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Cadw launches digital heritage festival

Cadw - Harlech Castle.

Powered by digital technology, Cadw has announced the launch of its very own, virtual representation of Wales’s annual and ever popular heritage event, Open Doors.

The physical event, which famously offers visitors free entry to hundreds of historic monuments, museums and unusual landscapes during the month of September, has been cancelled this year to help keep visitors and the wider communities of Wales safe against the threat of coronavirus.Determined to offer an alternative way for people across the UK and beyond, to engage with Wales’s built heritage, Cadw’s Open Doors Online festival will enable thousands of people to virtually explore and discover ten of Cadw’s most spectacular historic sites between 01-30 September — including Wales’s iconic fairy-tale Castle, Castell Cochand UNESCO World Heritage Site, Harlech Castle.

From interactive, virtual site tours to immersive panoramic experiences, the free online festival will be hosted on Cadw’s website and social media channels, with members of the public invited to access each digital experience on desktop computers, tablets, mobile phones or through the use of VR headsets.

Created by Cardiff-based virtual-reality experts, 4Pi Productions, the experience-driven content makes use of 360° photography and scanning technology, which will allow users to control their journey around each virtual monument or historic site.

The festival’s digital experiences will be released weekly on Cadw’s website and social media channels, following four core themes: Neolithic Tombs (Tuesday 01 – Sunday 06 September), Castles of the South (Monday 07 – Sunday 13 September), Abbeys and Ironworks (Monday 14 – Sunday 20 September) and Castles of the North (Monday 21 – Wednesday 30 September).

Those who tune-in to the digital celebration will be able to virtually experience a wide range of historical monuments, including Neolithic sites, Bryn Celli Ddu and Pentre Ifan, as well as an array of medieval monuments — from Raglan Castle and Tintern Abbey in the south, to Valle Crucis Abbey and Castell y Bere in the north.

Although some staffed Cadw sites have now re-opened, visitor capacities are limited and many properties remain closed — pending the installation of new health and safety measures. In order to avoid these on-site limitations, Open Doors Online will offer an alternative, digital way for past and prospective visitors to engage with Welsh heritage this September.

However, those who would like to physically visit Cadw’s selection of re-opened staffed monuments during coming weeks and months, are able to purchase pre-paid site entry tickets on the Cadw website, here. At this time, pre-booked tickets are compulsory for entry to any of Cadw’s re-opened staffed sites, with all visitors, including Cadw members, required to select a time-allotted visitor slot to manage the number of people on-site at any one time.

Artistic Director of 4Pi Productions, Matt Wright, said: “Having previously collaborated with Cadw on a number of successful digital projects, we were delighted to help them create their own virtual and readily-accessible virtual Open Doors festival for 2020.

“Blending new and emerging technologies with cross-media story-telling is at the heart of everything we do — and we couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend our ‘lockdown summer’ than capturing the sheer wonder, magnificence and phenomenal scale of Wales’s built heritage”.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “As we continue working to re-open Wales’s historic sites to the public, our main priority remains the safety of our employees, members, visitors and the wider communities of Wales.

“This is why, for 2020, Cadw has decided to create their very own, online version of the annual heritage event, Open Doors.

“While we always look forward to giving thousands of people the chance to visit Wales’s iconic monuments and hidden gems for free each year, it would be irresponsible and impractical for us to facilitate a physical event of this nature within the current climate — with strict limitations on visitor numbers currently in place at heritage sites across the country.

“That being said, Cadw are determined to keep the essence of annual and ever-popular festival alive during these uncertain times, by offering people the unique opportunity to explore and discover ten spectacular Cadw sites online.

“From a fully-immersive, 3D digital experience of Castell Coch, to fascinating virtual tours of Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber and Harlech Castle, I hope that the people of Wales and beyond will join in and enjoy Cadw’s very special, virtual celebration of Welsh heritage this September.”

To access the online festival and for further information, please visit https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/whats-on/cadws-open-doors-online.