Britain’s first European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and the seventh person from the UK to blast into space delivered an out-of-this-world experience to Tunbridge Wells last week.
Visiting the Assembly Hall on Monday, September 5, Sussex-born Major Tim Peake was his turbo-boosted, affable self as he told the fascinating story of ‘My Journey to Space’.
This starry-eyed tale of his mission to the International Space Station was incredible to hear and a huge encouragement to children everywhere. The audience was enthralled as Major Tim described travelling at ‘10 times the speed of a bullet’, seeing ‘16 sunrises and sunsets each day’ and doing an ‘amazing and unnerving’ spacewalk.
‘You can do whatever you want to do’ was Tim’s mantra as he told of his very normal, boy-next-door childhood in Chichester and revealed how he wasn’t very good at maths at school – only scraping a D at A-level.
He wasn’t academic or sporty but he loved adventure. As Tim said: “I knew even then that I wanted to fly. I knew I wanted to be up in the air.” He excelled in the local Cub Scouts and school Cadet Force, which pointed his way to joining the Army Air Corps. There, he flew more than 30 types of helicopters and planes – including on a secret mission in Afghanistan – before applying to fly a rocket into space.
As an ambassador for the Scout Association (whose website offers a ‘Peake Performance’ activity to teach members how to survive in space), he was delighted to wave to the local 17th Tonbridge Air Scouts group in the audience.
“The first person to set foot on Mars has already been born,” he told us. Now that was an amazing thought to go home with!
And one fan of Major Tim’s, young Matthew Sharples from Heathfield, was lucky enough to meet his space-faring hero.
Matthew, aged 11, had been eager to meet the astronaut ever since Major Peake blasted off to the Space Station in 2015.
Matthew, who has complex medical issues, said he ‘was over the Moon’ after meeting his hero.
The Heathfield Community College schoolboy added: “It was really exciting to get to talk with him about space. He is such a nice, normal person, though, and made it really easy.
“It was really exciting to get to talk with him about space. He is such a nice, normal person, though, and made it really easy.
“He told me that that anyone can now apply to join the space programme and might become the first person on Mars. He said you should never ever rule anything out. Nothing.”
On Stage & Screen
It’s still summertime at the cinema, with family films like ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ (U), ‘DC League of Super-Pets’ (PG) and…‘Jaws’ (12A) on at the Odeon.
But if your taste turns to period drama as the nights draw in, ‘See How They Run’ (12A) will install you cosily into the stalls of the West End in 1950s London, where plans to turn a play into a film are thwarted by murder.
If you prefer your drama live and rocking, a five-night run of the musical ‘Rock of Ages’ has just begun at The Assembly Hall. Weaving together rock anthems, the plot follows the lives of Hollywood dreamers and schemers revolving around the setting of the Bourbon Room nightclub. Shows at 7:30pm and Saturday matinée at 2:30pm. Until September 17.
The Paddock Wood Proms continue, with musicians of the Tier3 trio performing at St Andrews Church, Paddock Wood, tonight and Saturday (September 14 and 17). All concerts start at 7pm. Tickets from TicketTailor.com.
Meanwhile, there is ‘Music for Two Pianos’ this Sunday (September 18) at the E.M. Forster Theatre (Tonbridge School) at 8:15pm (doors at 7:45). Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and other pieces, played by David William and
Brighton/Kent-based indie-rock band A Year in Provence play their rescheduled gig at The Forum this Friday (September 16) at 7:30pm. Supported by Another Day, Torque and Citrus Blue. Tickets for the earlier date still valid. Age 16+ unless accompanied by an adult.
Tunbridge Wells musician Biddle headlines a lineup of young and up-and-coming artists this Saturday (September 17) in an inclusive event that promises pronoun wristbands and tickets at just £5. Mimi Rae, Katie Kittermaster, Amber Titchener, Lauren Sofia and Sofia Lovell play. Age 16+ unless accompanied by an adult.
The Little Brown Jug in Chiddingstone Causeway is hosting its ‘Oktoberfest’ on September 16-18. There is live music all weekend, starting with The Joe Cox Band on Friday evening. Saturday sees Gez, Gary Clark and Forever Hallie take to the stage, while Owen Donovan and Harry Evans Band close the event on Sunday.
Preschoolers can spend mornings at the Amelia in Tunbridge Wells, with Storytime on Mondays at 11am and Rhyme Time on Tuesdays (at 10am and 11am) and Thursdays (at 10am). All sessions are held in the Children’s Library underneath the ‘night sky’. No need to book.
The Spa Valley Railway is running steam engines and heritage diesels to and from Tunbridge Wells West this weekend, with tickets from £20 for a family of four. Special services include cream teas and fish and chip lunches.
Have some floaty fun this Saturday (September 17) at The Bubble Show (E.M. Forster Theatre, Tonbridge School), 2:30pm (doors at 1:45pm). Artist-storyteller The Highland Joker produces bouncy bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, smoke bubbles, square bubbles, giant bubbles, and even fire bubbles for his audience of 3 to 12 year olds.
More bubbles at the ‘That’s Not My…’ storytelling and sensory experience for 1 to 3 year olds at Knole Park (Sevenoaks) on Wednesday (September 14). Expect bubbles, ‘snow’ and ‘hail’ in the Orangery at 10:30-11am. The session is free, but parking is £5 for non-National Trust members.