Rembrandt, Star Wars, the mighty Man Engine, a Teddy bears picnic and Ian McMillan...
They know how to party in Barnsley.
And they certainly know how to bring in visitors, not just to experience the town's rich and colourful heritage but to be inspired by the borough’s past present and future.
Experience Barnsley, its social history museum inside the Town Hall, with hundreds of exhibits donated by local people, from a prehistoric axe head, coal and glass industry artifacts to
Dickie Bird and Arctic Monkeys memorabilia, has attracted almost half a million visitors since it opened in 2013.
That's more than twice a many as the borough's entire population.
Now, to celebrate its fifth birthday the next week town hosts its first Experience Barnsley Festival.
FREE E-GUIDE: For a full list of all events, with links to the borough's five free entry museums and special attractions, check out the page turning e-guide on your mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop - CLICK HERE.
Barnsley Museums, run by the council with charity fundraising support from Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust, will showcase all five of its free entry museums - also including The Cooper Gallery, with its art collection by the likes orTurner and Wadsworth; Elsecar Heritage Centre, boasting a full size working steam railway, restored workshops and shops; Cannon Hall, a Georgian country house, currently hosting a Rembrandt masterpiece in its Dutch Golden Age exhibition and Worsbrough Mill, a 17th Century working water mill where visitors can take home flour as it was made 400 years ago.
That's only the start.
Special events include an appearance by the mighty Man Engine, the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain, a 36ft tall miner with its own theatrical show, live music, fireworks and storytelling, to honour the area’s industrial past, at Elsecar Heritage Centre on Saturday, June 23, from 7pm. It visits Wentworth Woodhouse on Sunday, at noon. Tickets are very limited - CLICK HERE.
Other highlights, amongst talks, guided tours and more, include a 'poetic perambulation' with Bard of Barnsley himself Ian McMillan at Worsbrough Mill, on Monday, June 25, 6pm to 8pm.
On Behalf of the People, a drama about post-war life in a mining town, is at Elsecar Heritage Centre, on Tuesday, June 26, 2pm and 7.30pm.
The finale - a culmination of the festival - also on Saturday, June 30, 11am to 3pm, is Barnsley History Day, with stalls, family activities, film shows and talks at Experience Barnsley, where visitors even catch a May The Toys Be With You touring Star Wars memorabilia exhibition until July 15.
Coun Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: “With its changing exhibition space, fascinating objects, hands-on experiences and friendly staff, it’s easy to see how Experience Barnsley has attracted over 460,000 visitors since it opened.
"The festival will not only provide activities and events for everyone but also let us remember the people, industries and heritage that make the borough such a wonderful place to live.
FIVE REASONS TO EXPERIENCE BARNSLEY
Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre
Based in the Town Hall - visitors will uncover Barnsley’s fascinating past, from Roman times to present day, through centuries-old artifacts, documents, films and recordings that have been donated by people living and working in the area. See www.experience-barnsley.com
The gallery in Church Street, a short walk across the road from the Town Hall, opened in 1914, hosting a regular programme of contemporary touring exhibitions and exciting events. It is home to the Cooper Gallery Trustees’ collection of art including work by JMW Turner and Edward Wadsworth. See www.cooper-gallery.com
Elsecar Heritage Centre
In the conservation village of Elsecar, this unique family attraction is a working hub of industry with craft workshops, artist studios, antique centres and exhibitions, a children’s indoor play centre, cafe, historical steam railway and the only Newcomen beam engine in the world in its original location. Visit www.elsecar-heritage.com
Cannon Hall Museum Park and Gardens
Built for the wealthy Spencer-Stanhope family, set in 70 acres of historic parkland and beautiful landscaped gardens, this Georgian country house museum hosts outstanding fine and decorative art collections. More at www.cannon-hall.com.
This 17th Century working water mill in 240 acres of tranquil country park, including a nature reserve and reservoir, is one of the few remaining working water mills. Visitors can buy a range of premium quality organic artisan flours made using water power from the River Dove. Visit www.worsbrough-mill.com