Category Archives: Museums & heritage

The Get the Chance team choose their Cultural Highlights of 2017

We asked our team to choose their three cultural highlights of the year, along with a favourite event and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.

Young Critic,  Gareth Williams

Junkyard: A New Musical (Theatr Clwyd, Mold) Real, raw, inventive, inspiring; provoking and entertaining social commentary; one of the most original pieces of theatre I think I’ve come across this year, with an exceptional cast, script, and set design.

Alice in Wonderland (Storyhouse, Chester)
A truly charming and inventive take on this well-known tale; a talented cast who brought the characters of Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s classic to life in vivid detail; perfect family viewing; the standout show of Storyhouse’s opening season.

Broken (BBC Drama Series)
Sean Bean was excellent as the passionate yet broken priest trying to make a difference in a Northern working-class community; as always from writer Jimmy McGovern, a piece which dealt with contemporary social issues in an engaging, challenging and no-nonsense way; a beautiful portrait of contemporary Christian faith.

The opening of Storyhouse in Chester

A wonderful addition to the North Wales/North West England arts scene. A stunning building with a beautiful theatre, modern cinema, integrated library, and plenty of communal spaces. An arts space that is truly for the community, that is already making a positive impact on the city and its people through various projects, shows and initiatives.

Community Critic Kevin Johnson

Hamlet. Andrew Scott gave what I can only described as an Irish Hamlet, sad, bittersweet and quietly morose. He sees the humour through the madness and the sorrow, yet his heartbreak was always just behind his eyes. Like some romantic hero of legend, dark and brooding, he used this masterfully to make us care for the Dane all the more.

The setting was modern, innovative and intriguing. The play began with coverage of the funeral straight from a Danish cable news channel. The play within the play took centre stage, the cast sitting in the front row among us, their faces thrown by video onto screens around the auditorium. A clever use of old and new. They wore tuxedos as if at the opera, and were covered by cameras as such.

In other modern twists Polonius had dementia, Rosencranz and Guilderstern were a couple, and both Hamlet and his mother spoke with Irish accents, unlike Claudius. A superb and thoughtful production that gave me new insight into the play.

My second choice is Angels In America, the first London revival since the original in 1992. With Andrew Garfield taking the lead of Prior Walter, this was a huge play, both in ambition, talent and scope. Performed in two parts, it’s just over eight hours in total, but amazingly the time went by so fast.

Garfield won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor but Nathan Lane is equally as good as the venal Roy Cohn, hurling racist insults from his sick bed at his nurse, and threatening his doctors with lawsuits, it was still hard not to be moved as he fought for his life using every dirty trick in the book.

Although I thought it slightly bloated, and perhaps too self-indulgent in places, the sheer audacity of the play steamrollers over such quibbles. This was a tour de force if ever there was one.

My third production is The Cherry Orchard, a homegrown reworking of Chekhov set in Pembroke in 1982. It made me so proud to see such a great play from a Welsh company, easily the equal of anything I’ve seen in the West End.

I’ve been a fan of writer Gary Owen since seeing Iphigenia In Splott, and Killology, also Sherman Theatre productions, and this was the ‘cherry’ on the cake, pun intended! The whole cast contributed to making it truly memorable, with Mathew Bulgo in particular creating a nuanced performance that defied good or bad and was just human.

Unsurprisingly then, my favourite company and venue of the year was the Sherman Theatre. As a theatregoer, I’ve been welcomed by every member of staff, it’s foyer is roomy and full of comfy chairs and sofas, and they continually produce work of the highest order, on both the small theatre and the large. Outstanding.

My cultural highlight of the year is a little unusual, given so many wonderful choices, but I’ve chosen Slava’s Snow Show. Premiering in 1992, it has toured all over the world, usually at Christmas. I’ve missed seeing it so many times, so when it played the Millennium Centre I was determined to catch it. And catch it I did.

Simply put, I was enchanted. When I tell you that I don’t like clowns, and that the entire cast are dressed as sad, world-weary clowns, you can see what an achievement this was!

There was no dialogue as such, no plot, and I can’t even begin to describe what went on, yet it evoked such joy and wonder in me that I remembered what it was like to be a child again. Suitable for ages 3-90, I’ve never seen anything that unites all the generations this way.

Created by Slava Polunin, a Russian clown and mime, its won several awards around the world, including the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. I think that sums it up nicely.

Young Critic,  Sebastian Calver

Oslo,  National Theatre

The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic

Heinsberg, The Uncertainty Principle

3rd Act Critic, Helen Joy

This is difficult as this year, I was very selective and so was privileged to experience some truly brilliant performances. With one exception. My top top event, was the Hot Tub extravaganza and in part because of my involvement and also because it was so outside my ken. Talking about our engagement with the arts here in Wales and as inconvenient wimmin of a certain age, was most refreshing!

Shadow Aspect, Ballet Cymru. Casting light into dark places.

Le Vin Herbe. WNO Perfect. Simply perfect.

My venue of 2017 would have to be Blackwood Miners Institute. Welcoming, warm, good facilities, parking and a very personable attitude.

My Company of 2017 is Black Rat Productions. For making us laugh. Never underestimate the power of a well produced comedy. One Man Two Guvnors. Good hearty stuff!

Community Critic, Steph Back

You’ve Got Dragons, Taking Flight.

Slava’s Snow Show

Fear, Mr and Mrs Clark.

Young Critic, James Briggs

La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre Cardiff. Such an emotive and fun musical in which the story is still very prominent today.

Anton and Erin Swing Time– A much needed touch of class from years gone by. Celebrating the best of dance and ballroom.

A Judgement in Stone– A classic murder mystery that left the audience on the edge of their seats. An amateur sleuths idea of heaven.

My Cultural event of 2017. Celebrating the New Year in London watching Cinderella the Pantomime at the London Palladium and watching the fireworks from along the river bank.

My company of 2017 is  Cinderella at the London Palladium. A stellar cast that really did bring everything to the pantomime. With names including Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, Lee Mead and many more it was ‘the’ theatre experience of 2017.

3rd Act Critic,  Ann Davies 

Swarm, Fio Productions

Rhondda Road, Avant Cymru and RCT Theatres

Art in the Attic

I would like to highlight the work of Rachel Pedley and Avant Cymru during 2017.

A venue of great importance to me during 2017 has been The Factory, Jenkin Street, Porth RCT.

Community Critic,  Hannah Goslin

Running Wild, Theatre Royal Plymouth
The production took a book from the well known writer Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame) and just like War Horse, transformed the stage with great creativity to take us to different places, and make us believe that the animals were real on stage with intricate puppetry.

Flossy and Boo: The Alternativity, The Other Room, Cardiff
This show brings a different taste to the usual Christmas shows full of kids entertainment and religious entail. Flossy and Boo create and exciting, fun and fully adult show to get you in the Christmas spirit but laugh at it satirically. Full of unusual concepts, music and lots of comedy, The Alternativity really gets you in the mood for Christmas.

Fourteen Days, BalletBoyz, Exeter Northcott
An arrangement of dance pieces, all with different concepts, BalletBoyz manage to astound yet again with their seamless movement, great acting and wonderful stamina. Balletboyz seem to only get better and better.

My Company of 2017 must be BalletBoyz. They are  just incredible!

3rd Act Critic, Roger Barrington

The Wind in the Willows, Sherman Theatre. Great fun, highly creative with a very talented production team.

The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre.

Little Wolf, Lucid.

The best exhibition I have seen this year is : Swaps – David Hurn – An outstanding and important exhibition at the National Museum Wales .

Young Critic,  Sian Thomas

Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival, particularly the event in mid July (but all the events were stunning) where I read some of my own work. I met great people and had a wonderful time and it has definitely shaped my year. I’ve become more confident with sharing my own work and have enjoyed events later into the night too, which isn’t something I did enjoy before this festival.

Layton’s Mystery Journey. Even though I didn’t enjoy the game I think playing it and experiencing a franchise I’ve loved in the past in the present was important for me. It made me realise that things don’t always survive my rosé-tinted glasses of nostalgia, and upon taking them off I’ve grown a little as a person. I know my interests much better, I know what upsets me in media much better, and I know my inner circle of friends much better, based on how we all reacted. Sometime positive can come from something initially negative, and I’m glad something has.

Iain Thomas’ “300 Things I Hope”, something I read very early on in the year and something that has been the brightest spot of almost literal sunshine on my bookshelf ever since! It’s a book I’ve traded with friends so we can see which ones stick out to us, it’s a book that spurred me on in my own below-the-radar poetry endeavours, the book that hundreds of sticky notes stick out off, and it’s the book that I like to pull down every so often and flip to a page and remember exactly why I love it.

My company of 2017 would again be Cardiff Fringe. Discovered it this summer and have been attending the monthly fringe cafes in The Gate ever since! It’s been a great time and one I hope to carry on attending. I look forward to see where it goes in 2018!

My personal cultural highlight would probably be the day I finished the first draft of my book – August 12th, 2017! I’m making progress on my goals! I’m on a second draft right now, and could not be more thankful for this year. I’ve had a really great one!

Community Critic,  Gemma Treharne Foose

Swarm, Fio Productions

The Mountaintop, Fio Productions

Sunny Afternoon, Wales Millennium Centre

The best company for me in 2017 is Fio for pushing the boundaries of theatre and creating thoughtful and impactful pieced by working with community groups. They also incorporate hard to reach voices in to their work.

The best venue for me in 2017  is Sherman Theatre for the work they do in supporting new voices in theatre, and the efforts they go to in order to make theatre an inclusive, accessible experience.

But I suppose two of my biggest personal highlights this year were finally getting to see the American Folk/Indie group Bon Iver. I’ve followed them for many years and never been able to get tickets for as they typically sell out instantly and cause websites to crash, etc. I once even considered flying to Hong Kong to see them on their Asian tour before realising that was a bonkers idea. My husband surprised me twice this year with tickets to see Bon Iver headline the Forbidden Fruit Festival in Dublin in June, then again in September at Blackpool Winter Gardens. My husband isn’t the biggest Justin Vernon/Bon Iver fan but it meant the absolute world to me. Through the concerts, I was also introduced to the work of Lisa Hannigan and The Staves, which I’ve really enjoyed since the Dublin concert. I wouldn’t say I am massively up to date, experimental or fashionable when it comes to music – I like what I like, but despite the horrendous rain and mud, these two concerts were so meaningful for me. I’ve promised my husband I won’t make him sit through any more whiny Justin Vernon music in 2018. But this of course now means I will be dragged to some kind of weird Cajun/Zydeko/Blues music fest. There’s always a trade-off!

Young Critic, Vicky Lord

Woman in Black. New Theatre, Cardiff. It was something truly different. Obviously it was still scary to the point of terrifying but there were just so many layers of meaning that were left unsaid so that the audience could figure them out it was just truly flawless.

Blood Brothers, New Theatre, Cardiff

Miss Saigon, Wales Millennium Centre

My favourite cultural moment was seeing Lenny’s disability named as Dyspraxia in the August 012, Chapter Arts Centre production of ‘Of Mice and Men.’

Best Organisation, Wales Millennium Centre. It provides a gorgeous temporary home for West End hits allowing people who can’t travel to London the chance to see them.

Community Critic,  Emily Garside

La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre

Rent, WMC

Where Do Little Birds Go, Cardiff Fringe

My company of 2017 is Taking Flight, particularly for their work with young people.

Young Critic Corrine Cox

The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre

Sunny Afternoon, Wales Millennium Centre

In terms of inspirational organisations in 2017, I’d pick National Museum Wales for being genuinely collaborative and inclusive.  I have loved their 2017 programming (especially Artes Mundi, Gillian Aires, Agatha Christie photos and Who Decides?) I am also following the exciting developments and vision for St Fagans.

Artes Mundi was personal cultural event of 2017. I found Lamia Joreige’s Beirut piece really interesting and loved Bedwyr Williams’ Big Cities –  I think I went back to see the exhibition four times I enjoyed it so much!

Community Critic, Barbara Hughes Moore

The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre. This was not only a pitch-perfect translation of the source material, but a highly relatable, funny and melancholy family drama.

Rip it Up, St Davids Hall. A sublime show, what it lacked in narrative it made up for in energy, fun, and spectacular dancing.

Burning Lantern, St Fagan’s. Despite Queue-Gate, the musical acts were stunning, sublime, and sung their hearts out.

I’d have to nominate  Sherman Theatre for my venue of 2017. We on the Law and Literature module at Cardiff have been linked up with Sherman Theatre since 2016, and they have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and welcoming – we have even built in their plays, performances and most recently a post show discussion panel into our module – and I was honoured to be on the post show discussion panel for The Cherry Orchard. They have also kindly come in to speak to our students at lectures – most recently Tim Howe, Communities and Engagement coordinator, led a very successful session on Law, Theatre and Performance, and our Law and Lit students were highly interested and engaged.

My favourite cultural event of the year was Pride 2017/ Return of the Big Weekend. It was my first Pride and it was utterly joyous, especially (or perhaps deliberately & defiantly in spite of) all the dreadful things that happened earlier in the year & the year before. It was beautifully, joyously defiant.

Young Critic, Eloise Stingemore

Funny Girl, Wales Millennium Centre.  Sheridan Smith was outstanding, any misconceptions I had about her being the right person for the role where blown out of the water the minute she belted out the first song of the show.

Grease, Wales Millennium Centre. A show that I never wanted to end, a truly spectacular musical in every sense of the word, I want to hand jive baby for days after.

Dinosaur Babies, National Museum of Wales. A truly amazing exhibition for all ages and is worthy of going on tour all across the country with ‘made in wales’ (and with a little bit of help from America) being proudly stamped on it.

My personal cultural of event 2017 was the  way the whole of Wales not just the Capital got behind our boys in wishing and dreaming them in qualifying  for the World Cup. It seemed that the papers and even just people on the streets whether the be commuting to and from work or having a drink in the pub where talking about it and with so much pride that it made my proud to be Welsh.

Community Critic, Patrick Downes

The Addams Family Musical at Wales Millennium Centre

For a musical to have such an effect on me after hearing the songs for one time, it’s something a little special Creep, cooky, and altogether brilliant all round performance

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1 & 2 – Much anticipated, did not let me down!

Coldplay at Principality Stadium – Fourth time seeing the band, first time on home soil – Just stunning, even thinking about the night sends goosebumps up my arm

Cultural event; Tiger Bay The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre

Best Venue – Wales Millennium Centre – With a mix of populist, and culture for all ages.

Art in the Attic, an Interpretation of an Art Exhibition by The Subjectives, The Factory, Porth by Ann Davies

Corona pop man (photo: Alan George, oldmerthyrtydfil.com)

The ‘Welsh Hills Works’ or Thomas and Evans of Porth, were the Universal Providers of most essential grocery items, with its Corona Pops, Stone Ginger Beer, Lemonade and other beverages being known as “absolutely unequalled for purity and flavour” from the late 19th century into the middle/late 20th century. This vast business empire was affectionately known throughout the Rhondda Valleys simply as “T & E’s”or Terry Stores.


In this the 21st century the Welsh Hills Works can be defined as a diverse and creative multimedia organisation with community ideologies, providing a stepping stone for the creative industry and a social enterprise network. It promotes artwork through its workshops, provides workspace that can be used by local artists as well as professional photographers/artists in its Art in the Attic. In recent years it has held various televised popular music programmes plus the original S4C production of the Jonathan Davies Sports Programme entitled “Jonathan’.


All Art is Subjective, Right? was the question asked by a group of creative artists whose Exhibition “An Interpretation of Art” was presented from Monday, 30 October to Friday, November 17, in The Robert Maskrey Gallery at The Factory. The Gallery itself is situated on the top floor of the Factory, it is accessed by four flights of stairs – a stair lift is available – and as with all Art Exhibitions held at this venue, it is entitled Art in the Attic. The Gallery is open Mondays to Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm.

On Friday, 3 November an invite to view was given to all. It was a great exhibition combining all local art in contemporary forms. All artwork are PriceOnAsking (POA). Artists exhibiting were:
Barbara Castle, Jeff Rowlands, Gervaise James, Jane Fox, Rhys Burton, Eric Thomas, Dawn Hoban, David Hoban, Joanna Israel, David Roberts and Oneill Meredith.

From the glistening glassware, the ceramic houses, the in depth landscapes that you could almost walk into, combined with contemporary displays. The use of clay moulded into exquisite sculptures that made you think, the vast array of photographic views that took your breath away, comparable to the face that appeared almost to be alive, like an ancient Pharaoh or Poseidon emerging from the Ocean. It was an eye catching event that held everyone captive. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this Exhibition showed the magnificence of creativity within the locality.

The Gallery itself was crowded with many relatives, friends plus people who knew their ‘Andy Warhol’s’ from their child’s ‘artistic’ blobs. The atmosphere was alive with the colours of the rainbow as the bronze bust of Dylan Thomas (£3000) created by Oneill Meredith, greeted everyone on entry. It was seemingly apt that the bust was placed close to the table offering wines, fruit juice or water. Next to an array of food lay a book where you were invited to make known your comments about the Exhibition; you nibbled as you deliberated. The number of people attending up to the time of the private view had been upwards of 90 which showed the strength of interest and knowledge of a reflective audience in the work of the local artists.

My one query on the night was
How did they manage to get all the pieces up the four flights of stairs, safely and securely, to the Gallery.
The swift answer came from husband and wife artists Dawn and David Hoban
“Very carefully”
Dawn’s work shown was an accomplished collection of oils on the Fragility of Life and a series of Still Life in Brighter Colours, with her three Ceramic Collections entitled Progress with a Question Mark?. The assembly of which reinforced the Artist’s views of the history of the Rhondda Valleys and its people.

The Entertainment was provided by three musicians Gerhard, Phil and Rob, who, as they were all wearing hats, finally named themselves “MenInHats”.

The Gallery glittered, the audience as one provided compliments as families expressed the pride in their family members. The music played on well into the night.

William Evans (1864 – 1934) came to the Valleys a raw country lad from Pembrokeshire; he was a stranger to the heavy industrial changes that were affecting the area’s ancient industry of farming. It may be the tallest of the remaining existing buildings of Porth, (bearing on its turret side the title of Welsh Hills, the first brand name of the mineral waters produced by Williams Evans), as The Factory as it is now known is the heartbeat of the town. It throbs with life, as in a new era it rises with the development of the Rhondda Valleys.

Why not pop into the POP Factory Porth and see for yourself?

Community Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Ferndale Mining Disaster of 1867 on Wednesday 8th November 2017.

On Friday 8 November 1867, the whole district of Ferndale and Blaenllechau was shaken by two consecutive explosions at Ferndale No.1.

Rescuers were hampered by roof falls, and with the air so foul, with some trepidation the furnace which powered the ventilation was relit. It took a month to recover the remains of the 178 men and boys, with most bodies showing signs of severe burning, and many so badly disfigured it made identification impossible.

Teenage boys as young as 12 perished and at the subsequent enquiry, the lamp keeper stated that safety locks had been tampered with, and incidents regularly occurred that breached the company’s rules. Although reported to the mine manager, these breaches were ignored. This was later disputed by fellow miner’s from the Aberdare valley.

On Wednesday 8th November at 5.00pm, to commemorate the event the community will congregate for a short service at the Ferndale Miner’s Memorial in Greenwood Park (which was erected in 1988), with the community following in the footseps of many miner’s to Penuel Chapel, in Duffryn Street, Ferndale.

At 6.00pm at Penuel Chapel, the young men and boys will be remembered through an evening of reflection and reminiscing by children from Darran Park Primary School and songs from Cor Meibion Morlais and music from Tylorstown Silver Band. There will also be poetry readings, film and the launch of a community exhibition outlining the development of the coal mines, the disasters and what followed as a result.

Organisers Ferndale Grassroots are grateful for all the support received to date but are still seeking relatives of those who lost their lives or who have any memorabilia, photographs etc. relating to Ferndale Colliery, which could form part of the week long exhibition.

‘We are keen to ensure that those who lost their lives are remembered by all generations in the community and we have been working with both young and old to bring this significant event in the life of Ferndale to the fore. Thanks to a grant from RCT Together, we believe it will be an event fitting for the occasion.’

This is a ticketed event (due to capacity) and tickets can be booked via email: ferndalegrassroots@gmail.com, Facebook: Ferndale Grassroots or contact Catherine on 07792 423493.

Ann Davies

 

An interview with Emily Wilden creator of ‘Sunday Night Stories’

Hi Emily great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, I’m an actor and voice artist originally from Carmarthenshire. I studied acting at the Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts and it was after graduating that my interest in voice over and audio editing started to develop. I began to record and edit my own work using home recording facilities. I enjoy performing and workshopping pieces from new writers and I’ve also worked with theatre in education and run workshops for children.

So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

I had an interest in performance from a young age, but it wasn’t until I joined the Swansea Grand Youth Theatre that my passion for Theatre and the Arts started to grow and I decided I want to pursue acting as a career. Joining a youth theatre was a great opportunity for me to meet new people outside of school. It really built my confidence and brought me out of my shell; it’s something I would encourage all young people to do even if they don’t have an interest in being a performer, as it helps with confidence, and communication.

‘Sunday Night Stories’ is a project you have developed yourself which features stories/plays/poems by talented new writers. It provides a platform for new writers to get their work heard. Can you tell us more about this initiative please?

I started Sunday Night Stories after taking part in a few different new writing projects in Cardiff. I have always enjoyed taking part in new writing events and as I am also a voice artist I thought it would be an interesting idea to combine the two.

New writing events are incredibly rewarding and helpful for the writer, actor and director but I thought by recording the pieces and turning it in to a podcast/having an audio recording, you are opening yourself up to a much wider audience. Also, by having an audio recording you are able to listen back and make edits and also use it to showcase your work.

I really wanted to create a useful platform for all writers, no matter what qualifications or experience they may have so they can gain feedback and the exposure they deserve.

I’ve recently partnered up with writer Darius Nash for a Sunday Night Stories Special of Hamish and Bob, a radio play written by Darius about a young boy with autism and his dog. It’s going to be a challenging piece but we are really excited to develop and share it.

Hamish and Bob in development

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?

I was lucky enough to be a workshop facilitator for Omidaze Theatre Company’s recent production of Romeo & Juliet, running workshops on Shakespeare and politics for primary and secondary school children.

Schools workshops for Omidaze Theatre Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet.

This really highlighted for me how little opportunity there is for children to experience theatre and the arts, whether it’s the cost, content, or just a lack of interest. During the workshops the children were excited to be getting up on their feet, performing, playing and actively working through and understanding (quite complex) text. It helped them use their imagination and recognise that theatre is for everyone. I felt this was incredibly important and is something that needs to be developed and offered more to children, helping them to explore all aspects of theatre and the arts.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based theatre companies, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

After working in London and now Cardiff, I have found that there is a great support system available in Wales and a sense of community with Welsh artists in general, as there are lots of opportunities to create and it’s improving all the time. It would be great to see more workshops available for all aspects of performance, and for there to be more casting opportunities in Wales for Welsh actors.

Monologue Slam UK 2015 supported by NTW Team

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

As I previously mentioned I think it’s incredibly important to develop more opportunities for children to experience theatre, not only by going to see it but also through creating it themselves.

I also think it would be great to encourage more new writing projects in Wales, encouraging people who have the urge to write but maybe not the confidence to do so. There are so many great companies around at the moment producing work from new Welsh writers and I think it’s something we need to continue to encourage and develop.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

What really excites me about the arts in Wales is how welcoming and accepting everyone is to new ideas. There is such a sense of community, and you truly feel like everyone is willing to share, offer advice and help each other along, which is what being an artist and performer is all about and is the main reason I started this project. It’s really great to have such a range of writers share their work with me and let me give a voice to their stories; it just highlights how important community is in theatre and the arts.

Thanks for your time Emily

Website – www.sundaynightstories.co.uk
Facebook – @sundaynightstories
Twitter – @sunnightstories

Review: The Reenactement of Isandlwana (aka The Great British Stuff Up) Cardiff Castle

(*Referred to as The Great British Stuff Up… to quote an official speaking at the Re-enactment.)

The sun came out. But not enough people came with it.

Cardiff Castle – a spectacular venue and in the coursing heat of the last day of summer, we saw the Battle of Isandlwana replayed. We heard speeches addressing the contemporary relevance of this violent occasion. We heard of the move from land grab to tourism; of enmity to friendship. Good speeches but hard to hear in fact as many of the people around me talked all the way through them.

So many chose to experience this remarkable and apposite performance through their phones and not through their own eyes and senses. Such a pity so many of us no longer look and listen and absorb in the moment any more. So many wandered off before the performance had finished – pity, they missed the Zulus and their Royal family chanting, singing and mingling with the crowd.

Where is the respect for the people who have travelled so far to share with us their culture and their skills, history and time? Where is the respect for ourselves to return that compliment?

Our guests deserved better and the organisers too.

It was also a pity that Cardiff Castle insisted n charging entrance – although the Re-enactment itself was free. The performance started at 4pm so it was not as if the Castle would have lost a day’s revenue. Sometimes generosity has its own reward and our guests should have had a bigger turn out.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I cannot thank the organisers enough for giving us the most impressive and life-affirming hand-shake between two nations, Wales and Zululand, after all these years.

 

Review: King Cetshwayo, The Musical, Theatr Brycheiniog by Helen Joy

(4 / 5)

 

The opening night of any performance is usually pretty interesting This was something else. A royal visit, the hands of conciliation shaking across the decades, the welcome of the Welsh to the Zulus, the acknowledgement of the times past and present with no apology.

I cannot say that it was a comfortable feeling in the room when the British role in the taking of Zululand was portrayed. The massacre of British forces at Rorke’s Drift promptly followed by the razing of the villages and the kidnapping of the King. An unrecorded conversation between Queen Victoria and King Cetshwayo and his return to South Africa.

Some of us in the audience dared to laugh at what that conversation may have comprised, given the dear Queen’s proclivities! This lightened an otherwise confused response to a musical storytelling which did not portray our Empirical desires in a good light. But a portrayal generous enough to acknowledge the bravery of soldiers on either side. Bold enough to openly regard a mutual respect for the field of battle and conquest.

Beautiful in its dance scenes, fearsome in its warring, acute in its narration – comic in its mimicry of the gun-carrying redcoats. The skin-prickling returning cries of warriors in the audience. The poet. The costumes. The toe-tapping music. The beat. The heat.

This was a slightly chaotic, slightly shambolic, utterly brilliant rendering of a terrible business all round.

A theatre packed with dignitaries and artists; and the men stand for the Queen. A queen surrounded by family and protected by warriors. Splendid and significant, she spoke of their visit as an advance party whose report back would determine any subsequent visit by the King. I get that. This is not easy political fayre.

Dorcas Cresswell and her team should be applauded for their efforts in bringing these extraordinary and important events together in ways accessible to all of us. It was refreshing not to hear apology for events long past but acknowledgement; commemoration not dismissal. Art and theatre expressing easily subjects otherwise difficult to discuss openly.

I hope I shall never forget seeing Zulu warriors hop on a bus in central Brecon. I have a feeling I might not be alone in this. Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed assegai.

As part of this series of events you can still catch the event below

Now – end of October: Sibanye – Brecon Welcomes the Zulu’s!

Free, non-ticketed exhibition in the Andrew Lamont Gallery, top floor of Theatr Brycheiniog.

An exhibition of photographs that were taken during a visit in January 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal by five members of The Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon.

The visit was by invitation of KwaCulture – an organisation based in Durban and the visit coincided with the annual commemoration of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which took place in January 1879.

The exhibition is part of the King Cetshwayo 135th Celebrations in Wales, August 2017 that has been organised by The Friends of The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in partnership with KwaCulture and Maluju Charity.

The Andrew Lamont Gallery is open during Theatr opening hours and is fully accesable via the lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Burning Lantern Fayre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

On Saturday 12th August, St Fagan’s embarked on their first foray into launching an annual Glasto-esque fest of family friendly fun in the heart of the Welsh countryside. An impressive musical smorgasbord headlined the Orchard-organised inaugural event, from Tom Odell to Martha and the Vandellas, Jack Savoretti to the Shires. In addition, there was also a variety of non-musical entertainment to be had throughout the day, from arts and crafts to artisan-quality food and a funfair/ circus for good measure.

Welsh acoustic duo Into the Ark, local boys from Blackwood turned The Voice UK 2017 finalists, started the show with soulful, spirited charm. They performed as if they were headliners – and to us, they were.

Martha and the Vandellas followed with an energetic set, infusing the festivities with a party atmosphere and setting off the sing-a-long spirit with classic hits like ‘Jimmy Mack’ and the timelessly terrific ‘Dancing in the Street’.

Third to take to the stage were Brit country duo the Shires, who held the distinction of being the first act whose very presence raised the crowd to their feet. And what a joyful noise they made on that sunny Saturday afternoon, belting out fan-favourite hits like ‘State Lines’ and ‘All Over Again’ as well as making time for more melancholic melodies such as ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’. They promised to be back soon, and here’s hoping it won’t be their last time in Cardiff – judging by the cheers that permeated their performance, there are many (including myself!) who are looking forward to welcoming them back to Wales in the not too distant future.

Tom Odell provided a suitably bombastic closing set, tearing through tunes with a spellbinding falsetto Matthew Bellamy would have been proud of. My personal favourites of the night were the achingly haunting ‘Can’t Pretend’ and his career-launching debut ‘Another Love’, both of which – along with his remaining repertoire – were elevated by a dazzling light show that punctuated every syllable of Odell’s crooning choruses.

Hover, it was the penultimate performance of the festival, provided by the incomparable Jack Savoretti, that stole the show with a haunting, husky voice that would make the likes of Paolo Nutini and Tom Waits blush. There is simply no-one else in the world who sounds like Jack Savoretti, and he suffuses his songs with the raw, rugged sound that has become his trademark. Hearing him live was a special treat, though I have to compliment almost everyone on the day who performed live for sounding just as good as, and often better than, the record. There were too many favourite Savoretti songs to mention, from the rebel-rousing ‘We Are Bound’ to the sorrowfully sincere ‘When We Were Lovers’, and the True Blood-tinged ‘Knock Knock’. It was a real treat to have an artist of Jack Savoretti’s calibre in this event, as it was with so many of the marvellous musicians that graced St Fagan’s that day.

The sheer variety of food on offer – from gourmet burgers to posh pizzas – was a feast for the eyes and nose, but sadly not for the stomach. Reportedly 8,000 festival-goers walked the fields of St Fagan’s that day, but far fewer managed to purchase even a single crumb due to the bloated queues that stretched out for hours on end.

‘Queue-Gate’ was such a widespread issue that the ensuing tweet-storm urged the organisers to issue an apology, which, though appreciated, still failed to understand the backlog (many spent up to 2 hours queuing at a single stall), or the duration (it was an issue throughout the entire day, not just the evening). Worse still, the organisers banned any food being brought onto the premises, meaning that the supposedly family friendly event left many families with the choice of queuing for hours or going hungry.

I only braved a queue at around 9pm, by which time all that seemed to be left in the entire venue was a single Danish pastry (at that point, it was any port in a storm). Even if picnics had been allowed in, it would have been impossible to resist the delicious scent that wafted across the fields throughout the event. The ratio of people to food vendors was severely misjudged; in future, either lower the maximum number of tickets sold, or increase the amount of food stalls on offer.

In addition, the site itself was tricky to navigate. I didn’t even know there was a second stage for supporting acts, and spent the first three hours eagerly awaiting the arrival of Kizzy Crawford, an enchanting bilingual singer, on the main (at that time I thought the only) stage. It was only after my increasing hunger necessitated exploring the venue that I stumbled across a beautiful bandstand hung with twinkling fairy lights. The dulcet tones of Gareth Bonello (aka the Gentle Good) drifted across the evening air, after which he mentioned fellow Welsh-speaking singer Kizzy Crawford’s earlier set, and my heart dropped. If only there had been a programme, or schedule of some kind, listing the various locations and who was doing what when, it would have greatly enhanced the accessibility and exploration potential of the festival experience.

I had a wonderful time at my very first festival experience. However, there are things at a fundamental level that must be addressed for a follow-up fest to be a success, from better management and organisation to a programme of events and acts. However, it remains a very special event to have been a part of, and it was a real privilege to see so many incredible musicians pour their hearts, and their songs, in that picturesque place. I would love to see the Burning Lantern festival return next year, especially if its maiden voyage was able to attract such a breadth of talent from all spheres of the musical world – but it has to take these concerns on board for it to rebuild trust and maintain interest in its future.

http://www.burninglantern.com/en/

Get the Chance to be a music journalist at this years Sŵn Festival.

Are you aged 14+?

Interested in brilliant contemporary new music ?

Want to Get the Chance to see and review Songhoy Blues, Aquilo, Jen Cloher, The Amazons and loads more amazing artists at this years Sŵn Festival?

Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a music journalist?

Then, this is for you!

 

What’s involved?

You will take part in a 2 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance at a venue to be confirmed.

You will need to be free to attend a range of performances during the festival.

To apply contact Get the Chance director Guy O’Donnell at getthechance1@gmail.com. All applicants need to be aged 14+

Here is a link to more information on this years Sŵn Festival

Presents

Collaborating with Motherlode, RCT Theatres and Taking Flight Theatre Company to develop a Welsh Critical Network.

Get the Chance has collaborated with Motherlode, RCT Theatres and Taking Flight Theatre Company  to run a series of free ‘Get the Chance to be a theatre critic’ workshops, participants also accessed the rehearsal process and public performances. Get the Chance was able to run this activity with the support of partners and through funding from Arts Council Wales Sharing Together. “A strategic initiative to encourage the development of networking opportunities.”

During this activity a free workshop took place at The Coliseum Theatre in Aberdare. During the workshop we discussed the role of the critic, differing methods of giving critical feedback and the role of the press and marketing department. Those attending were strong advocates for arts venues and cultural provision in general.

After the workshop we spent time in the rehearsal room with Motherlode who were developing their new production, ‘Exodus’. This gave us a unique insight into the development of the companies work.

The workshop participants are all excellent examples of Creative Citizens. Get the Chance is developing a socially engaged, democratic audience development model called Creative Citizens Cymru. Many of the fundamental principles of this model are very similar to the principal goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act.

You can read a write-up of the workshop by Vicky Lord at the link below.

Get the Chance Workshop Write Up

Get the Chance works in collaboration with a range of individual creatives, companies and organisations in order to achieve our aim of “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.” We would like to thank Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director, Motherlode and Nia Wyn Skyrme- Freelance Producer/ Promoter for their statements of support relating to this activity below.

“Motherlode is all about removing barriers to theatre, making entertaining work with a political edge that our friends, neighbours and families can enjoy in a collective experience. In a quick survey we asked 100 women in Wales “Does theatre represent your world view?” 13% said yes, the other half said no, and the other half said they don’t go to the theatre. While this research needs more fleshing out, there’s a problem here with who we’re currently making theatre for and who we’re making it with…Get The Chance is vital to shifting how we talk about theatre, who gets to talk about theatre, and who decides what should be on our stages. It encourages local people to take ownership of their venues and creates a safe environment where communities can take risks and express themselves through sports, culture and live events, regardless of background.”

Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director, Motherlode

“I have been working as a freelance producer for over a year, and I have worked with Get the Chance with almost all the productions I’ve been involved with, as we share a passion for co-working, sharing ideas and contacts and creating active creative citizens in different communities across Wales.

It’s been very valuable working with an organisation like Get the Chance. Arranging reviewers, interviews and specific workshops raising the company’s profile and excellent promotion, sharing ideas and giving advice. Get the Chance have also brokered relationships with their members to become Local Promoters in different areas across Wales.”

Nia Wyn Skyrme- Freelance Producer/ Promoter

We have also recently ran a workshop in collaboration with Taking Flight Theatre Company. We ran a free ‘Get the Chance to be a theatre critic workshop’ on July the 11th at Cyfarthfa Museum. The workshop was attended by a youth group from Merthyr Tydfil. We discussed a range of areas of cultural provision and the participants then went to see Taking Flights production of The Tempest. Their reviews will follow soon!

Thanks to Beth House, Creative Producer, Taking Flight Theatre Company for supporting this activity.

“Collaborating with Get The Chance has been really exciting for us and I feel like we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what might be possible in terms of working together and developing new arts professionals- and moreover broadening audiences. Thus far, we have been able to tap into groups who have traditionally been excluded from training as well as arts opportunities, often because of access requirements or other barriers. The work I have seen Guy do has inspired groups to think critically about the arts they consume and to want more. We are extremely hopeful that we can seek new ways to go even further with this partnership. More joined up working like this is definitely needed in Wales!”

Beth House, Creative Producer, Taking Flight Theatre Company

 

 

Review Dinosaur Babies exhibition, National Museum, Cardiff by Kate Richards.

A ‘dino-mite’ exhibition for families

Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive that my 3 year old would be too young to get much out of the new Dinosaur Babies exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff. He’s not fanatical about them like many of his little chums, and would really prefer to play diggers than dino’s given the choice, but in an effort to support the learning he’s been doing on dinosaurs in nursery, I arranged a family visit anyway.

I need not have worried. Even after a bout of tears in the foyer on spotting a staff member wearing the world’s least scary dinosaur onesie, he was quickly distracted and won over by the variety of interactive exhibits on offer. The content of the exhibition is displayed using a range of tactile models, large images with captions, real and model skeletons, an animatronic dinosaur and traditional displays in cabinets with short easy-to-read descriptions. Many of the real ‘show-stopping’ skeleton exhibits are housed in low glass cases that can be viewed all the way around, making it accessible for little ones and easier for everyone to get a good view even at busy periods.

As a family we’re still pretty new to this type of educational, family experience and museums have moved on apace since our childhood, so I chuckled when my husband told our son not to touch one of the egg models which was screaming out for little fingers to pat and stroke it, but there were plenty of helpful staff around to reassure and encourage children to touch the exhibits – and even to ride on one of the dinosaurs!

Working as a team to dismantle and reassemble a large section of a leg bone, proved a popular activity with the little ones giving the grown-ups additional time to browse the nearby cabinets and learn about some of the most rare and exciting finds like ‘Baby Louie’ who had scientists confused until the first example of a new species of giant oviraptor was discovered as recently as 2007. The highlight for me though were the three real dinosaur eggs in which you can still clearly see the fragile bones of the unhatched animals inside.

The highlight for our little one (and most of the younger visitors there), was most definitely the opportunity to play ‘palaeontologist’ for the morning. Sporting his safety goggles, he whiled away at least half an hour digging in the large pit hunting for bones and eggs, then joining in with other children carefully brushing away the ‘earth’ to uncover their finds. The activity stations at the end of the exhibition area are perfect for very young children, and we spent a happy hour or so counting dinosaur eggs, practicing letter recognition with the magnetic letters and doing the large dinosaur jigsaw puzzles on the board.

The exhibition really lives up to the claim that it is ‘family friendly’ and it genuinely manages to achieve that tricky balance of appealing to all ages and levels of interest in the subject, so even if like me you have family members that can best be described as ‘can’t read, won’t read’ don’t be put off giving this exhibition a try. I would seriously consider going again with my nephews who are 10 and 7, and know that my son would be really excited to go again. Even better is the fact that it’s free for the under 4s (yet there is plenty that appeals to them), and with a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children up to 17) at only £17 it represents superb value for money.

Dinosaur Babies Exhibition, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

27 May–5 November 2017, 10am-4.45pm (last entry 4pm)

Cost £7 adults, £5 concessions, £3 children, £17/£13 families

https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/9487/Dinosaur-Babies/