Attraction Review: Chester Zoo

A good old English spring day in the North West and what to do? Why Chester Zoo, of course! Chester Zoo is located a couple miles outside the city of Chester, which you can get to by a handy bus service from the train station if you’ve not got a car. It’s a well-maintained, fun zoo and a great day out. This review is based on the ‘Low season’ (Jan-Feb, Feb-March, Nov-Dec) which is the slowest and cheapest time to visit. This meant a lot of the restaurants and additional activities (such as crazy golf) aren’t open, but it also means there are less people around! Not that I can see the zoo getting too crowded in high season, as the park is massive.

And when I say massive, I mean massive. Importantly, the enclosures have plenty of space for the animals. Each is well suited to its inhabitant and the animals looked happy and healthy. It’s always an issue in zoos as to whether the animals are having a good quality of life, and generally it’s difficult to tell. However, the animals at Chester zoo seemed unaffected by the guests. One or two species, such as the African Wild Dogs stayed in areas of their enclosure where they couldn’t be seen, but perhaps this was down to other factors such as common feeding points. The zoo made sure to point out if any of the animals were injured (such as the elephant with arthritis) and noted their treatments.

The customer areas of the zoo were extensive. There were many walkways and connecting paths between enclosures. I’d expect that anyone with walking difficulties might struggle with the amount of walking involved to view the whole park. However, there is a monorail (£2 per adult) that takes you from one end of the park to the other and there is a mobility support building that rents wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The zoo has thought about their various exhibits and thought about accessibility for the disabled. If you visit the park, expect to have sore feet by the end of your visit. Another struggle is managing to visit all of the exhibits. I would suggest giving around four and a half hours if you want to see every animal, have time at the gift shop, time for lunch and have a good walking speed.

As far as animal attractions goes, the zoos range of animals is excellent. There are eleven thousand individual animals from four hundred different species including: elephants, mangoose, warthogs, rhinos, meerkats, hyrax, various bird species, African wild dogs, Antelope species, aardvarks, zebra, spectacled bears, a wonderful free-flying bat experience, Okapi, monkey species, cheetah, camels, parrots, owls, lions, tigers, giant otters, penguins, komodo dragons, snakes, tortoise, orangutangs, jaguars, giraffes, a butterfly house and an aquarium. The highlights were the elephant paddock, which at the moment has not one, but two new-borns and one teenager. The free-flying bats were amazing, as you felt them fly right over your head. The giant otters have a viewing domed window under the water, so you can get up close and personal with the animals.

There are other customer activities around the park, including a play area, various confectionary areas (though these smaller food-sellers weren’t open in the low season) and two gift shops. There are also various talks happening around the park, especially nearing the end of the day during feeding hours. The park has a good travel deal with the local train station, where you can get your train ticket, bus ticket and entrance price at the train station for a slightly reduced fee. This was very useful and convenient, making potential queues flow more smoothly.

Overall, Chester zoo was a fun day out with many wonderful and interesting experiences. The zoo, while having perhaps too much walking between exhibits, was well presented and maintained efficiently. I would suggest a visit, especially in these low seasons where you’re not caught up in crowds and can take your time.

For more information, visit: http://www.chesterzoo.org/
To have the chance to adopt an animal of the zoo, see: http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/adoptions

See below, a picture of one of the elephants at Chester Zoo:

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Rating: 7/10

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Attraction Review: The Tate Gallery, Liverpool

The Tate Liverpool Art Gallery has a wide collection of British and International modern art, with a variety of styles. From large sculptures (Naum Gabo’s Head No.2), to fine oil paintings (Paul Delvaux’s Leda) to Marcel Duchamp’s  ‘Fountain’ replica (a urinal the artist found and decided to write on and make art), the gallery really has tried to house everything. It attempts to hold and collate all different types of art in a jumble… which doesn’t really work. There didn’t seem to be any underlying structure to the lay-out and everything was a little ad-hoc. The non-permanent exhibits were structured, so why not the rest of the gallery?

Being modern art, the pieces displayed were all kooky and strange in their own way. However, some of the artworks just become confusing. Take the urinal, for example… or perhaps the construction table with a mounted sex toy. Yeah. Well, it wasn’t all that bad, but strange and unique certainly seems to be the essence. This can be inspiring I guess, as with one art piece used a completely dark room and viewers would need a camera flash, or mobile phone to view the pictures on the wall. Though to be fair, opportunities of being in a pitch black room are few, and enjoyment can also be found playing ‘weeping angels’.

Perhaps it’s due to me not being into the art world, and I’m sure people more interested in that genre of art would find more enjoyment. But art to me is more about the picture perfect paintings… or the grand, intricate sculpture. I just can’t find much sense in most pieces of modern art.

However, overall, I would recommend a trip to the Liverpool Tate Gallery, as art is meant to inspire thought and opinion. And what better a way to form inspiration than to take a look?

For more information, visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool

Rating: 4/10

Event Review: Bodies Revealed, Liverpool, (Through the Ecco Arena)

Bodies Revealed takes you on a tour of the human body in ways you’ve never seen it before. It’s a showcase of fascinating preserved specimens: ranging from single organs to whole human bodies. Each exhibit is prepared to highlight a specific area of the body, including: the skeleton, the muscles, the nerves, veins and tendons, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the reproduction system and development of a foetus, and how disease effects the body.

Though not for the faint of heart, this exhibit is truly fascinating. It can be a little disconcerting to think that you’re looking at bodies that were once living and breathing, but your awes of wonder overcome the squeamishness. The most memorable parts of the exhibit include the development of the foetus at different stages of pregnancy and the final presentation of the whole human body showcased as a series of cross-sections. However, each section is captivating and gives a grand insight to the inner-workings of the body.

You’re at an advantage, however, if you already know a fair bit about biology. There is an audio tour to purchase, but it’s much more interesting to those with a good grounding in biology knowledge to put into practice spotting what they already know. It would be best suited for those studying medicine, biology or natural science, but it can be a learning experience for any age.

The one thing I was expecting more from the exhibit was a showcase of effects of disease. There were small sections showing examples of different diseases, but I expected a lot more. It might have been interesting, too, to have a little more science around the specimens, showing images of how the systems worked or how the disease caused issues. The space around the specimens just looked blank and empty, I think it would have greatly benefitted to have the walls be a biology picture book, full of interesting facts and discussions around science – though I suppose if they did that, they wouldn’t gain any money from the audio tour.

Overall, the exhibit is truly a spectacle to behold. The price is fairly low and there are plenty of things to see. It was a shame they didn’t have many ways to take the information home with you, as you weren’t allowed to photograph and there were no guidebooks being sold. However, the experience is surely worth it, as it’s something you’ll never see again.

Bodies Revealed is showing through the Ecco Arena (though the exhibet is on Paradise Street in Liverpool One) between the dates: 1st September 2012 – 02 January 2013
For more information about the exhibet:
http://www.bodiesrevealed.org.uk/#faq-page

To book tickets, click here

Rating: 9/10

Review of a Review: The Times – Dominic Maxwell (Joan Rivers Birmingham)

This review of Joan Rivers’ show In Birmingham was written by Dominic Maxwell, who is a critic for the popular ‘The Times’ newspaper. The show reviewed was entitled ‘Now or Never’ and is touring up until the 22nd of October.  Dominic himself doesn’t seem to have any comedy-background personally, but delving into the area of comedy for his work for the paper has let him see many various comedy gigs and festivals, so he can compare his experiences.

His review shows a positive opinion of Joan Rivers and he even notes in awe, how she ‘paints herself’ as a ‘shallow opportunist’. Although people walked out, he praises her skills as a comedian and how she ‘knows how far she can go’: a point that seems contradictory in that Joan Rivers is quite well known for her offensive comedy and yet people still walked out. However, Maxwell does seem to have some general knowledge about Joan Rivers and her style of comedy: as he mentions a joke about her closest friends, and as from the start he expected her to be offensive and applauds her for it. Such knowledge and strong opinion, however, questions the reliability of this reviewer. Can he have seen this show with no expectations or pre-formed opinions? I can’t believe he has. Comedy’s reliance on personal preference is perhaps one thing that makes it so difficult to judge in an unbiased way.

One thing I dislike about this review is the re-use of one of Rivers’ jokes. Maxwell attempts at using her joke of how if River dropped dead on stage, the audience would get a good show. Maxwell not only quotes this joke to finish his review, but he also tries to incorporate it into its’ title and theme (based on the overall theme of the show), beginning with the line ‘Joan Rivers is close to death’. While I actually like this opening line independantly due to its ability to attract attention (and how it makes good use of a set-up and subversion), to quote a joke by Joan Rivers for a written review just doesn’t work. Jokes are generally verbally based and are made effective by timing and voice. Therefore, placing a directly quoted verbal-joke in a written mode review just retracts it and takes away the skill it takes to make the joke funny. Maxwell’s theme could have worked better if he hadn’t quoted directly, but paraphrased or explained the essence.

However, Maxwell does a good job of promoting the show. He effectively makes it more inviting and gives us enough details to be able to research it and buy tickets later (presuming the readers have internet access). While not showing an overall unbiased and independent view, he shows his positive personal opinion well, while also rounding off his arguments by stating the negatives in a subtle manner. Overall I liked this review and would read more of Maxwell’s reviews.

Poetry Review: The Library – Chris Woods

Chris Woods, in his poem ‘The Library’, brings forth his opinions of society. He draws on the imagery of drunken ‘lads’ lingering around the closed library with walls decorated with graffiti. He shows a dark, menacing scene that seems to echo his thoughts on the death of books and reading through the progression of modern society: a notion also picked up in his other poem ‘Video Kid’.

I didn’t like this poem. I mean, I liked Wood’s use of sound in ‘The Library’ and how he writes each line as short, quick phrases. However, as much as this brings a sense of rhythm to his work, it also depreciates the description. I prefer a poem that creates a vision through adjectives and really brings that world to life… and for me Woods really hasn’t done enough. He vaguely captures an essence of the imagery he wants to present, but he doesn’t follow through with it. I think both his rhythm and his delivery of descriptive scenes would be greatly aided by a mix of short, snappy lines and longer more descriptive lines. As it is, the vast majority of the poem consists of facts: ‘Shut at 7’ and ‘No chance of getting in’. It would be like writing a poem about a forest in autumn and forgetting about all of the wonderful magical colours and feelings, while instead writing ‘The leaves fall’ and ‘The trees are tall’. Furthermore, to make up for the lack of emotive response in this poem, Woods instead uses a sudden expletive. While it’s probably part of the whole statement, or a shock ploy, it simply makes the poem too dark for me and rings an echo of desperate. Adding that ingredient to my parody Woods-poem, we have:
‘The leaves fall
The trees are tall
Fuck, they’re high!’

…….

While I shan’t judge the poet’s work just by this one poem (as I enjoyed ‘Video Kid’ more than ‘The Library’), I’d hope to find a change in style and setting in his other poems to enable me to really be captured in his presented world.

Rating: 4/10