Schoolchildren given control of Wales’s major castles for one day only

Wednesday 12 November 2014

  • Pupils from Ysgol yr Hendre at Segontium

    Pupils from Ysgol yr Hendre at Segontium

  • Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

    Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

  • Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

    Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

  • Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

    Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell 

  • Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell

    Pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell 

Schoolchildren across Wales are being given the rare opportunity to step into the shoes of custodians at some of Wales’s most significant historic sites this Thursday (13 November), as Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, invites them to take the helm at six of its sites in celebration of Taking Over Museums Day 2014.

Year Five and Six pupils from Ysgol Tan y Castell in Gwynedd are one of six groups selected to take part in the project, having been tasked with staging a takeover of Harlech Castle.

Having spent several weeks preparing, the children – aged between nine and 11 – will become Harlech Castle custodians for the day; welcoming guests, taking responsibility for daily site checks, managing the castle’s marketing and social media and talking to visitors about its history and interpretation.

They will also work with the castle staff to develop their own interpretations of the site’s dramatic past, which they will then present to members of the public visiting the castle.

The project aims to give young people the chance to engage with the historic sites in their area, allowing them to take on meaningful roles while working alongside staff and volunteers to participate in the life of Wales’s historic sites.

Anthony Hayes holds the title of custodian of Harlech Castle for the other 364 days of the year.

He said: “Young people are typically full of creative ideas and fresh thinking, so I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing how they approach the task of taking control of Harlech.

“Through encouraging them to take on the role of custodian we hope to give the children insight in what it means to care for some of Wales’s most important monuments, while bringing the history behind the sites to life. We welcome any visitors wishing to join us on the day of the takeover – it will be a great chance to see a child’s take on our history.”

The pupils have been preparing for the visit by looking at the stories behind Harlech Castle – including Owain Glyndŵr’s own takeover of the site in 1404.

Ysgol Tan Y Castell Headteacher, Annwen Parry-Williams, said: “The pupils are very much looking forward to staging the site takeover. Having spent time in class brushing up their knowledge ahead of the event, I’m confident they’ll have plenty of tales and insights to share with visitors on the day!

“The takeover project is a brilliant opportunity for the children; not only does it help them develop a range of key skills, but it also helps them engage with the castle they are so familiar with in a completely different way.”

A host of Cadw sites including Segontium Roman Fort, Criccieth Castle, Caernarfon Castle and Denbigh Castle will also be holding similar events on Taking Over Museums Day 2014, as the organisation looks to engage young people in new and exciting ways. Each site involved will offer free entry to anyone wishing to witness the takeover activity.

In addition, Cilgerran Castle in Pembrokeshire – which is usually closed to the public during winter – will re-open its doors especially for the event, as it invites members of the public to come and see how pupils from nearby Ysgol Cilgerran primary school fare as stand-in custodians.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We want to see more young people take an interest in culture and history and the many benefits this brings. The perception can sometimes be that places like museums and galleries are stuffy, unwelcoming places for families and young people.

“The Takeover Day is about changing this perception and throwing the doors open for young people to take responsibility in the day-to-day running of an historic site. This not only gives them the opportunity to understand and appreciate the fascinating items on show but those in charge can benefit from the fresh ideas that only the enthusiasm and imagination of young people can bring."

Ysgol Tan Y Castell pupils will be Taking Over Harlech Castle between 10am and 12.15pm on Thursday 13th November, as part of the wider Taking Over Museums Day celebrations organised by independent charity Kids in Museums. Visitors are welcome, and entry to the site will be free.