Sunday, 30 September 2012

A centre of attraction

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 29, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

A centre of attraction
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to The Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea. 
WHY? The Taliesin Arts Centre is a very popular venue presenting a wide variety of performances and exhibitions. Open throughout the year the centre host a broad programme of events including cinema screenings and a wide variety of live performances. With a programme ranging from children's events to opera, there's something to suit all tastes.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The Taliesin hold over 50 live performances per year. On October 11, the Live Stream National Theatre presents The Last of the Haussmans, a new play by Stephen Beresford about a family that’s losing its grip starring one of Britain’s best-loved and most versatile actors, Julie Walters. The highly anticipated play is sold out but there are many other performances to look forward o at the centre. Choreographed by Arthur Pita, God's Garden is a new dance theatre piece co-commissioned by DanceEast and ROH2. Set on the Portuguese paradise island of Madeira and based on the parable of the Prodigal Son, the golden boy of the Costa family is under pressure to marry a local girl but flees on his wedding day to avoid his duty. After returning, he discovers his jilted bride must have her revenge.
ANY HISTORY? The Taliesin first opened in 1984 and is named after the 6th century Celtic bard or poet of the same name. According to legend Taliesin sung at the court of King Arthur and other British kings. WHAT TO TAKE? Tickets for Performance Arts God's Garden cost £12 and are only £10 for under 25s. School prices are £7 per head.
LOOK OUT FOR? The Ceri Richards Gallery inside the Taliesin hosts regular touring exhibitions and stocks an excellent range of greetings cards as well as jewellery, ceramics and other craft items. The Taliesin also houses the Egypt Centre, a museum of Egyptian antiquities. There are over 4500 items in the collection. Egypt Centre staff have published over 100 online pages concerning individual items, which you can find on the Egypt Centre website at funerary items on display in the House of Death are one highlight. These include amulets, shrouds, statues, coffins and fragments of coffins, and even canopic jars, which were used by the Ancient Egyptians to store and preserve the internal organs of the deceased for their journey through the afterlife.
WHEN TO GO? The Taliesin is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm. On Saturdays the centre is open 10am to 1pm and 1.30pm to 4pm. The box office remains open until 8pm on performance evenings. Unless otherwise stated screenings begin at 7.30pm. More information about event times and dates can be found on the Taliesin website. Just go to and click "diary".
TELL ME MORE: The Taliesin Arts Centre can be found on the campus of Swansea University at Singleton Park. For sat nav users their address and postcode is: Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PZ. For more information and to book tickets call 01792 602060.
Visit Richard Thomas's website at

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Circus fun in big top

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 22, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Circus fun in big top
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to the Moscow State Circus in Swansea. 
WHY? This month the award-winning Russian circus troupe are bringing their most spectacular show yet to Swansea, the Babushkin Sekret. Inspired by The Twelve Chairs, a satirical novel about a treaure hunt in 1920s Russia, the sensational extravaganza involves a mammoth cast of Russia's greatest and most talented circus artistes.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Housed inside a chapiteau big top, the spectacular production consists of a cast of twenty-five performers, including clowns, trapeze artists, aerial acrobats, jugglers and contortionists. The newly devised show includes the beautiful Queen of Russian Circus, Yana Alievia, on a revolving ariel chandelier. There are also the breathtaking Stalkions, a team of three men and two girls, who perform unbelievable aerial feats on the high wire. And if all that isn't enough the clowns Alik and Valerik will have you falling over with laughter.
ANY HISTORY? The latest production of the circus, the Babushkin Sekret, was inspired by the 1928 Russian novel The Twelve Chairs by Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov. Set in Soviet Russia in 1927, a former member of Russian nobility is working as a desk clerk, that is until his grandmother reveals on her deathbed that her jewellery had been hidden from the Bolsheviks in one of the twelve chairs from the family's dining room set. Expropriated by the government after the Russian Revolution, the desk clerk tries to track down the family jewellery before the Bolsheviks.
WHAT TO TAKE? Popcorn, candy floss and other snacks are available. Don't forget to bring a camera to take some snaps of the performances. Parking costs £2.50.
LOOK OUT FOR? The Whirlwind Rubsovsm troupe who acrobatically catapult themselves high into the big top at breakneck speed and the juggling Sherbakovs, are two other highlights of the show.
WHEN TO GO? The circus will be at the Recreation Ground Car Park on Mumbles Road from Wednesday 26 until Sunday 30 September. For sat nav users the postcode is SA2 0AR.
TELL ME MORE: Tickets range from as little as £11, but a Ringside ticket costs £30. To buy tickets go to or phone Ticketmaster on 08448440444.
Visit Richard Thomas's website at

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Enjoy a flight of fancy

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 15, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Enjoy a flight of fancy
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to … Perriswood down the Gower. 
WHY? Located on the A4118 in the heart of the Gower overlooking the stunning Oxwich Bay, Perriswood Archery and Falconry Centre is only a 20 minuet drive from Swansea. The centre provides a range of activities that can be enjoyed by individuals and groups of all ages. Whether you are looking to try something new; relax and take in the surrounding scenery; have fun with the family; or celebrate a special occasion, Perriswood is a good place to visit.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Archery lessons are available all day everyday on the centre’s outside range, or inside if the weather is not good. The lessons are suitable for the whole family from 6 years old up and for all abilities. At the end of an hour lesson you get the chance to win a solid gold, Celtic design ring! All you have to do is shoot an arrow into the centre of a ring on your target. There are also 38 different birds of prey to see at Perriswood, including owls, hawks, and falcons. And visitors get to hold the birds for themselves. You even get the chance to see one fly to your own gloved hand! Very few falconry centres let members of the public so close to their birds, setting Perriswood apart from other centres. For a more relaxing option you can enjoy a herbal tea or freshly ground coffee with a cake in the Perriswood coffee shop. You can also take a look around the rest of the centre’s animal attractions, including monkeys, micro pigs, honey bees, and others.
ANY HISTORY? Brian Williams and his family have lived at Perriswood Farm for over 200 years. In 2004 Brian decided to diversify into teaching archery. The centre originally started off with seven bows and two targets in one of the fields. Over the last seven years the centre has developed and today Perriswood can have up to 80 people shooting at one time! By spring 2007 it was decided that changing the way that archery is taught wasn't enough and Brian struck out to bring birds of prey to the masses.
WHAT TO TAKE? The centre offers visitors three different length lessons. A 15 minute archery lesson costs £6, and 30 minuets costs £8. An hour lesson costs £14. Whereas “Arrows, Talons & Tea” costs only £12 per person.
LOOK OUT FOR? If you would like to try archery and falconry then “Arrows, Talons and Tea” is the best package. An introduction to archery is followed by a hot drink and cake before you take part in a bird display.
WHEN TO GO? Perriswood is open seven days a week. The opening hours are 10am to 7pm.
TELL ME MORE: You can contact Perriswood by going to or phoning 01792 371661. The address is: Perriswood Farm, Penmaen, Gower, Swansea, SA3 2HN.
Visit Richard Thomas's website at

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Such a sweet day out

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 8, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Such a sweet day out
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to ... The Chocolate Factory in Swansea. 
WHY? The Chocolate Factory is unique in Swansea: a real, working chocolate factory offering informative tours for individuals and groups of all ages. With the popularity of the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film starring Johnny Depp, and the original novel by Roald Dahl, The Chocolate Factory is a fun place to take the kids during their summer break from school. And tour guide, Gareth John, almost like a real-life Willy Wonka, makes sure everyone on the tour gets a chance to see the different factory equipment and taste all the chocolate.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? After getting kitted up in the factory’s fashionable hairnets and aprons, the tour begins with a detailed talk about the history of chocolate, from its popularity among the ancient Olmecs and Aztecs of Central America to its discovery by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Conquistador who conquered Mexico, Hernando Cortes. This is followed by a walk on the factory floor where you are shown the factory machinery and given a demonstration by Gareth John of how they melt, temper and re-mould chocolate into football shaped lollies, chocolate hearts and other bespoke items.
ANY HISTORY? The Chocolate Factory was founded by Tony and Michelle Wadley. The brother and sister team moved to the UK from South Africa in 1992, bringing with them their secret recipe for delicious sugar lollipops which they were able to sell to the major high street retailer, Harrods. Building on this success, the two moved to their current premises in 1999 and The Chocolate Factory began doing school tours.
LOOK OUT FOR? Tour guide Gareth Johns begins the tour by saying, “We’re going to eat a lot of chocolate today!” and this is no exaggeration. As well as the factory’s white, dark and milk chocolate varieties, you also get to taste the new strawberry chocolate being tested by the factory. Gareth also hands out marshmallow lollies, freshly dipped in melted chocolate from one of the factory’s chocolate kettles. WHAT TO TAKE? Tours cost £8 for adults and £6 for children aged between 3 and 16, but group discounts are available for groups of 25 people or more. Cameras are allowed and visitors are encouraged to take photographs throughout the tour. There is also a gift shop where you can buy all the products made in the factory.
WHEN TO GO? The Chocolate Factory is open for group tours Monday to Friday. They run between four and five tours a day between 9am and 4pm. The summer is The Chocolate Factory’s busiest period of the year, with staff regularly welcoming around 200 costumers a day, so booking in advance is essential. To book phone Gareth John on 01792 561617 or email
TELL ME MORE: For sat nav users the address and postcode is: The Chocolate Factory, Swansea West Industrial Park, Fforestfach, Swansea, SA5 4DL. Visit
Richard Thomas's new book Sci-Fi Worlds is available from Amazon. Visit

Friday, 7 September 2012

Down at the farm

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 1, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to … Swansea Community Farm in Fforestfach. 
WHY? With the new school year about to start, what better way to finnish the summer holidays than with a trip to Wales’ only city farm.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Swansea Community Farm in Fforestfach, Swansea is a community-led farm run by local people for the benefit of the wider community. The farm provides a fun location where people of all ages can learn about the environment, organic gardening and animal care. Activities held on the 3.5 acre site are run in a way that minimises any negative impact on the environment whilst helping to enhance local biodiversity and encourage nature conservation.
ANY HISTORY? The farm was conceived in 1992 but it wasn’t until 1998 that a suitable site was found for the city farm. The registered charity was setup to provide opportunities for local volunteers to develop new skills running the farm and to teach visitors about the environment. Volunteers of all ages and abilities have been instrumental in all stages of the farm’s development from the start: setting up a management committee, consulting with the community, planning the site layout and building site structures. In 2004 the front of site was landscaped to make the entrance more attractive, and in 2006 the workshop and animal house was built. The arrival of the first animals to the farm also brought a new interest from adults and children wanting to work with animals in a farm setting. Soon after a raised bed garden was constructed to provide opportunities for volunteers with mobility constraints to participate in farm activities. By the end of 2006 an apiary was constructed under the guidance of The West Glamorgan Beekeepers Association who also provided training for volunteers interested in learning about beekeeping. The farm now opens six days a week and have 200 child and youth members, 155 adult volunteers, over 50 animals, 10 trustees and nine members of staff.
WHAT TO TAKE? The farm depends on membership and donations. A years membership only costs £5. Bring a packed lunch with you and don’t forget to bring your camera.
LOOK OUT FOR? The 3.5 acre site consists of an office, workshop, animal house, cafe, wildlife pond, duck pond, allotments, orchard, apiary, paddocks, adventure play area, fire pit, compost demonstration area, raised beds, and picnic space. There’s also over 50 different animals to see, including sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits and ducks.
WHEN TO GO? The Farm is open six days a week: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
TELL ME MORE: For sat nav usesrs the address and postcode is: 2 Pontarddulais Road, Fforestfach, Swansea, SA5 4BA. Phone 01792 578384 or go to
Richard Thomas's new book Sci-Fi Worlds is available from Amazon. Visit