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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 00:16 GMT
Royal seal of approval for centre

The Queen has officially opened the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

The Queen arrived with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales and unveiled a bilingual plaque ahead of a gala concert.

The event marked the climax of the opening weekend celebrations for the 106m centre.

Members of the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice dressed as Santa Claus had held a series of demonstrations across south Wales to coincide with the royal visit.

The WMC is home to numerous cultural organisations and will be a flagship showcase for literature, dance, music and theatre.

After the unveiling of the plaque, the Queen was given a brief tour of the interior by the centre's chairman, Sir David Rowe-Beddoe.

During the visit, Prince Charles was seen to take a particular interest in some of the building's architectural features.

The royal party then took their seats for the concert, which was opened by actress Sian Phillips.

The Queen
The Queen unveiled a bilingual plaque

The concert featured performances by Bryn Terfel, Charlotte Church, Catrin Finch and Matthew Rhys, as well as the Welsh National Opera, the Royal Ballet, the troop of Canada's Cirque Eloize and the Cape Town Opera.

Michael Ball, who was also on the bill, said that performing for royalty always helped performers "raise their level".

The performance was closed by a rendition of the Welsh national anthem - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - before the Queen joined the performers on stage to be presented with a replica key to the WMC.

Among a crowd of more than 100 people who braved the cold to see the Queen was Jayne Matthews, from Sully, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"We caught a glimpse of her, but it's a bit cold so she didn't stay outside for long," she said.

Ms Matthews said she thought the building was "fantastic".

Declan, Marie and Gemma Biggins
The Biggins family joined the crowd for the royal visit

"If it's made available for all the people and not just for highbrow things, it will be marvellous," she added.

Declan Biggins, from Cardiff, brought his daughters Lauren, four and Gemma, four months, along to the bay.

"As none of us had seen the Queen before, we thought we'd come down and take the opportunity," he said.

"We've seen a lot of the weekend events here, and they've been great," he added.

The doors to the centre were officially opened on Friday, and a star-studded concert followed.

On Saturday, members of the public were allowed a look behind the scenes at the centre, while in the evening a spectacular firework display and free choral concert was held.

Chief Superintendent Bob Evans of South Wales Police said the programme of events over the weekend had been "excellent".

"It has put Cardiff on the world map and I am delighted with the way the overall operation went," he added.

Speaking about the demonstrations on Sunday, he said: "I am not entirely surprised that people would take this opportunity with the eyes of the world on Cardiff to make a protest."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Glittering gala concert heralds centre's opening



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