Spending a night on a pirate ship sounded incredibly exciting, and totally appealed to the ex drama teacher in me, but the reality of convincing my 11yo to dress up, my 9yo to play along nicely with the actors in a confined space and eat Tudor stew, then sleeping pretty rough as forty year olds, seemed well, a big ask at the end of half term when we were a bit frazzled.
I WAS SO WRONG.
I read something recently, it was much more eloquent, but is basically said that the things we don’t feel sure about, the things we don’t think we need, sometimes turn out to be the things that actually we need the most.
THIS. THIS. THIS!
Our whole experience of sleeping over on the replica of The Golden Hinde – Sir Francis Drake’s ship that circumnavigated the globe – was utterly, spellbindingly, amazingly brilliant and fed my soul so much. We all need to laugh, play, time travel and to wake up in charge of a pirate ship heading out onto the Thames.
Here’s what we loved:
The actors were high energy, full of laughs and so skilled at keeping kids engaged through character, action and humour. They turned kids to putty in their hands, even the most defiant and uncertain ones. The youngest became lovingly referred to as “Biscuits” the most unruly became the top swordsmen. It was all one big gloriously funny game. I loved how they used brain gym, and other more subtle tricks to really help everyone to stay focussed.
A lot of laughs. History is vile, bizarre and incredible. It’s also a brilliant source of toilet humour, bodily functions and well, howling with laughter at the thought of the Barber Surgeon sticking leeches on Dad’s private parts. That is of course what the Tudors would have done to anyone with the star sign Scorpio, because their sting is in their tail.
Totally onboard. My 9yo more than happily ate all the stew despite knowing we had emergency rations for him, because ‘I know there won’t be anything else and we have battles to fight with the Spanish’. It was actually a very child friendly stew of large chunks of potato and carrot.
He was totally immersed in living history and lapping up everything the actors had to say too, especially the sword fighting, canon firing and toilet humour. He made immediate friends with another boy his age and decided the gunner was his hero.
My 11yo made me promise not to take photos of her in the hat, as did Mr A, but by the end they had such a brilliant time I believe they totally would have signed up to be the London wide poster family for The Golden Hinde.
We went to war with the Spanish. How on earth I hear you ask? Well, I totally managed to ‘suspend my disbelief’ as they say in the drama teaching world, that war totally happened. I was so engaged as a grown up too.
Waking up on the ship. Sleep may have been broken by late night revellers, a 6am bottle collection from the pub next door, and by the odd siren from wider London. But I woke up, climbed up on the main deck with a cup of tea in a pewter tankard, and sat and chatted with Mr A and some of the other parents.
Afterwards I climbed up onto the half deck, stood at the helm all by myself, looking out across the Thames, the skyline full of modern iconic buildings. I felt like I was in some kind of crazy film, or as if Elizabethan London had come to life, just for us.
It was the most magical start to a day I have had in all my travels.
We have some top tips and things to reassure anyone taking part:
What age/who is the Golden Hinde sleepover for?
6-11 is perfect. Younger children are allowed if you supervise them. The sleepover we participated in was aimed at families, but there are also school and youth group sleepovers and all kinds of other events, including pirate training!
The sessions were beautifully structured for kids with attention or regulation difficulties, with lots of movement, actions to help concentration, brain gym exercises and superb positive behaviour management in role from the actors. From a physical perspective the ladders are steep and the ship is dark with low ceilings on some decks and there is quite a lot of movement between decks. On a sensory level, the ship does does smell old and there will be some noise from outside overnight. Some families organised a section of the ship to themselves, so do talk to the team if you have concerns, it was clear the actors already know how to accommodate the needs of children with a range of special needs.
What should we take to sleep on/in?
Nothing is provided so make your own comfort! Sailors would have slept on the floor. We took pillows and roll mats but some families had airbeds, I thought about this, but was worried there wouldn’t be room to store the luggage you’d need to get these across London, but this wouldn’t have been an issue. And there was plenty of time between the end of the activities and lights out to set up camp.
Should we take food?
The stew was hearty and there was lots of really fresh lovely bread, and bread, cheese and fruit in the morning, but if you are prone to getting a bit nibbly then definitely take some snacks. Water and hot drinks were provided
Was it really dark?
It was dark but not completely dark, so a small torch could be handy. I took an eye mask but didn’t need it. I’m not a fan of ear plugs but they could be useful. I was enjoying all the London sounds too much, in fact I love that I had the weirdest dreams on board.
What about the toilets?
The toilet facilities – there are two – are very clean and not as cramped as I had imagined. You could easily change into pjs or have a quick wash.
What about security?
Once the actors leave, a member of the Golden Hinde team stays on board to ensure everyone’s safety. The ship has a glass security partition with the dock so you feel very secure. It was hilarious fun making early morning joggers jump as they caught sight of us on deck.
Is the Golden Hinde Sleepover worth it?
I cannot recommend this sleepover highly enough, I think to represents excellent value for money too at £45 per person. There were only around 30 of us onboard, so it felt like a truly personalised living history sleepover experience. I can’t imagine many places to wake up to top this!
How do you book a Golden Hinde Sleepover?
Telephone: 0207 403 0123
View sleepovers as an event on facebook
You can also book birthday parties and there are all kinds of fab events for grown ups too, like rum tasting for starters. The ship is also available for private hire.
It was lovely to share the experience with Mel from Le Coin de Mel, you can read her account of A Sleepover on the Golden Hinde too.
Disclosure, we were gifted our tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain my own, I loved it so much I got carried away and made a video too.