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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 November, 2004, 16:33 GMT
'Open house' at new arts venue
Opening ceremony

Events to mark the opening of the 106m Wales Millennium Centre have been continuing in Cardiff Bay.

On Saturday, thousands of visitors were given the chance to explore backstage and enjoy performances by the resident arts companies.

During the evening, thousands of people arrived for a free Hymns and Arias music and lights show.

On Sunday, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles will be attending a royal gala.

The centre was officially opened at a ceremony on Friday, before a star-studded concert honouring some of Wales' most famous artists.

Resident companies
Welsh National Opera
Urdd Gobaith Cymru
Diversions Dance
Hijinx Theatre
Ty Cerdd
Academi
Touch Trust

Sir Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, and Michael Ball were among the celebrities of stage and screen paying tribute to singers Dame Shirley Bassey and Dame Gwyneth Jones, actors Sian Phillips and the late Richard Burton, and composer Alun Hoddinott.

Other stars including Jonathan Pryce, Matthew Rhys, Nana Mouskouri, Robert Hardy, and Ruth Madoc all took part.

Even a problem with the safety curtain at the start of the second half could not spoil the night. During the 25-minute delay, the audience started singing Welsh hymns.

Opening the centre on Friday, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the centre was "not just for the elite." It was, he said, "for all of the people of all of Wales".

And Judith Isherwood, chief executive of the centre, said she wanted the emphasis to move from the building itself to what was inside.

"We need people to start to have an opinion of the life of the building, which is the art that happens on stage, in the public areas and in the homes of the resident companies," she said.

WMC
Performers filled the stage for the start of the concert

There were concerns about the volume of traffic the centre would attract during the opening weekend, and longer-term, visitors were warned of limited parking in the area.

The council urged the use of public transport and park-and-ride facilities in the city.

And all train services running on Sunday are free of charge.

A waterbus service between the bay and Penarth has been running services every 15 minutes over the weekend to offer an alternative route.

The centre dominates a prime spot in the bay and has attracted critical acclaim for its appearance.

The fabric of the building includes Welsh materials like slate and sandstone.

Windows at the front form poetry by Gwyneth Lewis - 'In these stones horizons sing' and 'Creu gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen' (Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration).




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