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Sleep tight...and don't let the bedbugs bite; Sleepover proves wildly successful.

Byline: Tony Henderson

IT hardly seems the best preparation for a good night's sleep. But before bedding down last night 140 adults and children went on a rainforest trail and had the chance to handle cockroaches, tarantula spiders and snakes.

The Night of Rainforests sleep-over at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens was an instant sell-out. The event was held as part of the national Museums at Night weekend.

People brought their own sleeping bags and picnics to bed down among the exhibits on the ground floor of the museum in the Textile Traditions, Time Machine Gallery, Coal Gallery, Secrets of the Past and the Pottery Gallery, all adjacent to the Winter Gardens.

The Winter Gardens hold over 2,000 exotic trees and plants under a 30-metre glass dome, plus a treetop walkway and a pond full of large Koi carp.

It also grows examples of edible plants from around the world, such as tea, coffee, sugar, citrus fruits, date palms, bananas, pineapple, mango, the vanilla orchid and gingers, as well as a number of plants that are used to make important medicines.

Live animals and insects were also on show through Discovery Zoo, run by Paul Fenwick.

After arranging their sleeping spots, people were free to roam the ground floor of the museum and Winter Gardens.

At 10.30pm there was a torchlight trail through the dark Winter Gardens.

Among sleepover guests arriving last night was Helen Clark from Killingworth in North Tyneside, with her two children Brooke, nine, and Jo, eight, and their friends Jo Hewitt and Grace Wilson, both eight.

She said: "I don't know who is more excited, me or the children. We can't wait to stay overnight.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing all the live animals, and the children are getting really excited at the prospect of a midnight feast in a place like the museum.

"I think it's a great way to spend your Friday night. It's such a fun and different thing to do."

Participants were taught the call and response songs of the Baka tribe from Cameroon in central Africa ... calls used by the tribe when hunting in the forest to keep in touch with each other through the dense vegetation.

The aim was to show how important sound is to the rainforest peoples. The evening ended with a "nearly midnight" feast and wildlife films.

Museums at Night is the annual after-hours celebration of arts, culture and heritage when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors.

The ambassador for Museums at Night is Sunderland TV presenter Lauren Laverne, who said: "There is something exciting about being in a museum or gallery at night-time."


EXPLORING From left, Brooke Mordue, Grace Wilson and Helen Clark BUT WE'RE NOT SLEEPY... Settling down for the night are, from left, Tyler Patterson-Walton, Leah Foster, Kienna Boggie and Charlie Richardson
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 19, 2012
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