (deep metallic copper-burgundy).

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

Whether you're blending the perfect sunset eye or smoking things up, these shadows were created with a formula that makes it so easy to transition the shades seamlessly.

Each one features the Urban Decay trademarked Pigment Infusion System; the top secret blend of ingredients that enables each shade to have the velvety texture, rich colour payoff, easy blendability and incredible staying power that have become synonymous with Urban Decay cosmetics.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review by UK Beauty Blogger WhatLauraLoves

As well as turning up the heat with the eyeshadows, things are hotting up with Urban Decay's packaging design too; they really thought of everything when creating this palette.

It sits within a beautiful box, designed like a matchbox that slides open to reveal the gorgeous palette inside.

The colour scheme for the outer packaging and the case is clearly inspired by the deliciously warm shadows inside and I love the graphic with 12 burnt matches underneath where the palette would sit. However its the artwork on the case that really caught my eye as its designed to look as though you're peering through vertical blinds into a hot, steamy sunset.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review by UK Beauty Blogger WhatLauraLoves

The protective plastic case that the shadows are housed in is my favourite from UD to date because it is so easy to open yet secure enough that it'll not come open in your make up bag and its sturdy and robust for travel too which is always a top priority for me.

Also handy for travel are the full sized mirror in the lid, which is great for getting really up close to my eyes during application, and the double ended eyeshadow brush (a blending brush and a detailed crease brush).  Although I still feel the need for a MAC 217 fluffy blending brush when applying these shadows, I can use it alone with the brush thats included and I can't say that for any other palette I own.

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette Review

I'd highly recommend the Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette; its my favourite from them to date so whether you're buying for a friend or beauty addict family member this Christmas, or even treating yourself, add it to your basket.

The Naked Heat Palette is available direct from Urban Decay, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Feel Unique, John Lewis, Debenhams and Macy's.


Which Urban Decay Naked Palette is your fave?  What do you think of Naked Heat?

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Lambton Worm Pantomime at The Customs House in South Shields Review

The Lambton Worm pantomime at The Customs House, South Shields, review

Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs... an aa'll tell ye boot the new panto at The Customs House!

The Little Panto with the Big Heart is back and this year, writers Ray Spencer and Graham Thompson have brought The Lambton Worm to the South Shields stage.

Since the closing night of Jack and The Beanstalk in January, I've been intrigued all year as to how The Lambton Worm would play out as it isn't a traditional panto.  When I first heard that The Customs House would be celebrating 150 years of the old folk song with this new pantomime, I was unsure as to how it would translate into a theatrical performance and I was excited to see the result.

David John Hopper in The Lambton Worm Pantomime at The Customs House South Shields

If you're from the North East, then I'm sure you'll have heard the story of The Lambton Worm.  I remember learning about the traditional folktale back in junior school and even recited the tale as the head of the worm in a school assembly; I'm yet to discover if my casting was due to my ability to speak confidently in public or my resemblance to the worm itself, hopefully the former.

Thankfully, The Customs House cast do a far better job at telling the tale than I ever could and they blend the traditional folktale with elements of a classic pantomime exceptionally well.

Lewis Jobson in The Customs House Pantomime South Shields

This retelling starts with a reflection back to the childhood days of friends John Lambton and Arbuthnot, their dog Puddles and the Penshaw twins, Penelope and Susie the Soothsayer who all love playing together around Lambton Castle and fishing in the River Wear.  One day, John catches an awful looking fish and while showing it to the twins, it falls down the well and puts an end to their friendship.  However as the years pass and the children grow into adults, who still hold their grudges, the worm grows too, becoming the ginormous Lambton Worm.

Penelope, played by the beautiful Georgia Nicholson, becomes the cunning Poison Pen and is hell bent on revenge using the worm.  While the kids lives  may have taken them off in different directions, the impending danger will see them all brought all back together.

Steven Lee Hamilton in The Lambton Worm at The Customs House South Shields

Goodie, Susie the Soothsayer gives the power of speech to Puddles the dog, energetically played by Lewis Jobson, so that he can warn the Dame and Arbuthnot of what is to come.  The brave and bold John Lambton is summoned to a help fight the monstrous beast.  He returns accompanied by Princess Aneesa who he has been entertaining in foreign lands, much to the irritation of the Sultan, expertly played by encore favourite, Gareth Hunter who brings a towering air of superiority to the role.

But what happens next?  How does the story pan out?  Well, you'll have to go along to see it of course.  I'll not spoil all the fun for you but what I will say is that you're guaranteed to laugh with the unbeatably funny messy scene and the most tremendous super hero costumes this side of galaxy; I've seen things I cannot un-see after this pantomime and you really must go along to witness it for yourself!

Ray Spencer and David John Hopper in The Lambton Worm Pantomime at The Customs House

Quick witted and very cleverly written, this is the panto that has me literally crying with laughter year after year and 2017 has been no exception.  That's largely down to the roles of Dame Bella Ballcock and Arbuthnot played by Ray Spencer and David John Hopper respectively.

Ray Spencer has been entertaining audiences for years; he's absolutely hilarious, especially when Arbuthnot is the butt of his jokes, and so quick with his one liners and ad libs that the panto wouldn't be the same without him.  However this year, David John Hopper proved that The Customs House pantomime wouldn't be the same without him either.  I never thought there'd be another person to make me laugh like Spencer does, until I saw Arbuthnot in another pantomime back in summer.  Hopper has really developed the character and his comedy timing is impeccable; he is without a doubt, the next Ray Spencer.

Natasha Haws and Cal Halbert in The Customs House pantomime

I say it every year but there is more jokes in it for the adults than the kids but even funnier still is what is said outside of the script.  Its the ad libs and I can't believe that just happened moments that really make this pantomime even more special.  The ability to deviate off course from the structure of the script while not losing the story is a real skill and these guys have it down to a fine art.

The chemistry between the whole cast is really great to see, they're a close knit bunch so when things happen on stage that even they didn't anticipate, it makes the scene even funnier.

Natasha Haws and Georgia Nicholson in The Lambton Worm Pantomime at The Customs House South Shields

It was lovely to see Natasha Haws cast in a different kind of role this year, as Susie the Soothsayer, rather than as the princess as she has been in previous years.  The role of Susie really suits her both vocally and theatrically and I think that came across in how comfortable and natural she was on stage.  What I loved about her in this role was how her humour and sarcasm was able to subtly come across which gave her character more depth and provided a great contrast between her and the other comics in the show.

Being a 'goodie,' she contrasted so well with the 'baddie', Poison Pen.  Georgia Nicholson took to her role like a duck to water and really commanded the stage, with both the children and adults in the audience boo-ing with passion.

Cal Halbert as Lord Larry Lambton in The Customs House pantomime

Adding another layer of comedy value to the panto this year was the casting of Cal Halbert as Lord Larry Lambton.  You might remember him alongside Alfie Joey as impressionists, The Mimic Men, on Britains Got Talent.  I've seen him doing his fantastic live impressions before but in the panto he really impressed me with how he was able to blend them into his role of Lord Lambton so effortlessly, showing his strength as an actor.

Halbert appeared to be so comfortable on stage and very well rehearsed which came across in how well paced he was.  I've seen other impressionists in different pantomimes and sadly they've fallen short of the high standard that Halbert sets in The Lambton Worm.

Eleanor Chaganis in The Lambton Worm at The Customs House South Shields

The Customs House pantomime felt as though it had a change of dynamic this year with less of a focus on the prince and princess style roles like a lot of pantomimes do.  However the difference with The Lambton Worm is that all roles are strong and expertly cast, especially in the case of Eleanor Chaganis who impressively held her accent throughout the performance as Princess Aneesa, and Steven Lee Hamilton as the handsome Brave and Bold John Lambton.

Both with incredibly warm and rich voices, they gave a lively and animated performance with a captivating stage presence, proving that they are natural leads.

Steven Lee Hamilton in The Lambton Worm Pantomime at The Customs House South Shields

The Lambton Worm is a brave step away from traditional fairytales that are replayed year after year at theatres all over the country.  The Customs House has always been a panto written by the North East, for the North East but retelling the treasured story of The Lambton Worm cements that.

The story was brought to life further by couture theatrical costume, set and digital fabric designers, Fox and Shriek who have been working with The Customs House for years now.  The dynamic set design is colourfully vibrant, surreal and unlike any other panto set I've seen before.  A further unique touch came from the addition of The Lambton Worm song manuscript woven throughout the design.  Fox and Shriek truly bring the characters to life with their work with stunningly detailed costumes you wouldn't find in other theatres.

Gareth Hunter, Ray Spencer and David John Hopper in The Customs House Pantomime South Shields

The Lambton Worn is certainly a pantomime for all the family. With the entire performance firmly rooted in the North East, I felt really proud to be from here as I left the stalls smiling at the end of the night.

There's plenty of fabulous songs, sing-a-long and join in moments and all of the he's behind you's that you'd expect from a classic pantomime but with a twist that only The Customs House can give.

You wouldn't be alone in thinking that Christmas Day is my favourite day of the festive season but you'd be wrong; the day I go to see the The Customs House pantomime is the one I look forward to the most throughout the whole year.  No matter how tough my year has been, I go to see a show, laugh my socks off and leave feeling happier than ever.  If laughter is the best medicine, then its the best therapy you could ask for.

The Lambton Worm Pantomime 2017 at The Customs House in South Shields

I'm a big believer in not wasting your money, especially when it takes so long to earn it and panto is very much a family affair which can quickly add up.  So with that in mind, the only panto I can wholeheartedly recommend and guarantee you'll love this Christmas is The Lambton Worm at The Customs House.

Its the one pantomime that you can consistently rely on to deliver, show after show, year after year.  Their focus isn't on paying large sums of money to big names that don't quite deliver.  Instead, they focus on a strong cast with incredible vocal, comic and acting abilities, performing on a visually captivating set in costumes to rival those with the largest budgets.

The Customs House Pantomime Wishing On A Star Campaign

Rather than inflating ticket prices, they keep them reasonable, starting at just £9.99 and the great thing about The Customs House is that no matter where you're sitting, you'll always get a great view of the stage.  Bar drinks, snacks and merchandise are very reasonable too, compared to many other venues.

They've even launched their wishing on a star fundraising campaign to help more children and families visit The Customs House pantomime in the future.

Star-shaped baubles are available to purchase at the box office for only £1 for people to add their own wishes to and hang in The Green Room cafe, bar and bistro.  The proceeds will then go towards subsidising tickets for next years show, Beauty and The Beast, for people who would otherwise not be able to attend a panto performance.

David John Hopper as Arbuthnot in The Customs House Pantomime South Shields

The Customs House are celebrating 150 years of The Lambton Worm folk song right up until 6th January so there's plenty of chances for you to go to see it.

Tickets are available online here and in person or via phone at the box office on 0191 454 1234.
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