Barry is a creative place and that creativity often spills out onto the streets. From yarn bombing to giant sculptures there are plenty of artworks to see around the town, if you know where to look.
Art has been commissioned through art and regeneration funding, as well as developer contributions. But one thing all the art projects have in common is that they are about the place and celebrate Barry’s story. Artists are inspired by its history of transformation into the busiest coal export port in the world and by Barry Island’s reputation as the place for a holiday in South Wales through much of the 20th century.
There are a cluster of artworks on Barry Island. If arriving from the causeway you will see silhouetted against the sky a sculpture that announces your arrival at a beach resort. ‘Beside the Seaside…Beside the Sea’ by John Clinch (1934-2001) is an accessible and fun artwork by a well-known and much loved sculptor. On the Promenade, both the Western and Eastern shelters are lit from dusk with a colour-changing and interactive lighting scheme. Why not take an evening stroll along the Promenade to appreciate these listed structures? If you’re feeling active have a go on the colourful traversing wall made up of fun novelty shapes on a seaside theme. This is so big you can even see it from the plane on your way to or from Cardiff Airport!
There are so many art projects in the town centre that you can follow a trail. Starting at the Waterfront, the West Quay Medical Centre has a large floor-based artwork incorporating its motto and next door the BSC (Business Service Centre) has original artworks in the reception area and conference room. Walk down towards Ffordd y Mileniwm passing the poetry stones outside the Premier Inn; then you’ll soon see the towering architectural glass façade of Golau Caredig. Further along Ffordd y Mileniwm you also can’t miss the tall metal stylised trees that are both industrial and decorative. From here head for the town centre and you’ll pass by the dominoes along the pedestrian footbridge. No, nothing to do with pizza, but a brilliant multi-cultural youth club called the Domino Club that ran between 1947 and 1951.
Across the road at Thompson Street are wall-based artworks inspired by postcards of Barry and early cinema. At the turn of the 20th century there were several venues in Barry where the earliest forms of cinema could be experienced. In particular, Leon Vint’s ‘Electric Palace’ on Thompson Street.
Follow the quirky red and black cog bollards along Thompson Street to reach Holton Road, and along the pavement you’ll find drawings of produce spilling out of shopping bags, from toys to fruit and veg, celebrating the road’s history as a shopping destination. If you turn left down Holton Road you will reach the Civic Offices, which in its front courtyard has a memorial to the Merchant Seamen. Adjacent to that is a floor-based work of poetry by Gillian Clarke cast in bronze set within a stone circle.
Turning right up Holton Road leads to the Town Hall which houses the library and Art Central Gallery. In the library there is a portrait bust of Gwynfor Evans, the first Plaid Cymru MP, and the Gallery has a varied programme of exhibitions and events.
Many of these projects involved local schools and groups, helping the artists research ideas and stories and even creating the artwork itself. For instance, the pavement drawings on Holton Road were drawn by pupils of Holton Rd Primary and St Helen’s RC Junior Schools. There’s more to discover on the Map page; search under Arts & Culture.
Pillars of Light by Simon Fenoulhet
“The ideas for lighting the Western Shelter came from spending time watching the tide come in and quietly observing people. It is the groups of people who go there regularly such as the dog walkers, fitness groups, park runners, musicians, lads on bikes, retired people out for a stroll and visiting families that make Barry Island such a friendly and likeable place. There was a leisurely rhythm about life here and I wanted the lighting to complement that feeling, with gentle colour transitions and changes of mood.”
Five colour pairings run for a minute each before changing to the next sequence. This pattern is interrupted by sensors at either end of the shelter that trigger the spectrum of colour that moves across the pillars. You may see different lighting schemes for special occasions, such as Baby Loss awareness week, Remembrance Day, and St David’s Day.
The Domino Club by Lulu Quinn
While researching the history of the area, Lulu found out about a youth club based on Thompson Street between 1947 and 1951. It was at a time when Barry, and Thompson Street in particular, was a cultural melting pot. The poem carved into the first slate domino piece was written by Decima Haughton-Watkins and lists all the nations that formed the club. To view archive photos of the Domino Club click here.
Vitreous enamel panels by Tom Pearman
This project was inspired by postcards of Barry and early cinema. At the turn of the century there were several venues in Barry where the earliest forms of cinema could be experienced; in particular, Leon Vint’s ‘Electric Palace’ on Thompson Street. The smaller graphic panels emphasise the process of cinematic light-projection, which is to first, turn the lights off, second, plug in the projector and third, switch the projector on. The panels have been printed using 4 colour separation (like the old postcards) and the cut out shapes reflect the cut-out paper model landscapes that were produced in the art and animation workshops undertaken with young people as part of the project.
Barry has a busy programme of annual events ranging from open-air cinema, triathlons, Gwyl Fach y Fro and artist-led events.