As another strange year comes to a close, we’ve been reflecting on all the projects, performances, participation and parties that have taken place at the Memo Arts Centre and that we’ve shared with you digitally and beyond.
Since June 2020 and continuing throughout 2021, the Memo has hosted regular blood donating sessions from Welsh Blood, with over 14,000 incredible donors through our doors to date.
Our Barry Community Quilt saw people aged 7 to 87 celebrate our home town with their own hand stitched, appliqued, and painted squares during January. Local freelance visual and dance artist Jodi Ann Nicholson created video tutorials for participants and sewed the quilt together during February, with the final work unveiled in March, and still displayed proudly in our cwtch.
Following our initial Covid safe cinema launch last November 2020, we relaunched in April 2021 when restrictions lifted with 567 people coming to see Peter Rabbit 2 during May half term. Other screenings have included Space Jam 2: A New Legacy, Another Round, The Croods 2: A New Age, Old, Off the Rails, Riders of Justice, In the Heights, Spirit Untamed, Cruella, The Night of Kings, The World to Come, The Father, Respect, The Courier, Still Water, No Time to Die, The French Dispatch, and Last Night in Soho.
While live performances and cinema weren’t allowed, we continued to offer a digital watch-from-home programme with live shows including Dinomania, First Three Drops by Taking Flight Theatre Company, Pryd Mae’r Haf by Criw Brwd and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, and Bramble and Warren: The Emporium of Delight.
We partnered with Modern Films and Your Screen to bring you independent cinema at home and gave exclusive access to titles such as Poly Styrene: I Am Cliche, White Riot, Killing Escobar, and Eye of the Storm alongside many World Cinema titles.
Our car park theatre in May 2021 was a well-attended reintroduction to live performance with over 250 people enjoying HOOF! from Theatr Iolo with Kitsch & Sync.
In June we launched Memo Starlings, a stay and play baby and toddler group, led by local freelancer, Sam Barnard, with over 400 little ones and their grown-ups playing and creating with us this year.
Memo volunteers and staff supported artists with art and storytelling workshops in July, and promoted free Barry story walks with Barry Making Waves under the Eastern Shelter at Barry Island. We worked with Bill Chambers creating cyanotypes and screen printing, and storyteller Cath Little.
Our virtual Book Club continues meeting monthly, with 2021 highlights including Q&A sessions with author Libby Page and Kazuo Ishiguro’s editor Angus Cargill. We’ve also welcomed Slimming World back and the Sing Out Strong choir meet weekly promoting better mental health and wellbeing.
We had an exciting launch of our diverse live programming in August with the sell-out show An Evening with Sam Warburton. Since then, live events this autumn season have included live music (The Jerseys Live, The Best of Queen, Oye Santana, The Carpenters Experience, We Love Little Mix), theatre (National Theatre Wales: Possible), family shows (Sherman Theatre: The Elves and the Shoemakers, Morgan & West Family Magic Spectacular), comedy (MARVELus: All the Marvel Movies… Kind Of, The Noise Next Door: In Charge), Welsh language (Theatr Iolo a Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru: Llygoden yr Eira), entertainment (Welsh Wrestling, Forbidden Nights) and live streaming (Andre Rieu Together Again, Cliff Richard: The Great 80 Tour, The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker).
We welcomed community hires back, celebrating and showcasing the work of local participants (Razzle Dazzle, Superstars in the Making) and next week is the return of BillBoard Ensemble’s Christmas Pantomime Aladdin.
We’ve also been delighted to have weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations back in the building such as the Barry Beavers Disabled Swimming Club 40th Anniversary celebration with a talk from Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Covid saw our income generation plummet, from 64% to just 5%. We were only able to survive with Arts Council of Wales Cultural Recovery Funding and with support from other funders and you. Things are still challenging and sadly we had to make difficult decisions about redundancies. We are still working with a tiny, local, mostly part-time staff team, with the support of our amazing volunteers.
At a time where many of our fellow less well-resourced venues in Wales of a similar scale are still closed to the public or only able to share a panto digitally, we are so grateful to be able to welcome our fabulous local community into the building. We’re thrilled to be welcoming around 2,500 people for panto with Billboard next week and in the new year we have plenty of varied experiences for you here at your Memo.
We’ve got some great films in the cinema in the next few weeks including Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Mothering Sunday, Boss Baby 2: Family Business, Clifford the Big Red Dog, House of Gucci, West Side Story, and The King’s Man. Upcoming live streamings include Royal Opera Live: Tosca, Royal Ballet Live: Romeo and Juliet, and NT Live: The Book of Dust – La Belle Savage. Tom Brace returns with his hilarious family magic show Embrace the Impossible, Strictly’s Robin Windsor leads the cast of Come What May, and Total 90s invites you to the ultimate 90s party night.
With support from the Arts Council of Wales, in 2022 we will be bringing you Songs and Scones a new series of matinee concerts with live music and cake; a live theatre version of The Smeds and The Smoos, a family favourite book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler; a Welsh language version of Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell; and so much more.
We take great care of the Hall of Memories and if you would like to visit to see the names of your family members, please get in touch. If you’d like to join the team as a volunteer, bar staff, you’d like to hire a space for a party, workshops, meetings, or you have an idea you’d like to share, please come and talk with us.