It was so wonderful to step back inside Wales Millennium Centre yesterday. As a family we are huge theatre fans and also used to regularly attend their free family creative art events, so it’s somewhere we’ve really missed over the last year and a half. Although the big stage productions aren’t back just yet, the iconic Cardiff Bay landmark has reopened its doors with Your Voice, an incredible new exhibition that features more than 400 works created by members of the public.
We hadn’t realised quite how big the exhibition would be. We’d spent the morning at another of our favourite Cardiff Bay attractions – Techniquest, the science museum which has recently reopened after an extension and refurb – so thought we’d pop in ‘quickly’ afterwards. We ended up being there for a good hour and a half and were so impressed with everything the exhibition had to offer. The various art works and installations cover all five floors of the building so it’s a great way to explore areas you might not have been to before. There’s even an artwork in the Donald Gordon Theatre which means you get to stand on the stage and look out at the famous auditorium.
Your Voice is free to visit and although you can book in advance, you can also just turn up, which is exactly what we did yesterday. Entry is via the doors overlooking the bay, next to the Teras bar and street food venue. Here, temperatures are taken, track and trace details submitted, and a map showing where you can find all the exhibits given out.
The exhibition – which runs until 29 August – was conceived by the centre’s community team led by senior producer Gemma Hicks, visually curated by Brad Caleb Lee – and created by the local and national community.
During the first lockdown Wales Millennium Centre invited people of all ages to share their stories and experiences of this challenging time through art. They received hundreds of artistic responses, including experiences of lockdown, Black Lives Matter, environmental issues and hopes for the future. The exhibition includes paintings, spoken word recordings, digital art, photography, installation, mixed media and film. The youngest artist was four and the eldest 90. Their works are displayed over seven galleries around the centre, with the route to follow clearly signposted. All areas are accessible by stairs or lifts and there are plenty of places to stop and sit if you need a rest.
Your Voice is suitable for all ages, although some galleries display content which may be upsetting to some; including themes of discrimination, identity, protest, and Covid. Artworks with sensitive subject matter, strong language and theatrical lighting are clearly signposted. There’s so much to see however that missing a particular section won’t hamper the experience.
One of our favourite parts was undoubtedly The Weaving Tree on the Donald Gordon Theatre stage. The four-storey crochet installation, which took a local artist called Flow Maurgan four months to create, is home to crochet flowers, animals and poetry. My children were so excited to stand on the stage itself and look out into the auditorium, which also has a few installations scattered around, keeping the seats warm until they can be filled by audiences once more.
According to the centre’s website, “The tree seeks to represent us all, much like an ancestral or family tree, uplifting and inspiring as it grows on the stage of our Donald Gordon Theatre, placing the community at the centre of our work – right where it deserves to be.”
On the top floor, children (and grown ups!) can add their pictures to a giant roll of paper, a continual canvas created by visitors. My three really enjoyed seeing what others had created and adding their own drawings. There’s sanitiser available and used pens must be put in a basket once used to avoid the spread of Covid.
We also loved the opportunity to try our hand at theatrical lighting by operating a lighting controller on a small stage setting.
An online guide with more information about the works in the exhibition is available via a QR code and you can use headphones to listen to various sound elements on some of the worls. These are available to hire for £2 or you can bring your own wired headphones (standard 3.5mm stereo jack needed). We didn’t do either of these things, although I think if I was visiting without children I’d like to spend a little longer discovering more about the works of art.
The exhibition ends with an artist-led gift shop, with all proceeds from the shop going to the artists involved.
Your Voice: An Exhibition runs at Wales Millennium Centre until Sunday 29 August. You can pre-book tickets online or turn up on the day. Entry is free, although donations to support the centre’s work are appreciated. More information here.
Wales Millennium Centre also has a programme of cabaret-style performances this summer, running throughout August and featuring family shows, music, drag, dance, comedy and more. See the website for more information.