At the moment live theatre is illegal in Wales. Sounds mad but there we are. It’s been a bit of a shock to the system to miss out on frequent live theatre, dance, music, festivals and now the festive period of pantos, musicals, indie shows, puppetry, all that magic.
If you’re gagging for a family theatre experience in the Vale of Glamorgan I have GOOD NEWS! The amazing Cardiff based Taking Flight Theatre Company are taking their brilliant First Three Drops show on a virtual tour around Wales. Memo Arts Centre in Barry are selling tickets for two shows on Sunday 22nd November at 11am and 2pm.
My kids and I experienced First Three Drops from the comfort of our own living room when it was first performed for RCT and we loved it. It’s recommended for little ones aged 2-9 and their families but my 12 year old enjoyed it too. It’s not like watching a recorded show on telly, it feels live and it’s lovely to see all the other families at the end, you really get that warm buzz of being involved in something with other people.
Each actor appears in a separate Zoom box on the screen from their own home and one of the highlights for us was watching comedy costume changes and how the actors transformed their spaces into different scenes.
The show feels new but as it went on it had familiar vibes as it’s based on a story from the Mabinogion. It’s silly and positive with all the chaos and magic I expect of the best family friendly live theatre and left us all dancing on the sofa.
It’s only £6 per screen so you just pay for one ticket for your household. Bargain.
You could go all out, get dressed up and get the kids to pretend you’re at the theatre, showing you to your seat with a torch and selling packets of Malteasers or keep it casual and just cwtch up on the couch.
Taking Flight are awesome at making their shows as accessible as possible so expect live captions and integrated audio description, it’s done so well that you don’t even notice it, all description is woven into the words of the characters. First Three Drops is in English, British Sign Language and Sign Supported English.
Book your tickets through Memo Arts Centre now to make sure you don’t miss out and let me know what you think:
First off, I love museums, I do. I grew up going to St Fagans and Cardiff Museum, places like the Big Pit and Caerleon and I take my own kids to museums on holiday, in Cardiff, France, West Wales, London. However, I’m not sure about the financial viability of a museum in Barry. We don’t need a new museum planned by dinosaurs. It’s a tough time for established museums so having a solid model and a viable business plan will be really important. Sustainability and future proofing need to be part of the mix too. It would be a shame if funding for a new museum pulled funding options away from existing volunteer led set ups such as the heritage railway at Barry Island.
I saw mention of the Vale being only one of two councils in Wales without a museum. That’s not necessarily an argument for having one. It smacks a bit of “everyone else has one, why can’t we?”. All mention so far has very much been of a museum for Barry not the Vale as a whole.
Have you been to Carmarthen museum? I’ve been several times over the years, my kids enjoy it and the staff are lovely but it’s a prime example of a council owned building that needs a huge cash injection to stop it rotting away. (The good news is that this year they’ve had £1.27million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and will be closed for the year while works are carried out.) Closer to home and in the Vale, have people considered the pig’s ear that the Vale made out of Dyffryn Gardens before the National Trust got in there? The damage is still there to see. It’s not simply through neglect but through the lack of the expertise and vast sums of money that such projects require.
Both of the examples above are of old buildings and perhaps the idea for a Barry museum is to house it in an existing modern building or build something bespoke. I’ve read in a B&D article that one option is to put a museum in where the current Arts Central gallery is. So just the one room? What’s the relationship with the library? What happens to the gallery? What happens to the Arts Development budget? What happens to visual arts in Barry? Does anyone remember the historical archive that was open to the public and lived on the top floor of the Memo? I certainly don’t and it’s long gone now. Have lessons been learnt from that?
History is important, heritage is important, culture is important. I believe in us learning more about who we are, where we come from and how it can inform our decisions moving forwards. The concept of a Barry Museum isn’t clear enough for me. A museum isn’t just about putting things in a space and wanting people to think it’s interesting.
Will the museum be partnered with another organisation? Will it build on existing research and networks? Are there any links with HE or FE? How can we future proof a museum? Do we need a museum? Who is it for and what’s it about? There needs to be a real definition of purpose and cause. What difference could it make? Is it diverse? Is it telling stories? Is it about people? Is it look at all of the history of Barry ever or is it concentrating on e.g. the industrial revolution? The M Shed in Bristol does an absolutely cracking job of telling the story of Bristol, the good and the bad, but it’s a huge beast of an operation, it’s part of a city of over half a million people, a population 10 times that of Barry and it’s part of Bristol Museums. Even well established museums have had to diversify their offer to increase income with events such as silent discos and sleepovers.
Is a Barry museum trying to do everything but failing to deliver as an experience? How innovative is it? Are there any interactive exhibitions or displays or projects? Will there be a complementary participative programme, paid for by whom and delivered by whom? Who does the marketing? What’s the budget for that? Will there be volunteers? Who recruits and manages them? Where is it? What’s the parking situation? The public transport? How big is it? Where does the capital funding come from? What’s the scale?
Who curates the museum? There have been some really interesting projects and examples of questioning who makes those decisions, who decides what belongs or doesn’t in a museum. My seven year old and I have been loving the recent BBC series Secrets of the Museum showing the archives, curating, restoration and work that goes into planning and bringing objects to life in a meaningful way at the V&A. Again, I know it’s a completely different scale to a potential Vale of Glamorgan or Barry museum but archiving, preservation, context, storytelling don’t seem to have been referenced in anything I’ve read so far.
I don’t have enough information to give a proper response to the tweets and newspaper articles about a Barry museum. There are too many variables. From the B&D article it sounds like there has already been a feasibility study. What were the results and recommendations? Where can I access the information? Has anyone met with directors of other museums? Is there a network of council run museums? What are the challenges or opportunities of a museum being run by a council? I’d imagine there would be the same frustrations that I see in theatres and arts centres that are managed by a local authority which I won’t go into here but there’s a long list.
In the B&D article there was mention of Barry pre Victorian era industrialisation. That is only part of Barry’s story. Then there’s the Butlins and Gavin and Stacey side of things which focus a lot on the Island but don’t quite encapsulate the rest of the town. I worry that the idea of a museum is maybe something in the minds of people who fill Facebook with “they never should’ve got rid of the Lido” posts that doesn’t quite match up to or even exceed contemporary museum curating, management, delivery, innovation, partnerships, networks, potentials and so on.
I’ve waffled, I know. I’ve asked far too many questions. I’m just hugely concerned about the sustainability of a museum for Barry, that lessons haven’t been learnt from the project that turned out to be a damp squib in the top space in the Memo and that it’s apparently pushing out the gallery. I love museums and I really value the work that they do, I have too many questions and reservations at the moment to get fully behind the concept of a Barry Museum.
Off with your kids over half term? Me neither. I’ll try squeezing in some mini jaunts to quell the FOMO beast but here are some of my top spots for this incredibly Halloween saturated week ahead.
Memo Arts Centre, Barry
Abominable Friday 25 October – Saturday 2 November (various times) from £3.50 in advance
Animation from the makers of How to Train Your Dragon about Yi meeting a Yeti and going on a quest to Everest.
There are loads of showings which include an Autism Friendly Screening on Tuesday 29 October at 11am for a more relaxed environment with the lights kept on low, the sound not quite so loud and a breakout quiet space.
Little Shop of Horrors Wednesday 30 October (4pm) £3.50 in advance
An amazing cast including Steve Martin and John Candy star in this 80s comedy musical about a plant with a taste for human flesh. Before the film they’ve got Halloween crafts in the café from 3.15pm.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Thursday 31 October (3pm) £3.50 in advance
Dress up in your Halloween gear for this Tim Burton animation about Jack Skellington. Before the film they’ve got Halloween crafts in the café from 2.15pm.
Oskar’s Amazing Adventure Friday 1 November (2pm) £7
I saw this lovely play in Edinburgh a few years ago and I’m so glad it’s coming to Barry. It’s about a puppy and uses songs and puppets. At the end the children can meet the performer and get to play with the puppets.
National Museum, Cardiff
Dippy on Tour Saturday 19 October – Sunday 26 January (10am – 5pm) FREE
It’s only bloody Dippy the Diplodocus from the National History Museum. He’s in Cardiff for a few months but this half term is the first chance to catch him here. There are some cracking Dippy themed events coming up like a Museum Sleepover on 16 November and a family friendly HUSH Silent Disco on 30 November.
Cosmeston Medieval Village, Penarth
Medieval Hallowe’en Event Thursday 31 October (10am – 3pm) £5 per child
Discover where the Monsters of Mayhem are hiding. For ages 5-12, accompanying adults are free.
St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff
Halloween Nights Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31 October (6-9pm) £13 adults, £10 children
We went to this last year and had I loved that the event tapped into the opposite of the overly Americanised plastic crap Halloween filling up supermarket aisles nowadays. There were traditional ghost stories steeped in Welsh history, folk traditions and ghostly guests. Suitable for ages 4-12 and their grown ups.
Pumpkin Picking Patch, St Nicholas
Pumpkin Picking Friday 18 – Thursday 31 October (9.30am – 4pm) parking and entry FREE, Crafts from £4.50, pay for your pumpkins
I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this will be incredibly busy with instagrammers, I fear that the best pumpkins have already gone and there’s potential for a mini squash flavoured Fyre Festival but PYO veg has that irresistible wholesomeness about it. I’ve not been but with the closure of Hendrewennol, there’s an appeal to a local pumpkin picking patch. Let me know what you think.
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff
The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps Thursday 31 October (7pm) £8
A dark and witty mix of storytelling and poetry from the BBC 6 Music Poet in Residence, Murray Lachlan. Bizarre and hilarious death stories told by a butler to a boy. Halloween outfits encouraged. From 6pm there’s a unique Virtual Reality prequel to the show. For ages 7+.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
I Wish I Was a Mountain Tuesday 29 October – Friday 1 November (11am all days and 7pm on Tuesday) £7
Written and performed by former Glastonbury Poetry Slam Champion, Toby Thompson. Based on a fairy tale of a man who wishes to be turned into a mountain. Creatively translated into BSL by deaf poet Donna Williams at 7pm on 29 and 11am on 30 October. For ages 6+.
Central Park, Barry
Pumpkins in the Park Saturday 26 October (12 – 5pm) £2 for pumpkin carving
Online bookings have sold out but limited slots available on the day. Expect pumpkin carking, bouncy castle, fun fair, crafts and even a dog fancy dress show.
Scream Your Heart Out Saturday 26 October (7pm) £5
For adults only, this screening of the classic horror film Scream for over 18s is in the park, in the dark. Not a family friendly event, obviously.
Amelia Trust Farm, Barry
Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 26 October – Sunday 3 November (10am – 4pm) £2.50 plus entrance fee
Buy your trail leaflet from the café, solve the clues to find the pumpkin faces .
Creepy Crawly Shows Monday 28 – Tuesday 29 October (2pm) £3.50 plus entrance fee
Brave enough to meet rats, snails and snakes? Meet the creatures in these ticketed shows. For ages 1+.
These aren’t the only events and shows on this half term but it’s a starter. We can’t do everything and it can all get a tad overwhelming at times. This list is for when you’re looking for a treat.
Sorry for jinxing the weather by optimistically writing this when the sun was still shining. It’s trying its best to come out again so let’s make the most of the tail end of half term with some fresh Welsh air.
We’re so lucky to have so many lush parks, beaches and countryside for walking and exploring. Over half term, there are a few special events and activities dotted around so, whatever the weather, get out and about.
St Fagan’s National Museum of History
On St David’s Day, this half term staple has family friendly craft activities themed for Wales’s special day. Perfect day to grab a slice of bara brith from their bakery. Free entry as usual but it’s about a fiver for the car park.
Amelia Trust Farm
A lovely little farm for a tootle around, Amelia Trust Farm have a February Half Term Farm Funday on 1st March with both morning and afternoon sessions. Full details on their website http://www.ameliatrust.org.uk £8.50 for bouncy castles, soft play, ball pit and more.
You can also do Bertie the Birdman’s Bird Trail. Each child is given their own card binoculars , bird booklet and a pencil to keep. £2.50 per child.
Don’t forget that Five Mile Lane is blocked for road works at the Barry end on the way there but you can take the scenic route through rural Vale or a detour via Culver House.
Beach Academy Wales at Ogmore Beach
Celebrate World Wildlife Day on Sunday 3rd March 11am – 12.30pm by searching, handling and spotting Beach Creatures with Beach Academy Wales on beautiful Ogmore Beach. £5 per child, free for their adult, aimed at age 6+ but younger siblings welcome. Text 07966 572293 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
October half term is here and no doubt there’ll be a glut of Halloween related activities on offer. I’m not a massive Halloween fan. There, I’ve said it. Why can’t we just carve a pumpkin, dunk some apples and wear a sheet to be a ghost? What’s all this decorating the house faff about?
What’s jumping out at me so far:
Memo Arts Centre, Barry
One Man Shoe Monday 29th October (2pm) £7 / £24 for 4
A family show with puppetry, slapstick and magic. My youngest currently wants to be a ventriloquist when he grows up so it sounds right up his street.
The Little Mix Experience Thursday 1st November (6.30pm) £13.50
This Little Mix tribute act were incredibly popular last time they were in town.
Lots of activities on offer here and it is a lovely day out.
Autumn Apprentice Trail Saturday 27th October – 4th November (10am-3pm) entrance fee but event is free
Whack on your wellies and join in with five tasks like raking up piles of autumn leaves.
Pumpkin Carving Saturday 27th October – 31st October (11am-3pm) £4 per pumpkin plus the entrance fee
If you don’t fancy tackling this in your own kitchen, make the most of the stencils, carving sets and helpers at this event.
Make It Mondays Monday 29th October (12-3pm) entrance fee but event is free
Cook on a Campfire Friday 2nd November (12-3pm) £2 plus entrance fee
As the name suggests, you get to cook on a campfire.
Amelia Trust Farm
Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November
Kids Crazy Headwear Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th October £5.50 per child, pre book on website
Mini Beasts & Pond Dipping at the Farm Saturday 3rd November £5.50 per child, pre book on website
Penarth Pier Pavilion
Snowcat Cinema: The Curse of the Wererabbit – scratch ‘n’ sniff experience. Wednesday 31st October (2pm-3.30pm) £7.50 / £6 concessions (50p extra if you buy on the door)
Watch this family film from the makers of Wallace and Gromit with a special scratch ‘n’ sniff card. Fancy dress is encouraged. No adverts so arrive for a 2pm start.
Mountain View Ranch
Halloween Daily Events Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November (11am & 1pm)
Room on the Broom read by the Ranch Witch (11am & 1pm)
Marshmallow Toasting at Creepy Creak (2pm-3.30pm)
Spooky Pumpkin Trail (all day)
All activities are included in the entrance fee of £23 for a family of 4 and £28 for a family of 5. Wrap up warm, take a flask and a picnic and have a lovely time. Dressing up is optional. Last time we went we bought delicious pizzas and hot chocolates in their café which I’d thoroughly recommend.
St Fagans National Museum of History
Halloween Nights Monday 29th – Wednesday 31st October (6pm-9pm) £15 adults, £8 children, under 2s free but recommended for ages 4+
I really want to go to his. Expect Halloween special effects display across the outdoor Museum, Creepy Craft workshops, wand making, ghost stories for children and adults, Halloween character walkabouts, live music, lantern parade (no naked flames), Burning of the Wickerman (!) and a Scare Zone for bigger frights with a 12+ age advisory! The timing makes this perfect for those of us working over half term with older kids.
Sadly, they’re not running their usual Halloween event at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden this year. No pumpkin picking for us.
Let me know what you think of any of these goings on if you get a chance to try them out.