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Our first drowning prevention visitor centre opens on Barry Island

The RNLI’s Barry Island Visitor Centre officially opened on Friday 31 March, with Mayor of Barry, Councillor Charlotte Williams and RNLI Trustee Sonia Modray cutting the ribbon. Invited guests were then given a glimpse at its range of interactive displays and activities aimed at keeping the public safe in and around local waters.

Barry Island's new visitor centre

Greg Sigston

On Saturday 1 April the centre opened its doors to the public for the first time, ahead of the anticipated 20,000 – 30,000 visitors the centre hopes will drop in over the summer. Barry Island’s latest addition is one of only two RNLI visitor centres in the UK that isn’t at a lifeboat station and is the first of its kind in being a prevention-led visitor centre aimed specifically at reducing drowning and incidents around the local coastline.

Delivering location specific safety advice is important as it will help to really connect with the community and build on the great work already being done in the area by Barry Dock Lifeboat station volunteers and our lifeguard teams.

In the heart of Barry Island, the new facility will be a fun way for the local community and visitors to engage with us and receive vital education on water safety. The centre will allow children to find out what it’s like to be an RNLI lifeboat crew member as they hop inside a D-class inshore lifeboat to hear inspirational rescue stories from volunteers and race against the clock to kit up in time for an emergency lifeboat launch. Spot the danger games will also equip young people with the skills to identify hazards like rip currents while learning about the specific dangers around Barry Island.

Julie Sanby, RNLI Visitor Experience Manager, said:

‘Many of the families who visit Whitmore Bay don’t have a lot of coastal experience. We hope families who visit the centre will learn key safety tips and be better equipped to enjoy the area’s beautiful coastline safely and know what to do if they do get into trouble.’

After successes in fundraising and heritage, this is an exciting move for the RNLI as the new Visitor Centre provides a great opportunity to expand on our education element, influence behaviour and teach people how to stay safe by the water. Seeking innovative ways to save more lives, this comes as part of a growing commitment to drowning prevention and is key to achieving our goal of halving drowning in the UK and Ireland by 2024.