The Eisteddfod shows that industrious, talented Welsh are capable of anything

The Eisteddfod Maes. Picture by Llinos Dafydd.


Ifan Morgan Jones

The Eisteddfod has come to an end for another year. And once again, it has proven that our culture can match any other in the world for its creative excellence.

I was constantly astounded by the talent on display. It was even more amazing because the Eisteddfod is, in effect, a blank canvass.

The organisers provide a field, erect the buildings, infrastructure, and organise transport.

Everything else is down to the stall-holders, dancers, singers, writers, artists, musicians, poets, and tens of thousands of who flock there every year. It’s a crowdsourced festival.

And every year they put on an amazing show. And it is even more amazing because anyone – if they’re willing to put in the hard work – can contribute.

What struck me this year is that the Eisteddfod is essentially a nation in microcosm. It’s the nation we should aim to build, where everyone has the same shot, and is given a chance to use his or her talents to the benefit of all in the community.

It’s also a nation with a deep sense of where it has come from and where it is going. Wandering the Maes, you could see the original copy of the Mabinogi, Wales’ foundational myths, preserved for the future. During the ceremony of the Chairing of the Bard, the Black Chair won by deceased WWI poet Hedd Wyn was brought on to the stage.

My children sat transfixed as an actor took them through Wales’ history, from independence to rebellion.

The Eisteddfod Maes may have sprung up virtually overnight, but it’s built on the foundations of a culture that goes back thousands of years. And that culture is visible around you in a very tangible way.

But what really makes the Eisteddfod a nation in microcosm is the amazing community spirit that permeates throughout. From bumping into old friends on the Maes, or during a gig, to singing Hen Wlad fy Nhadau in the Pavilion at the end of the day, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself is at times overwhelming.

We live in a world of global connections. But this sense of belonging is something no social network, and no individualistic capitalist ideology, can reproduce. It’s a feeling of belonging to a community that is moving through history, and that your own contribution is simultaneously building on the work that came before and contributing to its future.

The National Eisteddfod is a Welsh language festival, and it’s important that it remains so. But the uniquely Welsh values that the Eisteddfod represents can be a model for the modern nation we want to build for all here in Wales.

We’re lucky that our fathers have gifted us something as great as the Eisteddfod. But we need to take that sense of community, equality, and history out with us, beyond the Eisteddfod Maes and beyond one week in August.

Everyone in Wales, Eisteddfod-goers or no, whatever language they speak, have something to contribute to this national project and need to be given a chance to do so.

If we harness the Eisteddfod spirit all year round, we can stand shoulder to shoulder with any nation in the world.

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  1. Very well said. A pity the BBC does not say something similar.

  2. Amelia Davies

    Excellent – I hope this article reaches as wide an audience as possible ! Ardderchog Ifan.

  3. But isn’t the Eisteddfod, white, elitist and middle class? I understand fully why you would want to big it up in this way and I commend you for that with the language under attack from Sports Direct, the Guardian, the Times and BBC Newsnight et al. However my big beef with the Eisteddfod is that they never offer reductions or concessions to the Unemployed! It’s as if there are no Welsh Speakers who are unemployed. What was it to get in this year? £20.00. How many people from the less well off Welsh Speaking Council Estates like Sgubor Goch or Maesgeirchen attended?
    Ymddiheuriadau for the dissent in the ranks! Despite the ‘waxing lyrical’ the Eisteddfod is still essentially about Competition! Who comes first, who comes second and who comes last! The Eisteddfod spirit all year round, great! But one week of the year is like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic in my humble opinion.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      RBT, on’d oes digon o bobl yn ceisio tynnu Cymru a’r Cymry i lawr? Mae’r erthygl hon yn un hynod o gadarnhaol.

      RBT, are there not enough people tryingg to pulls Wales and the Welsh-speaking Welsh down? This article is remarkably optimistic.

      • Gobeithio Cyfalafwr a Cenedlaetholwr fod fi ddim yn ceisio tynnu Cymru a’r Cymry i lawr yn fy sylwad. Mae digon o bobol yn gwneud hwnna yn barod fel y soniais. Fy cwestiwn syml i ydy “Pam fod na ddim gostyngiad i’r ddi-waith ar Faes y Brifwyl?”

        • Capitalist and Welshnash

          Am reswm syml ac amlwg iawn:

          The Eisteddfod is a festival showing Cymraeg can be a competitive force. It is about sustaining our culture, and politics promoting economic ideologies do not have a place in the celebration of out language.

  4. It amazes me that we haven’t tried to get UNESCO protection for our Eisteddfod. It’s is as important and possibly even more influential than any of these on the list

  5. Cytuno a pob dim onibai y sylw am ein cyn-dadau – angen ychwanegu ein cyn-mamau hefyd. Agree with all except would add our fore-mothers too

  6. Love the article, it is optimistic and encouraging as a positive statement about our culture.

    In response to a rather sad and bitter sounding (not saying you are, okay) RBT, I have been to many, it is not white elitist etc., etc., blah, blah, blah!

    Yes we do live in a country that due to weather conditions we are more towards the paler end of the colour spectrum than if we were raised in sunnier climes. However, the various communities that exist within Cymru are fairly well represented, all are welcome, but at the end of the day it is up to them if they want to join in this national event.

    As for it being a competition, well yes didn’t you realise that?! I have family members from differing parts of our country that have taken part, most of which are from working class areas. They weren’t born with some Anglo-British silver spoon in their mouths. They worked darn hard to appear at this event over the years and still do.

    The winning is nothing to actually taking part. When I hear adults and kids saying we performed at the Eisteddfod they don’t care whether they came first, second or third, nor last – taking part in the whole thing from begining to end, over months, is all that matters.

    You raised a good point about poor areas being unable to go however, they can if they take part! There are means for funding such competitions from beginning to end. Those that cannot should approach the organisers and see how they can make it accessbile to those of lower incomes (where most of us are these days!).

    Don’t just moan, put your mind to more constructive things. Dialogue is good, but the mind is like a parachute, useless unless it is open, to all manner of possibilities!

  7. The article is ‘remarkably’ optimistic and encouraging as a positive statement about our culture but 20.00 quid is 20 quid. Sorry if that sounds like moaning!

  8. Maes Tickets Price

    Adult £20.00
    Pensioner £18.00
    Children 5-15 yrs £8.00

    Unless you are a well off member of the paler end of the colour spectrum you are going to find it quite hard to get the £18.00 together from the State Pension.

    Somebody less patronising than ‘Dai Devon’ please answer my question as to why there are no concessions for the unemployed?

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      If you cannot afford that (which is far less than a typical concert or rugby game by the way), maybe your focus should be using what resources you have to Improve your situation rather than spending it on a festival (as culturally rich as it is) which will not help you reach a state where you are able to support yourself?

      You can call it cuelty, I call it common sense love.

    • I don’t know why there are no concessions for the unemployed, but tickets bought before the end of June were £15.

  9. I was hoping for a less patronising response than from Dai Devon but who knows ‘Capitalist & Welshnash’ might be one and the same. The problem with trying to remain anonymous I suppose.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      It really is a wonderful article. Would be so kind as to repost it next year and to try get it a larger audience in ‘British’ (sorry) newspapers?

      Being conservative and/or capitalist in Wales (especially as a Nationalist) can be difficult because of the hatred engrained within Welsh society towards anything not Left of Centre. For my own safety, anonymity is required, because our country is not mature enough yet to have open political discourse from a patriotically Welsh perspective which encompasses the Left and the Right.

      • I don’t think you need to worry about Conservative/Capitalism I think that it is your patronising and pompous attitude that needs addressing. Maybe they go hand in hand.

        • Capitalist and Welshnash

          Oh dear, yet another unprovoked attack by a fellow nationalist merely because I am not a socialist.

          Do you think capitalists and conservatives will simply vanish after independence? No, we are part of this country.

          • I don’t give a fig if you are a socialist or a member of the Gorsedd y Beirdd

            “If you cannot afford that (which is far less than a typical concert or rugby game by the way), maybe your focus should be using what resources you have to Improve your situation rather than spending it on a festival (as culturally rich as it is) which will not help you reach a state where you are able to support yourself?
            “You can call it cruelty, I call it common sense love.”

            You can call it unprovoked, I call it provoked cariad.

  10. The article encapsulates the vibrancy and dynamism of this year’s Eisteddfod. The author is right to say these elements show what this nation is capable of. We truly could be the best small country in the world if we put our minds to it.

    However, RBT is also right to highlight the Eisteddfod’s big blind spot: it’s apparent unwillingness to acknowledge the realities of life for many ordinary Welsh speakers today.

    £20.00 IS a lot of money to be able to access your own culture.

    Ynys Mon is one of the poorest areas in Wales, but there was no effort made to try and make the Eisteddfod more accessible to those on low incomes here and unemployed people.

    Personally, i would like the Eisteddfod to become less driven by corporate interests, and a need to become bigger and grander each year.

    The fact that the nuclear company Horizon donated so much money to the Eisteddfod+ were allowed to fly their own banners, replicated the exact Eisteddfod colours was very worrying and sinister.

    Rather than pleasing such corporate interests, the Eisteddfod really has to think about concessionary rates to make the event more inclusive for all.

  11. Annwyn Lewis

    The Eisteddfod is once a year and a fabulous event. It is not cheap, but even when you’ve paid £20 to get in you still need to pay for travel, money to buy the lovely crafts on offer, food etc. It is similar in cost to The Royal Welsh, which is another fabulous event (and costly but possibly allowing concessions, I can’t remember) Here are my tips to getting in. Save 50p per week in advance,(yes that only pays for 1 ticket plus a cuppa!), only go once every other year when it’s closest to you, see if you can volunteer and thus get in free. (You can do so at the RW and I got into the Eisteddfod by helping out on a stand.) I cannot answer your question regarding lack of concessions but the cost of a family chinese takeaway is all it is for one ticket in reality and for such a great day get a jar and start saving 50p pieces.

    • Annwyn – You sum it up well. Poverty, even relative poverty, is a serious issue for real. However it can also be used as a distraction.

      I like your simple route in – don’t buy that take away meal for 2 ( or more ), skipping 2 packs of fags would also go a long way. There are umpteen ways of getting 20 sovs together if you are so minded. Go to Cardiff on rugby day and watch low income earners piss it up against the wall and fork out silly WRU prices to watch Brit loyalist rugby XV “performing”. That’s serious waste and would have got you days at the Eisteddfod and Royal Welsh if you wanted them badly enough.

      Would be nice if the Eisteddfod could offer a concession via benefits route but your ideas do offer a way in the meantime.

      As for being white & elitist, what utter bollocks. Any ethnicity can turn up and enjoy, but this again sounds like an Anglo gripe dressed up in some frilly pseudo egalitarian liberal claptrap, so no point responding further to it.

      • Dafis achan, I think you have responded to this just for the sake of it!

        I don’t think you really care whether “Any ethnicity can turn up and enjoy, even though it sounds like an Anglo gripe dressed up in some frilly pseudo egalitarian liberal claptrap, so no point responding further to it”.

        If somebody could possibly respond without bringing their own prejudice and cultural baggage to bear I would be grateful.

        Whilst I appreciate the money management tips it appears that patronising those ‘low income earners’ gives some of you a kick!

        • You don’t think ……. and that’s about the sum total of accuracy in that response, cos you know sweet F.A. about how I see these things. All too often we get Anglos coming up with the old patter it’s not fair on other races but English is O.K cos it’s an international language.

          You are getting to sound like one of those whingers to whom I refer. But there again with your apparent theatrical connection you may be just putting on an act to see how “alternative trolling” works out – so far just keep going to the classes, it needs refining.

  12. STRONGLY AGREE…cytuno’n llwyr……………..there MUST be concessions for the unemployed or less well off working families…WE MUST RECRUIT THEM INTO THE FOLD

    • Edi, say more and prove me wrong. There are some comments on blogs and other sites that resemble your style that make me suspicious of their origin. Tell us more.


  13. Gwych! Fantastic article. The spirit of optmism and belonging was evident as soon as you walked onto the Maes and we should harness this spirit. It was a very emotional experience for me as it was something I have watched from a far all my life but it was the first time I’d ever been to the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol and it really didn’t disappoint. The sense that this was my heritage and my culture was overwhelming. However I was very saddened to hear from more than one family and pensioner in the area that they would have loved to go but couldn’t afford to go with their family. This is tragic when it is on your doorstep. The Eisteddfod does need to address this if they are to be fully inclusive. We are all pobl y werin. This is our shared culture and something that should be assessible for all.

  14. The article is fantastic but I don’t think it actually applies to non-Welsh speaking Wales. Apparently Welsh speakers voted Remain and non-Welsh speakers mostly didn’t. I’m not saying that is the be all and end all, but Cymru Cymraeg is a different political and cultural entity now. I think it’s definitely becoming more confident and industrious.

  15. May I ask if you have research the costs involved in conducting an event such as this one (in 2012 £4million, with only £500,000 of that coming from public funds, the rest is dependent on ticket sales, fundrasing on average £300,000 locally and sponsorships); or looked deeper into the Eisteddfod, the fact that it’s a charity, that any profit made is 100% reinvested into future events. That many of the contestants DO come from less well off areas that may never get a chance to show their talents on such scale again, and are given a chance to win what can be a large amount of money, scholarships and bursaries.
    the whole event organised by only around 20 full time year round staff. All the entertainers need paying, electricity for the Maes and 700 caravans, water, field hire, transport, how many people do you think it takes to build the Maes, to keep everything running with barely or no problems for the week?

    Which part would you want to see cut so you can have your ‘cheaper’ tickets?

  16. “All the entertainers need paying”

    Diolch, at last a representative of the Eisteddfod!

    “Which part would you want to see cut so you can have your ‘cheaper’ tickets?”

    Again this patronising attitude, oh diar!

    Perhaps you might also have a run down of all the salaries of the Eisteddfod staff while you are at it, starting at the top and trickling down?

    • No idea on salaries, but as it’s a charity it’s probably available to the public somwhere or by a quick foi request have a look. I’m not rep of the Eisteddfod but a quick google search brought all the figures i quoted.
      I’m not being patronising just trying to point out that your £20 goes a long way and if you did cut prices then something on the Maes would need to go to compensate.

  17. Hey RBT thanks for the entertainment and although I can’t really disagree with the cause, just your version of it, it is entertaining! Lol!

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