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  • Megan Wood

Experience Barnsley Museum set to take visitors on a magical journey to Middle-earth

Whether you’re a fan of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of The Rings’, or just love all things fantasy, you’ll be in your element as an exciting new Tolkien-inspired exhibition is set to launch at Experience Barnsley this Saturday!

The free exhibition will see Barnsley Town Hall taken over by dragons and elves to showcase a magical treasure trove of over 200 rare objects celebrating the author’s incredible work.

Delving much deeper than the books and films that have since come to hold such worldwide cultural significance, the exhibition will give an insight into the plethora of writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, environmentalists, creators, and game designers that Tolkien has influenced. We discussed the idea behind the exhibition with curator, Matt Fox, who has been a life-long Tolkien fan after first hearing an audio tape of ‘The Hobbit’ on a long car journey when he was five years old!

“Tolkien laid the foundations and is often referred to as the ‘Father’ of fantasy.

He was a master of ‘world-building’ with an engineer’s brain, with many books and films

today having their roots set in his work. With this exhibition, we wanted to celebrate all of these adaptations which can be viewed as the ‘tree branches’ which have grown from Tolkien’s initial fantasy world. Whether you’re a fan of ‘Game Of Thrones’ or ‘Harry Potter’, you can see all kinds of influences which are a result of Tolkien’s legacy.”

Visitors can expect to see a wealth of extraordinary items such as: a first edition copy of ‘The Hobbit’ from 1937, dramatic models and dioramas picturing famous scenes such as ‘The Battle of Helms Deep’ (Matt’s personal favourite), as well as a wealth of memorabilia and prop replicas from the realms of theatre, music, and film. Set to a haunting soundscape featuring music from the films by composer Howard Shore, visitors will be well and truly transported into this magical world. Gamers can rejoice in Middle-earth inspired video games and LEGO sets whilst art fans can appreciate the range of concept artwork and stunning paintings that illustrate Tolkien’s passion for the natural world.

This is a family-friendly exhibition suitable for all ages from ‘little halflings’ to ‘wizened wizards’ and there really is something for everyone, even if you’re a complete Tolkien novice. Matt said “we encourage anyone to come along, the artworks are amazing and you don’t even need to be a fan of the story to appreciate the sculptures and recreations. It’s an educational experience so you can learn a lot about Middle-earth and hopefully leave feeling inspired to go and find out more and read the books or watch the films if you haven’t already.”

Middle-earth officially opened to the public on Saturday 30th September with a family-friendly and action-packed launch party that took place from 10am to 1pm. Fancy dress was encouraged for the big costume party in the good company of elves, wizards, and hobbits, not forgetting some special guest appearances from Gandalf and Frodo too!

Whilst you’re at the exhibition, you can also try your hand at Tolkien-inspired board and PlayStation games, or channel your creative side with a range of crafts, encouraging both hardcore fans and novices to come together to learn more about Tolkien and his incredible world.

Matt hopes this exhibition will help to put Barnsley on the map and attract even

more visitors from across the UK, to not only appreciate the museum, but Barnsley as a

whole. He said that you should pay a visit to Experience Barnsley as “it’s a really nice

venue with so many nice things on display, lots of exhibits, and plenty of things to see,

put on for the people of Barnsley and those further afield.”

Cllr Robin Franklin (Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture) echoes this saying the museum is “made for the people by the people” and in reference to this latest Middle-earth exhibition - “it is exhibitions like this one that bring people together the most – ones in which they can reminisce, reconnect, and even learn or see something new around something they love.” It’s clear that Experience Barnsley is not just a museum, but an important part of the local community, centred right in the heart of the town – what better place to host this magical dedication to Middle-earth?

The exhibition is set to run until 6th April 2024 so visitors will have plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere as well as the chance to also get involved in a number of hands-on activities including Dungeons and Dragons-esque gaming sessions, a clay-making ‘Dragon Eyes’ session on November 3rd, activities during Barnsley’s Bright Night’s festivities, and much more – keep your eyes peeled!

So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to be transported into the magical realms of J.R.R Tolkien and discover the artistic legacy of his incredible fantasy world right in the heart of Barnsley!


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