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Are we there yet? New summer exhibition explores the joys of the caravan

Visitors to the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea are encouraged to relive holiday memories inspired by a new exhibition which tells the story of early caravanning in Wales.

With an authentic 1950 caravan taking centre stage, the display will explore aspects of typical caravanning holidays from the picnics prepared in the tiny kitchen, through to the seats that doubled as beds and from the campsites, to the activities that kept you amused when it rained.

The touring caravan on display belonged to The Dodds family from Cardiff who commissioned it from local firm Louis Blow and Co. The caravan cost £600 which was more than the cost of a terrace house at the time.

L.G. Blow were furniture makers and the wooden interior of the caravan reflects this. Everything was tailor made for the Dodds family - one shelf was even designed especially to house the baby’s carry cot.

The Dodds family took to caravanning with enthusiasm and every summer for 10 years they toured the south Wales coast from Penarth near Cardiff, to Pembrokeshire in the west.

Eventually the caravan was permanently pitched in a field near Newport, Pembrokeshire and stayed there for nearly 50 years. It was used by many members of the family until 2009. Michael Dodds, the eldest son of the original owner, then donated the caravan to Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.

The family also donated a black and white cine film of them on holidays in various locations throughout south Wales including Oxwich and Bosherston, Pembrokeshire.

The film is wonderfully evocative of a time gone by, with the children enjoying a freedom to roam and play seemingly without too close adult supervision – lighting a fire and cooking sausages on a stick is one good example of this.

Michael Dodds who is a young lad of 14 in the film is now in his seventies and he will be talking on video recalling some of the joys of camping and caravanning during his lifetime.

Speaking about the summer exhibition, Senior Curator of Modern Industry Ian Smith said: “The caravan is proving to be very popular with our visitors. Almost everyone can remember a camping holiday at some point in their lives, so this caravan and the old black and white home movie of the family’s holidays makes you feel as if you were there with them. 

“Things have changed so considerably in our daily lives since 1950 when the van was built, but caravan and camping holidays are basically the same. It appeals to all ages, evoking nostalgia in adults and wonder in children!” 

Are we there yet? Family Holidays in a Caravan will be on display at the National Waterfront Museum until 28 September. 

To link in with the exhibition, visitors can have a go at making a Compact Matchbox Caravan from 23-25 August (12.30pm-3.30pm). This hands-on activity will transform a simple match box into a retro inspired caravan complete with button wheels.

Entry to the Museum is free, for more information events and exhibitions at the Museum visit www.museumwales.ac.uk or contact (029) 2057 3600.

Date: 3 July 2014
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