10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Wales Millennium Centre
Wales Millennium Centre

A centre-point for culture in Wales, the mighty Wales Millennium Centre celebrates the culmination of its 10th anniversary year with a spectacular free outdoor performance on 12 September 2015.

The largest outdoor event to take place in Wales this year, Ar Waith Ar Daith brings together procession, dance, aerial acrobatics, music, storytelling, pyrotechnics and more.

As the centre gears up to celebrate ten years as Wales’ national centre for the arts, we asked Fleur Tucker, one of the people who keeps things running smoothly, to share ten insider secrets about the iconic building.

1. The centre isn’t just about big shows

Performers WMC

Thousands of people have taken part in their creative learning and community engagement events. In fact, in the last year alone over 125,000 people have taken part in such events. That’s enough to fill the main auditorium a staggering 66 times!

2. Its visitor numbers rival the Millennium Stadium

The centre has welcomed over 14.75 million visitors through our doors in the past decade. That’s five times the population of Wales, and more than the Millennium Stadium has seen since it opened in 1999.

3. The centre has a world-famous children’s choir

ONLY KIDS ALOUD WMC

Only Kids Aloud, featuring children from across Wales aged just 9-13, has performed all over the world. Milestone performances include singing in St Petersburg alongside the Mariinsky Opera, at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and in Cape Town alongside Bryn Terfel and Cape Town Opera to celebrate the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa.

4. The key to unlock the centre when it first opened travelled across four continents

Before arriving in Cardiff Bay by boat, the specially designed key travelled to Patagonia, Sydney, Russia, Munich, Paris, Montreal and New York. You could say it brought a world of cultures to Cardiff!

5. The centre has been involved in two Guinness World Records

WMC WORLD RECORD

In 2006, the centre broke the Guinness World record for the largest gathering of people with the same surname when 1,224 Joneses attended a concert with Grace Jones and John Owen-Jones. The Only Kids Aloud choir, accompanied by BBC National Orchestra of Wales, also set a new world record for the greatest distance between people singing a duet, when they performed via a live link-up with singers in Patagonia earlier this year.

6. The building is home to eight resident organisations

Residing in the centre alongside the main WMC HQ team are: Literature Wales; BBC National Orchestra of Wales; National Dance Company Wales; Hijinx (Wales’ leading small scale touring theatre); Tŷ Cerdd (who promote and produce music in Wales); Touch Trust (a pioneering charity that enhances the lives of profoundly disabled people through dance and movement); Urdd Gobaith Cymru (Wales’ largest youth organisation); Welsh National Opera (Europe’s largest provider of touring opera in the UK).

7. The loos are anything but bog standard

Toilets WMC

Yup, WMC has some of the best loos in the county. Proof? The centre has won the Loo of the Year award twice for the best loos in the entertainment sector. Now that’s one for the mantlepiece!

8. Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is quite a fan

One of the world’s most notable modern musical theatre composers, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, loves the place. He called Wales Millennium Centre ‘the best theatre built in the world in the last 50 years’, adding, ‘there’s nowhere in London that any way comes close to this facility’. Big praise indeed!

9. Building the auditorium walls was like the hardest Lego challenge ever

auditorium WMC

It took well over 45,000 bricks to form the walls of the auditorium. The bricks, which came in 24 different shapes, were individually placed by hand following a specific pattern. This makes building Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon out of Lego seem easy!

10. The centre goes out of its way to make culture affordable to all

Thousands of free performances have taken place since opening. This includes well over 2,750 free performances on the Glanfa stage, along with many others in and around the centre. Nothing quite comes close to Ar Waith Ar Daith, though, which will be the biggest free event ever held by the centre, and one of the biggest theatrical events of its kind in Cardiff history.

All images courtesy of Wales Millennium Centre

Ar Waith Ar Daith, the unmissable 10th anniversary celebration, takes place outside Wales Millennium Centre at 7.30pm on Saturday 12 September. The event will take place whatever the weather, with mass theatre performances, fleets of boats, fireworks and more. Find out more here and join over 10,000 people in the crowd to be a part of Cardiff history. 

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