Giant eels and King and Queen Neptune welcomed thousands of happy people to enjoy a fantastic free weekend at the National Marine Aquarium on 18 and 19 March, organised by the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park for the people of Plymouth as a thank you and to celebrate achievements over the past year.
Over 3,700 tickets were distributed to targeted community groups through the Marine Park Rangers and Gateway Hubs: Mount Batten Centre, Mount Edgcumbe, Plymouth Active and the National Marine Aquarium. A further 2,900 tickets were won via a public ballot, which saw over 9,000 entrants in the lead up to the weekend.
The event was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Sue Dann and Roger Maslin, CEO of the Ocean Conservation Trust. Guests were treated to a theatrical display led by the Barbican Theatre and lots of marine themed activities including face painting. Stilt walkers, King and Queen Neptune, presided over their marine kingdom throughout the weekend, whilst visitors were encouraged to watch their favourite aquatic wildlife feast during punctuated feeding times.
Throughout the open weekend, the team behind Plymouth Sound National Marine Park were on hand to gather feedback from visitors as part of the public consultation to inform future plans.
To help promote sustainable travel to the event, Plymouth City Bus provided free bus rides for children (under 16) with an accompanying fare-paying adult. Although the free service was aimed at those who were lucky enough to secure free tickets, others were able to use the offer throughout the weekend to visit the wider National Marine Park.
Ahead of the open weekend, the Gateway Hubs – Mount Edgcumbe, National Marine Aquarium, Mount Batten Centre, and Plymouth Active, were each asked to nominate an individual who goes above and beyond at their organisation to become a winner of a golden ticket experience. Each nominee was rewarded with a golden ticket to experience the snorkel at the aquarium activity at the National Marine Aquarium across the weekend.
Councillor Pat Patel, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture, Leisure and Sport at Plymouth City Council said: “We are delighted that we could offer so many tickets for free, so that the people of Plymouth could enjoy time together learning about our National Marine Park. It was an exciting weekend for everyone involved.”
Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Tudor Evans OBE, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for the people of Plymouth to play an instrumental part in the next five years of the National Marine Park.”
The Plymouth Sound National Marine Park Horizons Project has been made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, with £9.5 million funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The open weekend took place during National Lottery Open Week, which provides offers to National Lottery players as a thank you for their support helping to fund good causes.