Theatre in Wales

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Wales Millennium Centre celebrates 10 years of success with an ambitious powerhouse vision     

Wales Millennium Centre celebrates 10 years of success with an ambitious powerhouse vision In the week that sees all eyes on Wales for the 2014 NATO summit, Wales Millennium Centre, the national centre for the performing arts, announces the first elements of its 10th anniversary programme.

Since its first public performance on 26 November 2004, the Centre has welcomed over 13.5m visitors and has grown to become Wales’ most popular attraction and one of the most visited cultural destinations outside London. The Centre contributes a substantial £50 million per annum into the Welsh economy and is recognised as one of the UK’s most successful Lottery funded projects.

Also housed within its walls are some of Wales’ major arts organisations, including the world renowned Welsh National Opera and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, alongside other culturally significant companies.

To coincide with this anniversary, Graeme Farrow – the man behind the hugely successful Derry-Londonderry City of Culture programme – has been appointed as the Centre’s Artistic Director. His vision: to develop the Centre into an international cultural powerhouse sitting alongside other globally significant arts centres.

Graeme Farrow comments: “A powerhouse is dynamic, creative and transformative. We will create more of our own work and collaborate so that this work is of the highest standard. Above all, I want the Centre to fire the imaginations of our young people so that we have a young population with broad horizons and enquiring minds.”

The theatre programme for the Anniversary Year features a rich and diverse mix of productions, with return visits from Matthew Bourne and the Mariinsky Opera, led by Valery Gergiev, with which the Centre has a long established strategic partnership.

Also confirmed today is an extensive partnership with Lloyds Bank, the support of which underpins several of the projects that Wales Millennium Centre will undertake during the 10th Anniversary year.

Stephen Pegge, Group External Relations Director of Lloyds Banking Group, said “Lloyds Bank is a proud partner of Wales Millennium Centre and as they move towards their 10th Anniversary year we are delighted to be supporting this milestone as a principal sponsor.”

Graeme Farrow added “We already present one of the largest free performance programmes in the UK and have made a positive contribution to thousands of young lives through our creative learning programme. With the help of Lloyds Bank we will now build on that initial success to deepen and widen our impact.”

The Centre’s autumn programme showcases the Centre’s renewed artistic ambition and demonstrates its intention to play a vital role in the local community, whilst developing its position as a hub for both Welsh arts and leading international performances. With that in mind, Graeme Farrow today announced the following autumn highlights:

· Project 21 in association with Lloyds Bank - Murmurs of the Furnace
The Centre will be marking its 10th anniversary with 200 10-year-olds from seven schools across Wales, who have been on an artistic journey since 2005. This unique longstanding creative learning project will culminate in a special theatre production, Murmurs of the Furnace, performed by the children on the Donald Gordon Theatre stage in October.

Graeme Farrow: “These children are from some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in Wales. For many of them it will be their very first time in a large scale theatre, and this experience will undoubtedly remain with them for the rest of their lives.”

· Finding the new Billy Elliott with Re-Bourne’s Lord of the Flies outreach project
Over the last three months, the Centre has been training hundreds of boys from the
South Wales Valleys, to recruit 20 dancers to perform in Mathew Bourne’s tour of Lord of the Flies at the Centre from 22-25 October. One of the auditioned boys is a boxer from the Valleys.

Graeme Farrow: “Our relationship with Matthew Bourne was formed when the Centre opened and we’re continually delighted by the response Welsh audiences give to his work. I look forward to furthering our special relationship with this company and taking it into new areas. The Lord of the Flies project has already fired the imaginations of boys across Wales.”

· Night at the Casablanca in association with Lloyds Bank – first official 10th anniversary performance
Wales Millennium Centre is located in the regenerated docklands of Cardiff, the UK’s oldest multi-cultural community, popularly known as Tiger Bay. A Night at the Casablanca is a one-night celebration of the rich musical heritage of this community, which will form the first official performance of its 10th Anniversary year, on 1 November.
Using The Casablanca, a since-demolished music venue frequented by the likes of Jimmy Ruffin, as the backdrop, the performance tells the story of one man’s return to Tiger Bay and his journey through the decades of amazing music, performed live on the Donald Gordon Theatre stage by many of the original artists.

Graeme Farrow: “I was very keen that we start our celebrations with our neighbours. The Butetown community has an incredible cultural heritage and rich and powerful stories to tell. We want Butetown to proudly celebrate this on the Donald Gordon stage.”

· New commissions
The Centre, in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome, has commissioned The Frozen Scream from novelist Sarah Waters and producer Christopher Green. The ghost story opens at Wales Millennium Centre on 11 December for a limited run before transferring to Birmingham in January.

Also commissioned by the Centre for Christmas is the paper sculptor Andy Singleton, who will be creating intricate decorations on a huge scale for display throughout the Centre’s public spaces.

Graeme Farrow: “Christmas is a time when the Centre can really shine, both for the quality of its programme and for the warmth of its welcome. It is a time when we can still attract new visitors for their first experience with us, which I know won’t be their last.”

In closing, Farrow added: “In the coming months I will be announcing more news about the anniversary programme and further details about our vision towards 2020. This will include a dynamic and inclusive season of celebratory events, culminating in a spectacular finale in September 2015. We will also be revealing details of large-scale collaborations and newly commissioned theatre productions based on Welsh stories.”
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