ADVENTURES IN A TUK TUK MEETS CAPTAIN BEANY
A TRUE LIVING SUPER HERO
If you don’t think it’s possible to get excited about beans, you’ve clearly never been to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence in Port Talbot, Wales. The museum is filled with memorabilia celebrating canned baked beans, but the legume-loving “superhero” in charge of it all may be the most intriguing attraction.
When I new I was heading to south Wales, a visit to Port Talbot was top of my list. For there hidden away is a gem of a tourist attraction. half a mile from the beach is the baked bean museum of excellence. https://www.facebook.com/15672901911/
Captain Beany is a modern day super hero. He’s raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity from running multiple marathons to holding the world record for sitting a bath of beans for 100 hours
He was sponsored by the bean when he had his head tattooed with beans raising more money.
In the middle of a purpose built housing estate, in one of the four storey high flats which lie in the shadow of the town’s steelworks, sits one of Port Talbot’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Sandfields Estate, a densely populated community largely made up of social housing is not a magnet for visitors – but it is home to one of South Wales’ most eccentric characters.
Barry Kirk was born in 1954 and has spent the majority of his life on the estate, previously working in the computer department of the BP chemical plant in nearby Baglan.
In 1991 things changed.
He changed his name by deed poll to Captain Beany. He began painting his face and bald head orange (later even getting it tattooed), donned a golden cape, pants, gloves and boots and began living his life as a fundraising superhero from Planet Beanus, raising thousands of pounds for good causes.
Then, in late January 2009 he opened his own home to the public, calling it Captain Beany’s Baked Bean Museum Of Excellence
Over a decade later and the museum is the fourth highest rated attraction in Port Talbot according to TripAdvisor, sitting proudly behind Margam Park and Aberavon Beach.
Reviews describe it as “a genuinely brilliant experience” and “the place that you are going to have to visit when you’re in Port Talbot”
TripAdvisor has given the museum a five star certificate of excellence.
I decided to visit the third floor, two bedroom flat, for myself in my tuk tuk
The museum sits in inconspicuous surroundings
Flint House, Sandfields, Port Talbot
Visitors have to ring the doorbell and are then greeted by their host
Captain Beany personally welcomes guests
The kitchen is a highlight of the tour
Visitors are then taken into the bathroom
Most artifacts can be found in the living room
A trip to the museum begins by pressing the intercom button of Flint House. Then a voice answers.
“Just a second and I will bean you up.”
The tour opens in one of two bedrooms, transformed into a reception area containing press cuttings, photographs and memorabilia from over 30 years of wacky stunts and charity fundraising.
“My baked bean obsession started off 31 years ago, under my former name of Barry Kirk,” the 63-year-old says.
“I wanted to create some kind of world record and I was inspired by Roger Daltrey on a Who album cover, The Who Sell out
“Each member of the band was promoting some kind of product and the iconic Roger Daltrey lay in a bath of baked beans.
“I’m a big Who fan and I thought, if it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me.
“I would love to invite him here and tell him he converted my life into that of Captain Beany.”
The tour, continues.
“I started raising money for charity in 1986 and have raised around about £100,000 since then for various local, national and international charities.
“What has kept me going is my passion for running. You could say I’m a runner bean. I’m always into crazy stunts. If you look at the top of my head, I’ve had that tattooed for charity.”
Things to see
Rare items are on display
His collection of baked bean related artefacts grew out of his emerging celebrity.
“Someone said they wanted to do a photoshoot and asked if I had anything at home that portrayed my personality.
“So I started collecting baked bean cans. Initially, it was just an obsession.”
As his collection grew – he has around 500 items on display – he realised he would need to allocated more space.
“I took over the tenancy after my mother passed away and, to get over my bereavement, I thought I would make this museum.
“I live alone and have been a bachelor all these years.
“I had shelf units installed professionally by a shop fitter and started collecting little bits and pieces from eBay.
“You can pick something up for a couple of bob on eBay and the priciest item I have is a Heinz baked beans toy, made in the 1960s, that cost me £250.
“You can get something as small as a thimble to a tin advertising sign, that cost me £200.
“People also donate things to me and Heinz gave me some great little bits and pieces.”
The contents of the museum is insured for around £10,000.
“Some of the items are so unique, you wouldn’t think they existed.
“One of them is a bed warmer. My favourite item is a baked bean pot, transported from America, converted into a lamp, and it was used to cook baked beans.
“I’m still on the look out for new stuff, every time I go on eBay and type in Heinz baked beans there is always something.
“The last item I had was a soup warmer, 1960s with Heinz baked beans on it.”
In fact Heinz are in regular contact with their unofficial ambassador.
“They always acknowledge me and thank me for putting them on the proverbial map.”
That said, he does not discriminate between brands.
“It’s not just Heinz but every genre of baked beans. I’ve bean all over the world. I have some Boston baked beans from the USA, I’ve got Cross and Blackwell, HP, Branston, Van Camp; I’ve just been picking up these bits and bobs and stacking them on the shelves.
“The Holy Grail is to have my own brand, Captain Beany’s Baked Beans!”
The main attraction is the host himself
The museum was officially opened by comedian, writer and presenter Danny Wallace as part of a TV series featuring Britain’s most oddly unique attractions.
“It was officially opened in 2009 by Danny Wallace and, consequently, he’s patron of the museum.
“He was doing a programme called Britain’s Weirdest Wacky Museums.”
On the success of his tourist attraction, he adds: “Who would have thought? You have this vast expanse of Margam Park and Aberavon beach and then there’s this nice little hideaway of a baked bean museum. It’s amazing.
“It’s open to all ages and open all year around but people have to contact me first because I’m obviously out of the flat sometimes.
“I charge £10 due to the fact that they get a promotional Captain Beany doll with a fridge magnet to show that they have been here.
“They ring the buzzer, I bean them up and initially introduce myself and welcome them to my museum of excellence.
“We make our way to the reception area, they sign the book, and then I tell them all about why I’m Captain Beany and what I’ve done in the past and what I’ve done for charity and everything.
“I then introduce them to the Haricot Hall Of Fame before going into the Heinz kitchen, where they take photographs of me eating beans on toast.
“Then we go into Branston bathroom, where people can hold the bog brush and have their picture taken sat on my throne, before finishing off in the museum of excellence room.
“They are here for about an hour and walk away full of beans. Then they head off to the Gower.”
He has had visitors from Hong Kong, America, Ireland and Pontypridd!
“Over half are from abroad. They want to visit south Wales and go on Trip Advisor see we have this beautiful park, Margam Park, Aberavon Beach and this little gem, the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence.
“I’m hoping that next year, with the 10th anniversary in January 2019, Danny Wallace will come back and re-initialise the museum and celebrate our first decade