Yesterday was the first day of the National Eisteddfod of Wales. What’s that long line of consonants, you ask? An Eisteddfod is a competitive cultural festival held in a different location in Wales each year. It runs for a week, and celebrates Welsh music, literature and visual arts. The first Eisteddfod can be dated back to the 12th century, but the festival has since been modernised and can be considered a modern day symbol of Wales, as well as a long running Welsh tradition.
There are three types of Eisteddfod held during summer each year. The first to be held is Eisteddfod yr Urdd, which is for youngsters aged 7-24. The second is the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. That’s right, international. If you think Leicester is a multicultural city, you should see the small town of Llangollen in July. Thousands of competitors from across the world come to exhibit their traditional folk music and dance. The National Eisteddfod is the third and final to be held, and is open to competitors of all ages across a wide range of disciplines. The most important event of the week is the Chairing of the Bard. Participants are asked to submit poetry written in strict metre form known as cynghanedd. I studied this at school and believe me, it’s tough! Anyway, there’s a big ceremony and the winner is announced by their nom de plume, so there’s complete anonymity. A sad history surrounds this event as a young poet named Hedd Wyn won the chair after having been killed in battle during WWI. His nom de plume was called and of course, no one stood up. The chair was then covered in a black sheet and sent to his family home. On a lighter note, the first woman to win this award was Mererid Hopwood in 2001, and she has since become a renowned figure in Welsh literature.
This year the festival is being held in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, but the organisation has had some funding issues and was subsequently unable to reach the proposed target of £300,000. For this reason, the local council had to step in and donate £100,000 towards the event. Monmouthshire Council firmly believe this is an ‘investment well made’ as the Eisteddfod celebrates Wales and the Welsh language, but also promotes Monmouthshire. According to an article published by the BBC, ‘as much as £6m will be spent in local economy during Eisteddfod week’. However, the latest Census revealed that only 9% of Monmouthshire locals are Welsh speakers, which raises concern over how the predominantly Welsh language festival will be supported by locals this week.
#steddfod16 is currently trending on Twitter.