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Cultural Olympiad in Harlech, Barmouth and beyond

Circus mask
The best cultural projects involved will receive the Aspire award

Masked revellers on a train, circus performers in a castle and beat-boxing bats at an old explosives factory are all doing their bit for the Olympics.

The sporting side of London 2012 may be two years away, but the related Cultural Olympiad is in full swing, with a number of events in Gwynedd this week.

Harlech, Barmouth and Penrhyndeudraeth are hosting activities as part of the Cultural Olympiad's Discovering Places programme, which encourages the people of Britain to rediscover their local environment.

At Theatr Harlech and Barmouth's Dragon Theatre there'll be a carnival atmosphere.

Jacqui Banks, interim director of Theatr Harlech, explained: "We're holding mask and circus workshops.

"Then everyone who's come to make masks will wear them for the carnival on Saturday (24 July).

"We'll have a parade, meeting at 11 down at the harbour in Barmouth, with a brass band accompanying us.

"Then we're going to catch the train to Harlech at 11.50 - anyone in carnival dress can go free."

Sport has taught and given me so much – which is why I know that by broadening the opportunities that are coming through 2012, we can leave a legacy of cultural excellence in communities across our country.
Seb Coe, Chair of the London games

After arriving at Harlech the carnival crowd will go up to the castle to show off their newly-acquired circus skills, with the help of professional performers.

"The theme is all linked with the Barnum and Bailey Victorian circus posters," explained Jacqui. "We're going to have a flea circus and tight rope walkers - well, the illusion of it, as they'll only be ten years old!"

The mask-making workshops were held on 20 July at the Dragon Theatre, while circus skills are being taught in Harlech Castle (Theatr Harlech if wet) on 21, 22 and 23 July.

Meanwhile, the artistic Olympic spirit will also be on show at the Gwaith Powdwr Art and Wildlife Festival.

Butterfly catchers

At the former Penrhyndeudraeth explosives factory, now a nature reserve, 20 contemporary artists will be using the outdoors as their canvas.

With the site's industrial past and its wildlife-rich present as inspiration, the artists will give hourly performances throughout the reserve.

Visitors should look out for a bird-like trapeze act, crazed butterfly catchers and a wandering canteen lady recounting tales from 40 years of factory dinners.

The old settling shed at the Gwaith Powdwr nature reserve
20 cutting-edge multi-media artists will be performing at Gwaith Powdwr

Julia Peat, one of the artist organisers, said: "Gwaith Powdwr has been a fascinating place to respond to. The factory was the heart of the village for many years, so it holds a lot of memories for people.

"Combining that with the nature element has been great fun."

This fun includes inventing a warped birdsong and the funky break-beats of the beat-boxing bats in and around the reserve's woodland, heathland and open water areas.

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012.

Principally funded by the National Lottery, it will culminate in a 12-week UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012, bringing together leading artists from all over the world.

In Pictures: Cultural Olympiad
25 Jul 09 |  Wales
Cultural Olympiad kicks off
26 Sep 08 |  Wales



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