Climbing Wall, Barry Island Eastern Promenade

Climbing Wall, Barry Island Eastern Promenade


If you were to fly into Cardiff Airport these days on a clear day and look towards Barry Island, you would see the words YNYS Y BARRI BARRY ISLAND writ large on the wall along the Eastern Promenade. The large scale letters have been formed from colourful, quirky climbing holds and other acrylic shapes of buckets, trains, flip flops, ice cream cones, anchors, fish, sunglasses, planes, teapots, shells, clouds, fossils and many other shapes relating to the Island's past and present. Amongst the shapes are also some words which may seem obscure to the casual observer but will be understood by the locals, such as 'Monkey tump' (fishing location for those in the know), 'GWR 26 2 LOCO 5538' (a locomotive given to the town of Barry by Dai Woodham), 'Kindly Light' (a pilot cutter built in 1911 with a wonderful history and recently faithfully restored – see for the full story).

The commission to create a climbing wall was part of a major refurbishment scheme on Barry Island, including structural works to the Eastern end of the Promenade to increase access between the Promenade and the town, an events space, beach huts, new toilet facilities and repairs to the Eastern Shelter.

Early in 2014 Celfwaith appointed Becky Adams to collaborate on consultation meetings and workshops with youth groups at Area 41 and Barry Island, pupils at Barry Island Primary School, and the Barry Island Historical Society. We found that people wanted more light, colour and animation at the Eastern end of the Promenade, and a reason to visit, i.e. something for them to do there. Several proposals for public art were developed and eventually narrowed down to two main commissions:

to create a climbing wall on the new structural wall of the Promenade, and
an interactive lighting installation inside the Eastern Shelter.

Gordon Young was appointed to create the climbing wall and had previous experience of creating climbing and bouldering structures in Blackpool. However, his proposal for Barry Island was completely different and captured the fun, colourful and tongue-in-cheek character of the place popularised by Gavin & Stacey.

Gordon worked with a local climber to set out four different routes along the words, from beginner to advanced level. The unusual climbing holds were sourced from all over the world, from Utah to Bulgaria, as well as locally in Cardiff.

The artwork was installed during May 2014 while the Promenade surfacing and wetpour safety surface was installed later in the summer. The refurbishment scheme as a whole was completed in early December and the site opened to the public.