On Sunday we visited St Fagans National Museum of History, where the event for the day was Diwali Mela. Hundreds of families from Cardiff came together to share their special day, the dances they had practised and the food they had cooked.
We were greeted in the foyer of the museum by music, colour, dance and laughter. Music and dance from all over India was showcased from Indian Classical dance to Bollywood, dances from the Punjab and from Indonesia. Foot tapping tunes were followed by exquisite, complicated slow dances where the dancers used every part of their bodies, including their eyes, to tell the story of their dance. Some styles I recognised, others were new, but no less delightful to watch.
After an hour of so, we set off around the museum. Most of the buildings at St Fagans have been dismantled from their original location, and rebuilt in this beautiful area, surrounded by woodland. It’s billed as ‘A walk around Wales – from Celtic times to the present day’, and that’s exactly what the museum is about, preserving the history of the past for all of us today. They almost took our house to be part of the museum, so we were fascinated to discover all we could about the houses they had taken.
From simple miners’ cottages to highly decorated Tudor halls, we walked in and out of the exhibits in glorious sunshine. The houses of stone and clom, similar to ours, were of special interest, and the woven thatch was stunning, completely opposite to our straight, raggedy thatch.
Furnishing the houses brings them to life and I especially loved the row of cottages, Rhyd-y-car Iron Terrace from Merthyr Tydfil, set up to show the typical life of those living in the small community from 1805 to 1985.
The iron age roundhouse is special too. A long walk through glorious golden woodland leads you to the roundhouse. I danced in one in Essex, and felt the urge again here!
There’s a castle with the most stunning grounds and gardens, all of which we didn’t get around. There’s access to the kitchen, always fascinating and luxurious panelled drawing rooms and study.
Oakdale Workmen’s Institute is another fascinating building. Opened in its original location near Caerphilly in 1917, this library and institute served as a focus for social and cultural life within this mining community in south east Wales, financed by a substantial loan from the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, which was repaid in 1945. This was a place to learn to read and write, as well as come together, and the building was reopened in St Fagans in 1995.
Back in the foyer of the museum, we ate biryani and onion bhajis, while enjoying more music and dance.
I enjoyed my day of history and culture, and though I can’t promise indian dancers for your visit, you can be assured of a warm welcome at St Fagans.
There are a number of cafes and restaurants, and the toilet facilities were adequate. You can take dogs into the museum.
You pay £5 to park your car, but entrance to the museum is free, though a donation is requested. For more about what’s on at St Fagans, visit their website. https://museum.wales/stfagans/