Positivity and uprisings: Newport joins Museums at Night with exciting Light Night

By Ben Miller | 07 May 2014

Inspired by tales of Museums at Night success in other cities, Newport's first programme for the festival is an exciting one

© Newport City Council
From exhibitions, workshops and talks on JMW Turner drawings to walks around pubs from the Chartist uprisings and open mic hip-hop and grime in empty shops, Newport’s first year as a Museums at Night cluster is a vibrant and inventive one.

There are backstage tours of the Riverfront Theatre, where performing arts grads from the University of South Wales will perform. But Annette Wells, of the 19th century Newport Museum and Art Gallery, didn’t quite get everything she wanted.

“My idea for Swimming with Jaws didn’t quite come off,” she rues.

“I really wanted to have a swimming pool where they had the Jaws music, I thought that would be really good.

“We just couldn’t work it because the swimming pool have swimming lessons and it just didn’t fit in.

“People thought I was mad. I wanted it to come on intermittently so that you’d be swimming away and then suddenly the music would come on.

“I wanted shadows of sharks. But, you know, maybe next year.”

Inspired by listening to Liverpool’s LightNight team discussing their success at a festival roadshow in Cardiff last October, Wells and her colleagues decided to unite some of the creative spaces around the museum, which shares its home with the city’s library.

“Newport’s never done anything like this,” she says. “We’ve had things for booked groups but never where lots of venues have opened on the same night.

“It’s exciting – it’s creating a lot of interest now. People seem to be tweeting about it.

“My plan is that this year we’ll make a success of it and there will be lots going on that we can tag it onto next year.

“We’re putting things on that we know people will enjoy so that they want more.

“What’s really nice is that it’s the first time we’ve all linked up to do something under one banner together.

“We’re all really close so people haven’t got to walk very far – unless they’re on a walk, obviously.”

Commercial Street, the main shopping throughfare, will be scrutinised.

“It’s Victorian – it’s got twiddly, fiddly bits on all the buildings, so we’ve taken photos of all of them for a family quiz.

“They can walk down the streets and see if they can spot these bits of the buildings and where they are.

“Everything except the graduate show is free for people to come along and do and we’re starting early.”

The response so far bodes well.

“Everybody’s been really positive. The local authority are really behind it as well. We’re pleased with the programme, we just hope people come along into town and support it.

“People will hopefully say, ‘I want to be part of it next year’.

“Newport’s undergoing massive changes at the moment because the centre’s being demolished as we speak for a big new shopping centre and cinemas and things like that.

“It’s in a real transition at the moment. This positivity that’s around in the city is quite good, and people are looking forward to what’s going to happen in the future.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Hundreds of events take place for Museums at Night between May 15-17 2014. Visit museumsatnight.org.uk and follow the festival on Twitter@MuseumsAtNight.

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