The launch of the ‘Kids in Museums’ manifesto with the Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths and Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler took place at National Museum Cardiff this morning. It was a great event and good to see so many young people involved and supporting this project.
A few weeks ago Maria Miller, the English Culture Secretary, made a speech in which she justified the arts and culture on economic grounds. I was glad to hear John Griffiths challenge this reductionist and limited perspective, by emphasising the social and educational value of museums. We are the largest provider of learning outside the classroom in Wales, and play a key role in many communities across the nation.
Amgueddfa Cymru supports the Kids in Museums Manifesto which pledges to work towards putting the twenty points – from inviting teenagers to hang out at museums to creating a comfortable safe place for children and families – into practice. There is a Welsh language version of the manifesto, produced with support from the Welsh Government.
Something that’s fast becoming a star attraction at National Museum Cardiff is a beautiful bronze sculpture of a galloping horse by the famous 19th century French Impressionist, Edgar Degas. The work, which has found a permanent home alongside other works here, has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of the artist, Lucian Freud, who died in 2011, and allocated permanently to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales. The sculpture will be a major addition to our collection, of which we can all be proud.
Last weekend was particularly busy for National Museum Cardiff. We joined up with the BBC and a host of wildlife partners to host the ‘Summer of Wildlife’, a fun day of discovering more about our wildlife and we also supported the Welsh language festival Tafwyl in the grounds of Cardiff Castle with a chance for visitors to see the clogmaker from St Fagans and experience some of our natural history and art collections on our stand. Tafwyl Festival helps Welsh language thrive in the capital and we were more than happy to support this successful event.
At the end of May Amgueddfa Cymru had a very successful presence at both the Urdd Eisteddfod and the Hay Festival.
Over 5000 people attended our stand at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Boncath, north Pembrokeshire, where the focus was on the National Wool Museum, being just half an hour away from the Maes. John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport visited the stand and Stephen Crabb MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire really got stuck into the knitting with the giant knitting needle! At the GwyddonLe science pavilion there was an opportunity to learn more about the archaeology of the Preseli Mountains and the Bluestones with Ken Brassil.
At the Hay Festival, we shared a stand with Cadw, the Royal Commission and the Historical Houses Association under the branding History Wales. We ran a number of activities for children during the week highlighting in particular the 30th birthday of Big Pit: National Coal Museum and craft work from St Fagans. The stand was extremely busy, and it was a great opportunity to work with partner organisations to promote Welsh History. John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport, visited the stand to launch the latest edition of Big Pit’s people’s history magazine, Glo, which was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Big Pit as a museum.
Our new children’s book ‘Albie the Adventurer: Dinosaur in the Forest’ was launched officially at the festival in an interactive session with children. The story is by Grace Todd, and is based on a workshop run for Foundation Phase children in the Clore Discovery Gallery at National Museum Cardiff, where Albie discovers the sights and sounds of the prehistoric forest! I’m sure the book will charm children and grown-ups alike!
One event which I really enjoyed a few weeks ago was the National Theatre Wales’ production ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’. It was an immersive gig imagining the life of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the millionaire Italian communist who was at the heart of many of the most extraordinary events of the twentieth century. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the show will be going on tour to festivals this summer. I’d definitely recommend! And on the subject of things Italian, I have also been reading The Dark Philosophers by Gwyn Thomas, a Library of Wales publication, about a group of men who meet in an Italian café in an industrial community in the period around World War II. For me, Gwyn Thomas is a real discovery, a powerful writer with (is it just my imagination?) just a touch of Damon Runyon?