Kate Middleton cut a stylish figure in a recycled floral dress as she joined Prince William to visit Gavin & Stacey’s slot machine arcade in South Wales on Wednesday.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 38, hit the real-life beachfront family attractions made famous in comedy favourite Gavin and Stacey.
The couple laughed as they played in Island Leisure amusement – the iconic setting for ‘Nessa’s Slots’ at the Welsh resort – but the prince, who is pals with James Corden, admitted he had not seen the classic BBC show.
In the hit BBC comedy show, Nessa has a series of odd jobs – including working the slots at the Island Leisure Amusement Arcade along the promenade – which features everything from flashing machines and even a board outside which says, ‘Nessa’s Slots – Come and see what’s occurrin.’
And it seems the invite was enticing for the royals – whose visit to Barry Island has come as businesses in Wales have started to reopen their doors to the public as lockdown measures have started to ease.
Kate typically elegant in the £1,635 designer dress by Emelia Wickstead, which she complemented with a pair of chic tan wedges and a pair of Alia Hoops from SpellsofLove – a small independent jewellery designer based in Wales.
The mother-of-three first donned the pastel blue belted dress, which featured a pink floral pattern, when she opened her Back to Nature garden at RHS Wisley in Surrey in September 2019.
Prince William confessed to never having seen the show while speaking to Marco Zeraschi whose family has owned Marco’s Cafe since 1958, which also features on the BBC hit comedy.
He said: ‘It’s one of the few box sets I haven’t already watched. I’ve never actually watched it. But I know how much it has done for the economy here and it’s a wonderful series.’
The couple fooled around inside iconic Island Leisure amusement where Nessa, played by Ruth Jones, works in the show.
They praised owners Hilary and Andrew Phillips who reopened the attractions for the first time since lockdown today – whose grandchildren Erin Phillips, 5, Hollie Case, 5, and Jamie Case, 7, showed the royals how to play the games in the arcade surrounded by Gavin and Stacey memorabilia.
from Wales gbwls • More to come from The Duke and Duchess’s time in South Wales later today…
The fun park sells souvenirs such as trinkets and tea towels adorned with telly favourite Nessa’s iconic catchphrases ‘What’s Occurring’, ‘Tidy’ and ‘Lush’
After being shown how to play Down a Clown, William said: ‘Very good guys’ – and the couple gave the children a round of applause.
Kate and Prince William hurled balls at the Down the Clown coconut shy-style game after paying one pound a go, and after the bell rang to signal time up, William said: ‘Not bad’
They handed their tickets over for the children to spend and bending down, Kate asked Erin which game they could play next.
The couple then tried their hand at a grab machine and competed side by side in bid to grab a soft toy with a claw.
Delighted Kate gave the thumbs up when she snatched a blue fish, but looked crestfallen when the cuddly toy fell from its grasp.
William fared little better after only catching a plastic toy booby prize, but at one stage he appeared to win a toy – before announcing: ‘I’ve dropped it.’
Andrew Phillips, 59, said: ‘We had a chat about Aston Villa and football. I told him I was a Liverpool fan and he congratulated me on the Premier League win.
‘We talked about the business, this is the fourth generation since my great grandfather in 1946, and said how important it is to be back open both for us as a business but for people to come and have a fun holiday.
‘He asked about the safety measures and we have many signs in place and hand sanitisers. Kate asked if we had been furloughed but we are self-employed. We have received government grants.’
Hilary said: ‘William asked what James Corden and Ruth Jones and what was their connection to Barry Island. We explained James had an ex-girlfriend from Barry Island and Ruth is a local girl from Cardiff.’
Although Kate and Wills failed to win in the grab machine, they did not go home empty handed.
Hillary, 57, added: ‘We have them some stuffed toys for their three children.’
Although the visit was kept secret to avoid crowds, hundreds of holidaymakers flocked to the barricades and waved to the couple, who were more than happy to stop and speak to the well-wishers.
They also heard with Marco, 62, and daughter Mariana, 39, whose family have owned the cafe since 1958, how the attractions are reopening to tourists.
Character Stacey, played by Joanna Page, worked in the cafe in series three.
Marco said: ‘We are so grateful to be fully open but it was always a case of health over wealth. I told the prince we didn’t want to open until it was safe. I take 10 days off a year usually but this year I took off 13 weeks.
‘I told them we have James Corden as prince and Ruth Jones as princess of Barry Island but said I have changed my mind now. They were very charming.
‘He knew about Gavin and Stacey and I’m sure he must have watched the recent Christmas special after his grandmother was on TV.
‘James Cordon has a soft spot for Barry Island and he messaged me during lockdown to ask if everything was all right and if anyone was struggling, He is a very generous man. I said we are struggling but surviving. He has already done so much for Barry Island.’
William and Kate turned down the offer of snacks, but they were given a goody bag of food for the car journey home.
During their visit, the Duke and Duchess heard about the impact that closing has had on the businesses during a typically busy period for the seaside resort, which attracted 424,000 visitors in 2019, and the measures they have put in place to allow them to start reopening in a safe and secure manner.
They visited the beach huts on the eastern end of the promenade which have been installed as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s £6m regeneration project in Barry.
The project has also seen the restoration of the promenade and shelter, and the installation of new public art and entertainment spaces, a climbing wall and water feature.
Nia Hollins, of Vale of Glamorgan Council’s tourism office, told the couple: ‘It’s been challenging but businesses have been brilliant and not giving up. We are making sure measures are in place for Barry Island but it is a partnership.’
William asked if they can protect from Covid-19 when playing on the arcades, and was told that customers are being given hand sanitiser before using the attractions.
Nia added: ‘We need to welcome people but with responsibility.’
The couple also spoke with David Hughes, 42, who rents one of the beach huts with his family.
William called to children: ‘Have you been in the sea yet?’
David said afterwards: ‘They asked about how lockdown had affected everything and we said to have the beach huts means the family can come to the beach and exercise.’
Later, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were left in stitches during a face-to-face meeting with care home residents they had entertained as virtual bingo callers during lockdown.
William and Kate were visiting Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff three months after speaking to staff and residents via video link and calling out the numbers for their weekly bingo session.
Introduced to Joan Drew-Smith, 87, who made headlines in May when she said the royal bingo game ‘wasn’t as good as it should have been’, the Duke said: ‘Hello Joan, do you remember we did the bingo with you? You said we weren’t very good!’
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘You did a b*****y s****y job.’
The royal couple, briefly taken aback by her blunt assessment, roared with laughter, but they got a kinder response from fellow resident Margaret Stocks, 95, winner of the virtual game.
‘I did enjoy it,’ she told them. ‘I hadn’t played it before.’
‘Neither had we!’ replied the Duchess. ‘That’s why we were so bad!’
‘We enjoyed it just as much as you did,’ William added. ‘It was a new experience for us.’
William and Kate both sported masks during the visit to the care home’s garden, making it tricky to make themselves heard at times.
The Duke, who donned a blue fabric face covering, told Joan: ‘We have to wear masks because of the virus, but it’s difficult to hear sometimes when you can’t see someone’s mouth.’
‘Is that your assistant?’ Joan asked him, pointing at Kate.
‘Well I am your assistant,’ laughed Kate, putting a hand on her husband’s shoulder. ‘I have been for a long time!’
The meeting took place in a marquee set up for afternoon team just as the heavens opened.
‘We timed it right!’ said the Duke, who later told staff: ‘I love Joan, she’s brilliant. If only everyone was as honest as her.’
Shire Hall provides residential, nursing and dementia care and is part of Hallmark Care Homes, a family-run care provider with 20 care homes across England and Wales.
Staff spoke about the measures that have been put in place in order to allow the residents to safely receive visits from family members and friends.
Earlier William and Kate met Pamela Davies, 82, and her daughter Sally at the outdoor bar area, where they heard how they had stayed in touch while unable to see each other in person at the start of lockdown.
Sally told them: ‘We just had to adapt and do it all by phone or video calls.’ Mother and daughter also used the Rels App, an app specially developed for Hallmark Care Homes which allows residents and relatives to send each other pictures, videos, music and memories, helping to bring families together when they were unable to visit the home.
‘How are the children?’ Pamela asked.
‘They are very well, thank you,’ said Kate. ‘They were very upset not to have been here with us.’
‘We went to an arcade in Barry Island,’ said William. ‘The children would have enjoyed that.’
Pamela told the royal visitors about Shire Hall, saying: ‘It’s very homely, the people who live here are very nice. The food is good!’
‘Is there a reason we are meeting at the bar?’ asked the Duke?
‘Mum does like a little tipple on special occasions,’ Sally told him and he laughed on hearing that her drink of choice is John Smiths bitter.
At one point the breeze set off wind chimes nearby and Pamela told them she couldn’t hear.
‘The masks don’t help,’ replied William.
‘I always get told off for mumbling anyway,’ laughed Kate, ‘and now with masks on you can’t see anyone’s mouth.’
As they moved on to meet more residents, they wished Pamela a happy birthday for August 18 and the Duchess added: ‘Sorry for our poor bingo skills!’
The couple also chatted to Arthur Hobbs, 86, and his wife Brenda, 79, who is a resident at the home.
Husband and wife were unable to see each other in person for nearly four months, but can now meet in the garden for 30 minutes at a time at least once a week.
‘It must have been so hard during lockdown not having that face-to-face contact,’ the Duchess sympathised.
Told they had been to Barry Island, Arthur asked: ‘Did you have a paddle in the sea?’
‘No, we didn’t bring our bathers!’ replied the Duke. ‘Next time!’