VIRTUAL INSANITY… If the 1982 film Tron had been set in Preston, it might have looked something like this. Here the city’s mayor Brian Rollo assumes the Jeff Bridges role to test out part of Ninja Adventure, which opened earlier this week. The 20,000 sq ft attraction includes what’s claimed to be the UK’s largest ninja course, inspired by TV show Ninja Warrior, alongside a virtual reality arcade, again said to be a UK first. If you fancy testing out your ninja skills, it costs £10 per person for one course, but if re-enacting Tron’s lightcycle scene is more your thing, a half-hour VR experience is £7.50.
ELEPHANT ATTRACTION… Another new attraction to opens its doors this week was Blackpool Zoo’s elephant house. At £2.5m, the facility is the zoo’s largest-ever investment and is said to be the biggest elephant house in the UK, taking two years to build. Three Asian elephants – Kate, who has lived at Blackpool for 46 years, alongside recent arrivals Tara and Minbu – will call the building home, and two more female elephants are due to arrive from Twycross Zoo, alongside an as-yet-unidentified bull elephant to complete the herd. The development also has extensive outdoor space and an immersive themed area with tropical plants, along with a viewing platform for visitors to see the elephants at eye-level.
HOW TICKLED I AM… A statue of Sir Ken Dodd has returned to Liverpool Lime Street this week to honour the comedian who passed away, aged 90, earlier this month. The statue, first installed in 2009, was temporarily removed last autumn as part of the station’s renovation programme, but returned on 27 March before the comedian’s funeral at Liverpool Cathedral this Wednesday. Unfortunately his return is only temporary, as the statue is still to be fully restored, but it will have a permanent place at the station from September this year. The city also honoured the Knotty Ash-born comedian by placing his iconic tickling sticks on statues throughout Liverpool, including one of The Beatles.
FENDER VENDOR… Things you can buy from a vending machine: chocolate, crisps, drinks, even underpants if you’re in Japan. Now Alibaba and Ford have taken it a step further by opening a “car vending machine” in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The five-storey facility is unstaffed and works with an app called Tmall. Customers can select the car they’re after, put down the deposit using the app, and take a picture of themselves so facial recognition technology can identify them when they come to pick up their chosen vehicle. On arrival, “dispensing” the car takes around 10 minutes, and the customer then has three days to test drive the car before deciding if they want to buy – and if they don’t like it, they can bring it back and swap it with another model. Certainly beats the normal vending machines you find down the pub.
ALIEN INVASION… Liverpool’s Eldon Grove has this week played host to a battle between Earthlings and Martians, after a BBC film crew used Vauxhall as the backdrop for an adaption of HG Wells’ sci-fi classic War of the Worlds. The listed former labourers’ cottages doubled for the Victorian streets of London, which for those unfamiliar with the book, are attacked by Martians which crash at Horsell Common in Woking. Filming was a welcome boost for the site which has been derelict for more than 16 years but is being converted into 50 flats. The three-episode mini-series was announced in May last year and is being filmed at various locations in 2018. Written by Dr Who and Wallander scribe Peter Harness, the adaption will air this Christmas.