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Girl About Sussex reviews Cinestock’s Drive-in Christmas Extravaganza  

I must admit, with all the Covid restrictions in place, I was a little worried about how we’d all feel festive this year. Like many households, we put the tree up earlier than usual and watched some Christmas movies in November. The big guy in red symbolises that 2020 is nearly behind us and I for one can’t wait to see the back of it.

I had to rethink my family’s traditional Christmas plans and I couldn’t bear the thought of taking the kids to see Santa behind a Perspex screen – for me, that is just one step too far.

Cinestock announcing their schedule for December, which included a panto and Elf Show, was a Christmas miracle! Cinestock is hosting the UK’s only indoor, drive-in Christmas Extravaganza, all at Ardingly Showground (West Sussex) in the snow-themed Winter Wonder’barn. Everything you need for a fun-filled outing is quite literally under one roof. We would be hidden from the rain and wouldn’t be irritated by wiper blades blocking our view – it all sounded perfect!

Whilst I love a good panto – oh yes, I do – the drive-in ‘world’s first exclusive’ Elf Show sounded like it would be lots of fun and we couldn’t wait to check it out.

The set up in the barn was quite something. With Christmas tunes playing and snowy displays either side of the barn, we were directed to our spot. Cars were loaded from the front of the stage backwards, but larger cars were parked on the outside and smaller cars in the middle, so that everyone gets a great view of the stage. We were greeted by very enthusiastic elves who gave the kids a whistle each and asked if they had been good this year – of course, they lied! They also told us where the facilities were and that we could order food and drink directly to our car via the app.

My husband and I were relegated to the backseats and we waited for the rest of the barn to fill up behind us. When the elves appeared on stage, the whole barn erupted with loud honking and flashing headlights – each child, including both of ours, would clearly be milking this opportunity to beep the horn as much as they could!

What followed was a delightful show based around Santa’s Chief Elf Engineer on a mission to help rediscover the magic of Christmas. With lots of festive songs, the show was both interactive and engaging. We sang, laughed, learnt some new dance aerobics moves, and watched the kids excitedly shout, ‘it’s behind you!’.

Everyone in the barn was already feeling joyful when Father Christmas made his special sunroof appearance. The cars went wild! He joined the cast on stage, and it was so lovely to see lots of little heads poking out of the drivers’ seat windows, looking at him in awe. Even though it was really cold outside, the barn was warm, and everyone had their windows open. We didn’t get individual speakers, but the sound system was spot on.

Santa announced the Boogie Monsters, the band that would be playing a 45-minute set, and once they started performing ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’, Santa left the stage and walked around the barn with one of his elves, stopping at every car and speaking to the children inside – from a distance, of course.

The band were the perfect choice for this audience, and they played a smashing set of Christmas classics that got everybody dancing from their seats. It was so lovely seeing all the parents and children singing along together – Cinestock was right, Christmas is definitely not cancelled this year!

Whilst it was a bit slow getting all the cars set up in the barn, leaving was super speedy. There was a second exit stage right and all the cars were out in minutes. The organisation of the whole event was phenomenal. Tickets for this show were £35 per car, including two adults and two children.

The drive-in panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, is running until the end of December and the cost per car is also £35. Cinestock isn’t just for families or for Christmas though. The drive-in cinema has been running since the summer and there’s an action pack schedule of Christmas films that you can still experience from the barn this December including Die Hard, Last Christmas and The Holiday. Partnering with the award-winning Grinstock Comedy, Cinestock’s drive-in comedy nights feature some of the best TV and national circuit comedians, live from the stage. On 31 December, Cinestock will also be hosting The Greatest Indoor Drive-In New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, featuring a live comedian, a band and a world’s number one video DJ performing live. Cars cost £70.

The Elf Show was absolutely brilliant, and we all left feeling happy and festive. It was a much-needed relief and it was amazing to go out and do something as a family where we all felt safe. In the wise words of Buddy the Elf, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” – thanks to Cinestock, we certainly found our Christmas cheer this year.

For a full listing of events and to book, visit www.cinestock.co.uk

Photos by Chalky White – www.chalkywhitephotography.com

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