Dylan Thomas Centre: Being Named ‘Best Family Venue’ in the UK’

Dylan Thomas Centre

Being named best Family Venue in the UK has been absolutely brilliant for Dylan Thomas Centre. Our venue has been running as a Centre celebrating Dylan Thomas since 1995, but in the past was very much geared towards adults. The centenary of Dylan’s birth in 2014, though, gave us the opportunity we needed to refocus our exhibition and activities, and show how the Swansea-born writer’s complex life and wonderfully varied body of work can be interpreted for a younger audience.

Through a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Swansea Council, we completely redeveloped our permanent Dylan Thomas Exhibition to put a family audience at the heart of what we do and ensure it’s accessible to everyone. After consulting with users and non-users of the previous exhibition, we now display objects at different heights, and tell Dylan’s story through fun, meaningful interactives, peepholes, lenticulars and audio recordings. There’s Children’s Trail where youngsters have to find animals featured in Dylan’s poetry, and receive a sticker and a bookmark on taking their completed sheet to our front desk. This has become more popular than we could ever have envisaged, with some children returning time and again to complete the trail!

We’ve also added a family friendly Learning Space directly off the main exhibition. Every feature in it relates to Dylan’s life and work, from the puppets of the animals from the Trail, to the dressing up clothes; and from our reading nook to the variety of story games. It functions as an extension to the main ‘Love the Words’ exhibition, and as a multi-purpose workshop space for children, adults and families, supported by a family-orientated programme of events. The events range from tutor-led workshops where families learn together, to our Young Writers Squad sessions, where young people meet twice a term for a workshop with a published writer. Dylan, after all, started writing from a very young age, and wrote hundreds of poems in old school exercise books between the ages of 15 and 19, and this is an aspirational story we love to share through the developmental work we programme.

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When our Learning Space isn’t in use for workshops, we throw open the doors for free self-led activities which anyone can come and enjoy. The theme is taken from Dylan’s work, changing regularly throughout the year, and we develop activities and games for families to do together in their own time. We aim to inspire creativity in people of all ages, share knowledge of Dylan Thomas, and break down the barriers which prevent people from attending museums and galleries. Entry to the exhibition continues to be free, as are the vast majority of our activities.

None of this would be possible without our small, dedicated team. Time and time again, visitor feedback highlights the warm welcome offered to all. Our staff orientate each visitor, explaining and pointing out all the facilities, including the café, toilets and baby changing, and hand out trails and word searches accordingly. We look after scooters, give directions to other nearby cultural venues, and love listening to a newly-written poem or story brought to the desk by an excited young writer. To have gained the award of Best Family Venue 2018 feels like an official validation for our new ways of operating, and shows that we can be proud of how far we’ve come in a short space of time. It makes us determined to continue working hard, developing our family friendly ethos to welcome more and more visitors to ‘Love the Words’ at the Dylan Thomas Centre.

Jo Furber, Swansea Council Literature Officer


Apply for an Award

Entry for the Fantastic for Families awards open until 12pm Friday 7th December 2018.
Venues, companies and artists can self-nominate by completing the application formFind out more here.


23 November 2018