Archives for April 2012

Indian dance company make début Welsh tour

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:35 UK time, Friday, 27 April 2012

An Indian dance company from Bangalore embark on their début tour of Wales next week as part of an ongoing artistic relationship with National Dance Company Wales.

Natya STEM Dance Kampni - STEM stands for Space Time Energy Movement - will visit Brecon, Swansea, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Wrexham on the tour, which begins on Monday 30 April.

Eight members of STEM are visiting Wales and will showcase two of their productions entitled Sanjog and Vajra, the latter of which combines martial arts, contemporary dance and Kathak, a classical Indian dance style.

Natya STEM Dance Kampni

Natya STEM Dance Kampni

NDCWales' relationship with STEM began in 2010, as choreographers from the two companies travelled on exchange trips to learn more about each other's work and to plan future collaborations.

This led to dancers from Wales visiting India for a tour in late November 2011, where they performed in Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi and also held dance masterclasses and discussions. Now NDCWales are hosting the return exchange.

I put a few questions to Roy Campbell-Moore, the co-founder and artistic associate of NDCWales, who has been heavily involved with STEM and has visited the company in India.

Can you explain a little about your involvement in bringing STEM to Wales, and developing the relationship between the two dance companies?

"I've been travelling to India since 1985 and have always wanted to develop links with artists there to share experiences and working practices. I was introduced to Madhu Nataraj, STEM's artistic director, through a friend and when the British Council offered travel grants in 2010 to go to India to open up collaborative opportunities, I jumped at the chance.

"We hit it off immediately both personally and artistically, as STEM follows the key philosophies of National Dance Company Wales in a passion for ideas in dance through artist-led projects. They also have a totality of vision that includes a wonderful range of work in the community in which they live, teaching and reaching out to young people in every way possible.

"Since 2010 we have had three Indian dancers come to Cardiff to study what we do and how we work and NDCWales has made three visits there, teaching, running a new summer school and in November doing a main company tour to Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi.

"In addition to their Wales tour, one of their dancers will come to Cardiff in September as a choreographer-in-residence working on a large youth arts project. Plans are already advanced for a second shared summer school in 2013 in Bangalore and we hope to return to India for a second tour in late 2013, performing in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore."

Will the relationship between the two companies remain ongoing, is it a long term project?

"Definitely. These relationships take years to develop and mature. Apart from the already mentioned projects over the next year or two, we are continually opening up several new contacts in India and I can see a wider network of relationships growing as time goes on. Somehow, the interest in new ideas and sharing them is just too exciting and I am sure many of our younger artists in particular will have their work transformed by these visits."

Can you explain a little more about the two productions, Vajra and Sanjog?

"Sanjog, the opening work of the evening, is an out and out display piece of choreography in the classical Kathak style that allows the dancers to show off their virtuosity of technique. It's a short but snappy and sharply edged piece of work that allows audiences to feel secure in the hands of a group of talented dancers.

"Vajra is a fully developed dance-theatre work that delves into the abstract concepts of diamond and lightning seen through an Indian dance aesthetic. With an extravagant use of martial arts techniques, contemporary and kathak dance, Vajra is a lovely work that is original and beautifully performed by six dancers of the company."

There seems to be a flourishing artistic union between Wales and India at the moment. Why do you think this is, and what can artists from the two countries gain from working with each other?

"Simple... it's called investment! If you invest in artists, then they get on with it and make things happen. It's also a sign that Wales is now reaching out to new borders with strategic funding in place to open up new connections and relationships with the long-term backing to make it meaningful. It's to everyone's benefit in both countries.

"India and Wales has much to learn from each other and to share: techniques, practices, beliefs and philosophies benefit everyone all round and the exchange of new ideas, whether cultural, scientific, personal and organisations are critical to a healthy state of mind and well-being. In the end it's up to the artists to make the gains meaningful, but that is the skill of the artist... we wait to see what they all come up with."

STEM dancers during a performance

STEM dancers during a performance

The tour, which is supported by Welsh Government, British Council and Wales Arts International, will visit:

For further information visit

National Botanic Garden residency for poet Mab Jones

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:04 UK time, Thursday, 19 April 2012

Welsh spoken word artist Mab Jones has been named as the first ever poet in residence at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire.

Mab Jones

Mab Jones

The garden first became aware of Mab's poetry after she penned a poem about one of their more unusual plants, the Chilean Puya - or Puya chilensis if you prefer the Latin.

I had a quick chat with Mab earlier today, ahead of her performance at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

She explained that she visited the garden recently and saw the plant, which has taken 11 years to flower. She said that the plant 'fascinated' her and she wrote Poem for the Puya as a response to it.

Her relationship with the garden has developed since. "I went to the garden a few times, met people who worked there and it grew out of that. So it kind of grew organically, and now it's blossoming!"

The year-long residency means that Mab will be at the National Botanic Garden for three days each month, combining workshops, performances and readings. Although Mab is primarily a performance poet, she's keen to use the residency as an opportunity to formulate a collection of poetry.

She said:"I want to write my first collection, so even though I'm a stage poet I want to try and write some page poetry there. But they like the fact that I'm a performance poet - I perform a lot, I like meeting people and engaging people. I'll do a few performances there to show what work I've done and I keep a blog, so people can see what I'm getting up to."

Mab has also recently returned from Japan, where she was the special guest at the Kansai St David's Society festival in Osaka, which celebrates Wales and Welsh culture.

For the event Mab, who is most at home in performing comic poetry, chose a more traditional Welsh angle to perform for the festival.

"I did a one hour show, a poetry re-telling of the tales of the Mabinogion which I haven't shown here, so I'd like to do that at some point in the garden. Also I had six local artists do illustrations for them and I'd like their work to be shown, as they were so generous doing that."

In addition to her residency role Mab will be at Abergavenny Library for World Book Night next Monday, will be involved in the Teen Poetry Slam - compering the event and mentoring the team that goes through to the final in Bristol in June - plus will be appearing at the Latitude and Dinefwr festivals later in the year.

Mab is also involved with the first All Wales Comic Verse competition, tied in with the 2012 Caerleon Festival, and will judge the event alongside other judges including Radio Wales presenter Roy Noble, Goff Morgan and Siriol Jenkins.

This weekend, though, Mab will kick-start her poet in residence role at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. She will perform on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm in the great glasshouse and will be running workshops across the two days for anybody who wants to try their hand at poetry.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

Mab Jones will perform inside the great glasshouse this weekend. Photo: National Botanic Garden of Wales

David Hardy of the National Botanic Garden said: "There has long been a link between poetry and nature, resulting in some of the greatest verse ever written. As an award-winning performance poet, Mab will also be using her charm and wit to engage with visitors, and encourage a love both of nature and of poetry. We are happy to give her a home in which to do that."

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Welsh applied art represented at SOFA New York

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The work of two of Wales' most eminent artists will be exhibited in New York this weekend.

Ruthin Craft Centre will present ceramic works by Walter Keeler and Eleri Mills' textile and fibre art at the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair (SOFA) in Manhattan, from this Friday 20 April until 23 April.

Walter Keeler's career spans over 50 years. The London-born artist trained at Harrow School of Art and moved to Penallt near Monmouth in 1976. He has been working in Wales since, and in 2007 was named the Welsh Artist of the Year.

An example of Walter Keeler's work. Image courtesy of Ruthin Craft Centre. Photographer: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd

An example of Walter Keeler's salt glaze work. Image courtesy of Ruthin Craft Centre. Photo: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd

Eleri Mills was born in Llangadfan, Powys and it is the rural landscape of Wales that is at the heart of her work, which combines hand-stitched pieces and mixed media paintings.

Keeler recently toured the US, in March 2012, with lectures and demonstrations culminating at the NCECA conference in Seattle, while Mills is in residency as a visiting artist at Columbia University, New York until the end of April 2012. The residency is part of the Creative Wales Ambassador role that she was awarded in 2010.

Ruthin Craft Centre has previously shown work at SOFA in Chicago but this will be the first time the centre has exhibited at the New York show.

A delegation of members from Welsh galleries that exhibit craft and applied art will also be visiting SOFA, with funding from Wales Arts International.

Representatives of Oriel Myrddin Gallery, the Mission Gallery and Mostyn will make the trip to research future opportunities between New York and Wales and to raise the profile of Welsh artists and makers.

Eleri Mills, Tirlun I (Landscape I). Image courtesy of Ruthin Craft Centre. Photographer: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd

Eleri Mills, Tirlun I (Landscape I). Image courtesy of Ruthin Craft Centre. Photo: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd

Philip Hughes, Director of Ruthin Craft Centre, said: "Walter has been potting for 50 years now. His work over the years has encompassed many different materials but he is best known for his salt glaze pieces and that's what we've chosen to show.

"They should compliment Eleri's work really well and give people an experience of Wales and the landscape, and how ceramics and textiles can sit in harmony in a presentation."

Watch a video of Hughes talking about SOFA New York and the artists being represented in 2012.

Galleries from America, Japan, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Israel, Argentina and England will also be exhibiting at SOFA New York.

Keep up to date with news from the event on the SOFA Cymru blog,, and the Facebook page.

Store offers entertainment for Wrexham shoppers

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:10 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

A new pop-up shop with a difference opens in Wrexham next week: rather than tinned or packaged goods, the commodities on offer at Store are live performances.

Michikazu Matsune and David Subal during a performance of Store in Bangor. Photo: Dewi Glyn Jones

Michikazu Matsune and David Subal during a performance of Store in Bangor. Photo: Dewi Glyn Jones

After being invited into the shop at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre, audience members will be offered a menu from which they can choose one of any 60 mini performances - costing from as little as 50p per performance.

Artists Michikazu Matsune and David Subal perform especially for each shopper, and during their performances they often create a physical product which the customer can take away with them.

Store has previously been performed as far afield as Vienna, Paris, Kyoto and New York.

Llanrwst-based company Migrations, who have been organising contemporary dance and performance events in north Wales since 2004, bring the production to Wrexham in collaboration with Wrexham County Council.

Migrations director Karine Decorne said, "Store is such a fantastic project, we're thrilled to be able to bring it to Wrexham.

"The performances are great and really affordable too, so everyone should get a bargain at Store. All are welcome to come and browse - it's a completely new way to experience performance."

e of Store in Bangor. Photo: Iwan Pritchard

Matsune during a performance of Store in Bangor. Photo: Iwan Pritchard

Store opens at 10am on Wednesday 25 April and will run until to Saturday 28 April, and is open from 10am-4pm each day. For more information visit the Migrations website.

Titian's Diana and Actaeon to go on show in Cardiff

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:44 UK time, Friday, 13 April 2012

If you've ever wondered what £50 million could buy you in terms of a Renaissance masterpiece then a trip to the National Museum in Cardiff could be on the cards.

Titian's Diana and Actaeon is currently on tour from the National Gallery and will be displayed in Cardiff from Thursday 19 April to Sunday 17 June 2012.

To mark the arrival of the 16th century Renaissance masterpiece the museum will remain open until 7.30pm on Thursday 19 April for people who are eager to get a glimpse of the painting.

Titian's Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59. Oil on canvas: 184.5 x 202.2. Bought jointly by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland with contributions from The Scottish Government, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Monument Trust, The Art Fund and through public appeal, 2008

Titian's Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59.
Oil on canvas: 184.5 x 202.2.
Bought jointly by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland with contributions from The Scottish Government, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Monument Trust, The Art Fund and through public appeal, 2008

Diana and Actaeon is one of six large-scale mythologies by Titian inspired by the work of the poet Ovid, and were created for King Philip II of Spain.

The painting is jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London. It was acquired for the nation in 2009 for £50 million, which was made possible with the generous contributions from private and public donors.

Last month one of its companions, Diana and Callisto, was secured for the nation for £45m.

Anne Pritchard, the assistant curator of historic art at National Museum Wales, said: "We are delighted to be hosting such an important and beautiful painting here in Cardiff. It is a true masterpiece!

"Titian's Diana and Actaeon is probably the UK's most significant public purchase of art in recent years and it's a unique opportunity for people to come and see it up close. It will be a fine complement to the historic art collection during its stay here at National Museum Cardiff."

Laugharne Weekend 2012 begins

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:36 UK time, Thursday, 12 April 2012

One of Wales' most intimate literary events begins tomorrow as the Laugharne Weekend returns for its sixth year.

The annual event takes place in the "timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town" that was home to Dylan Thomas during the 1930s and 40s.

It was in Laugharne that the author's relationship with his wife-to-be Caitlin blossomed, and Thomas wrote some of his best-known works during his time in the west Wales town.

Image:, copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Image:, copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The 2012  line-up is as eclectic as ever, with a mix of musicians, poets, writers and comedians taking part in sessions across the three days.

The organisers of the festival keep it as intimate and relaxed as possible, so that audience members and performers are able to mingle and chat around the events.

Speaking at this year's event are Val McDermid, Stuart Maconie, Simon Day, Julien Temple, Howard Marks, Graeme Garden and comedian Robin Ince, among others.

Robin Ince. Image: Rob Greig

Robin Ince. Image: Rob Greig

A host of other poets and writers will also be present at the weekend, such as Horatio Clare, A L Kennedy, Kate Williams, John Cooper Clarke, Fflur Dafydd, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, Mark Billingham and Simon Armitage.

Musical highlights will include Cerys Matthews, Y Niwl, Georgia Ruth, Meic Stevens and Laura J Martin, plus the final show of the festival will feature Jah Wobble, Keith Levene and friends performing Metal Box in Dub, a unique 2012 take on the classic 1979 album.

Photograph of Fflur Dafydd © Chris Reynolds

Photograph of Fflur Dafydd © Chris Reynolds

Venues for events at the festival include Dylan Thomas' famous Boathouse, the town's Millennium Hall, the Fountain Inn and a large marquee in the grounds of Browns Hotel, Thomas' well-known drinking haunt.

Fittingly, the weekend will also see a production of Jon Tregenna's play Buggerall, which is an updated version of Thomas' Under Milk Wood.

Weekend tickets for the festival, which runs from Friday 13-Sunday 15 April, have sold out but tickets for individual performances may still be available. Visit for more information.

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Hay Literature Festival 2012 line-up revealed

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:04 UK time, Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The full line-up for the 2012 Hay Literature Festival, which runs from 31 May to 10 June, has been announced.

Big name highlights at the 10-day festival festival include veteran American actor, singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte and Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, who will present her new novel Bring Up The Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall.

Other big name authors on this year's bill include Terry Pratchett, Lionel Shriver, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Victoria Hislop and Ian McEwan.

I've had a scan through the programme and here are just some of the Welsh highlights on offer at this year's event.

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Photo: Keith Morris

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Photo: Keith Morris

Comedian Rob Brydon will speak about his autobiography, Small Man In A Book, while Robert Minhinnick discusses his short story collection The Keys Of Babylon.

Author, BBC Radio Wales presenter and BBC Wales Arts blogger Phil Rickman talks about his novels while Damian Walford Davies and Samantha Wynne Rhydderch read from their respective works Witch and Banjo in a joint session at the festival.

Owen Sheers will talk about The Gospel Of Us, his novelisation of the National Theatre Wales production The Passion, with the producer of the three-day theatre production Lucy Davies.

There will also be screenings of the film version of the production, also called The Gospel Of Us, starring Michael Sheen that played out in Port Talbot over the 2011 Easter weekend.

Cardiff-born screen writer Abi Morgan, the woman behind The Iron Lady, The Hour and Birdsong will be in conversation with Francine Stock and veteran Welsh author Dannie Abse talks to Dai Smith about his autobiography, Goodbye Twentieth Century.

Musical entertainment at the festival includes session from Paper Aeroplanes and Cerys Matthews plus a concert with opera star Bryn Terfel. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama's Jazz Time club will be also hosting masterclasses and playing lunchtime concerts throughout the festival.

Paper Aeroplanes

Paper Aeroplanes

Read more about the Hay Festival on the BBC News website and visit the Hay Festival website for the full line-up and further details.

Cardiff Before Cardiff exhibition

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:30 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A new photography exhibition born out of a chance discovery of intriguing archive documentary photos from the 1980s opens this week at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Cardiff-based photographer Jon Pountney is the man behind the Cardiff Before Cardiff exhibition, and the much longer-running project that inspired it.

While renovating Warwick Hall in Gabalfa, Cardiff in late 2010, and turning it into what is now Cardiff Music Studios, Jon discovered a large batch of prints and negatives.

A selection of the framed prints ready for the exhibition. Courtesy of Jon Pountney

A selection of the framed prints ready for the exhibition. Images courtesy of Jon Pountney

Jon recently explained the history of the project to me: "At first I found a couple of odd photos lying around and I didn't really know what they were, and had no idea why they were there.

"I put them aside but then started finding more and more and realised after a while I'd collected a large pile. Then I found the negatives. It was quite shocking how much there was, hundreds of prints and perhaps thousands of negatives.

"Straight away I realised they were of Cardiff. I recognised a few of the places - the first few that I looked at I could tell straight away where they were. And I just thought that they were so good, it's exactly the type of photography that I like to look at."

Jon's discovery was the work of photographer Keith S Robertson. His striking body of documentary photography taken in the early 1980s gave a snapshot of life in the capital city, largely in the Adamsdown, Splott and Butetown areas of the city.

In order to discover more information about the pictures, the anonymous people in them and the photographer behind the lens himself, Jon began to share them online.

He added: "First of all I put them on Tumblr, a blog site, and within a few days they were picked up by Ed Walker at Media Wales. So within three or four weeks it was a double page spread in the South Wales Echo. It snowballed from there - I was receiving emails every day."

Negatives in Jon's studio in preparation for the exhibition which opens on 5 April

Negatives in Jon's studio in preparation for the exhibition, which opens on 5 April

Jon has now made contact with many people in the photographs. His discovery of the photos has inspired him to get out and take photographs in the same communities 30 years on - including taking photos of some of the original subjects.

Jon also tracked down Keith S Robertson. Now in his eighties, Robertson had previously used Warwick Hall as his studio. According to Jon he had fallen out with the people who ran the building and was told that the locks had been changed and that his possessions had been thrown out - including his photographs and camera equipment. He never attempted to gain re-entry to the building and gave up on the thought of seeing the photos again.

Jon added: "A lot of my friends have said 'you were born to find these pictures'. They could have gone in a skip or sat there for another five years if we hadn't renovated the building. It would have been a crying shame for them to be lost. I don't think this kind of discovery happens every day - it must be a fairly unique thing to find. I feel really lucky."

There have been a number of similar documentary photography projects in th UK, such as Paul Trevor's photographs of 1970's Liverpool and Robert Haines' photos of Heolgerrig near Merthyr in the 1970s, which resulted in the book Once Upon a Time in Wales.

But as Pountney stresses, this is a pretty unique case: "In those cases the photographers had kept hold of the original pictures, they hadn't lost their pictures. I think this is a unique case where the pictures have been found by another photographer, and in seeing the pictures it just made me want to go out and take pictures, to do what Keith was doing.

"I've always wanted to take photography like that but it's not the easiest thing to do; people always want to know what you're up to, and when people see someone with a camera these days they're automatically suspicious of them! That's the thing about Keith's pictures, everybody looks so friendly in them."

Getting ready for the exhibition: over 100 prints showing the work of both photographers will be on show at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff

Getting ready for the exhibition: over 100 prints showing the work of both photographers will be on show at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff

Jon's connection with the people in the photographs came with the realisation that a number of the smiling faces in the pictures are sadly no longer alive.

He added: "That's been the saddest aspect of it for me. You expect a lot of the older people to have died, you take that for granted, but a surprising number of the really young kids have passed away.

"These photos are popping up and reminding people of them, which is quite nice in a way. Keith's pictures really get that person's personality, so it's obviously sad but a lot of people are really happy that they've seen the pictures.

"In particular there's a picture of a little girl on a bike, Denise Truman, and a lot people have said how nice the picture is and that they really miss her. It's really sad when it's someone who is so young, and has passed away perhaps years ago. It's a part of the project that I hadn't expected."

The free exhibition, Cardiff Before Cardiff - Keith S Robertson and Jon Pountney, runs at the Wales Millennium Centre from Thursday 5 April to Sunday 27 May 2012.

Visit the Cardiff Before Cardiff site to browse more photographs and join in the discussion on the project's Facebook page.

Museum brings Captain Scott's Terra Nova back to Cardiff

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Joe Goodden Joe Goodden | 10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A painting depicting Captain Scott's ship, the SS Terra Nova, leaving Cardiff Docks on its ill-fated Antarctic expedition on 15 June 1910, has been bought at auction by The Cardiff Story museum.

The painting, by Richard Short, an accomplished painter who settled in Cardiff after retiring from life as a Master Mariner, was bought for £13,000 at auction at Bonhams in London on Friday 30 March.

Terra Nova leaving Cardiff for the South Polar Regions, 15th June 1910, by Richard Short. Image courtesy of The Cardiff Story.

Terra Nova leaving Cardiff for the South Polar Regions, 15th June 1910, by Richard Short. Image courtesy of The Cardiff Story.

Scott's expedition is now renowned in world history, as he and his companions were not only beaten to the Pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, but also because it ended in the death of five of the expedition members, including Scott, from starvation and the extreme temperatures.

Cardiff was instrumental in the expedition proceeding. Scott named Cardiff as the Terra Nova's home port in recognition of the support the expedition had received from Wales, and Cardiff in particular. It can be argued that without this support, in both money and in kind, Scott would not have left in time to reach the Pole in 1912.

Funds were raised and sponsorship secured from businesses in the area resulting in donations from steam coal to cooking utensils, lamp oil to the provision of dock facilities. Cardiff had also raised more cash than any other city for Scott, and two leading Cardiff shipowners, Daniel Radcliffe and William J Tatem became two of the expedition's most fervent supporters.

The painting was commissioned by Alderman WH Renwick and WH Newtown to mark the city's pride in playing such a key role in the expedition, and the money required for commissioning it was raised from public subscription. Hanging in the library of the Coal Exchange building in the docks, when news reached Britain of Scott's death in February 1913, the Union Jack and black crepe were draped around it, echoing the profound sense of shock that was felt in the city. When the Terra Nova returned to Cardiff in that same year, 60,000 people welcomed it home.

The Cardiff Story's museum officer Victoria Rogers said: "We're delighted to have secured this stunning painting for the museum and the people of Cardiff. The tragedy of the expedition had a profound effect on the city, which had taken Scott and his companions to its heart, and this painting is the perfect piece to commemorate the expedition and to help tell the story to our visitors.

"Items like this don't come up at auction very often, so we're very thankful to Cardiff Council, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and the V&A Purchase Fund for their support in securing the painting for generations of Cardiffians to come."

The Cardiff Story is based at the Old Library in the Hayes in Cardiff's city centre. The museum focuses on telling Cardiff's history through the eyes of those who made it - its people. It is open seven days a week and entry is free.

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