About the project
In September 2016, more than 120,000 people attended Wales’ largest ever cultural event, staged to celebrate the centenary of Roald Dahl. With over 7,000 people performing, making and volunteering, Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected was a totally surprising celebration of the man, his characters and his stories.
The Welsh capital – where Roald Dahl was born on 13 September 1906 – became a place where reality was turned on its head, and where the laws of physics, logic and the predictable gave way to magic, fun, invention and the surreal, as if Dahl himself was at the helm.
Participants and audience members immersed themselves in everything from large-scale events to intimate performances – all staged across Cardiff’s streets and public spaces, in shops and arcades, at iconic buildings and parks.
In Matilda, one of her most successful tricks is when she borrows a friend’s talkative parrot and stuffs it up her chimney so that she convinces her family that they have a ghost.
For City Of The Unexpected we hid eParrots on lampposts around the city centre. They called out at passers by, in a parrot voice created by teenagers, and recorded the reactions of the public on an on board camera. Like Harry Hill meets 1984 in the mind of Mr Dahl. In fact, they were motion activated digital insult generators, created by artist Paul Granjon who, assisted by Heledd Watkins, worked with secondary schoolchildren across South Wales and presented an opportunity to engage with pupils as scientists, as readers, as performers and as teenagers.
The sleeping beauty pheasant plan
Danny, Champion Of The World and his father pull off the most daring plan when they poach 200 pheasants in one night by feeding them raisins stuffed with sleeping pills.
For City of the Unexpected, sleeping pheasants magically appeared all around Bute Park, designed by artist Saz Moir and created by primary schoolchildren from schools throughout Cardiff and the surrounding areas with the help of Ruth Stringer. At the Great Pyjama Picnic during City of the Unexpected. children were invited to join a Pheasant Hunt, to help Danny and his father bring the pheasants to our Special Extra Large Poacher’s Model Pram before Mr Hazell was able to find them.
Tanzanian bird project
As part of City of the Unexpected, we were thrilled to work with a group of children from Tanzania who created the most beautiful birds from wood, ankara fabric, beads and found objects. They then developed stories about their birds, which they shared in both English and Swahili, or a wonderful mix of the two.
This was all done in honour of Roald Dahl’s links with Tanzania, where he lived during the 1930s and form part of a shared creative and storytelling process between Wales and Tanzania.
These birds are currently on display at the NTW office. If you have the opportunity, please try to visit them as each bird has a QR code and bitly link attached to it, which will guide you to a fabulous video of the child telling the story of their bird. Otherwise, please follow the link to the stories below.