Hollywood star Matthew Rhys explains the amazing impact the Urdd had on his life
Hollywood star Matthew Rhys has explained the amazing impact that Urdd Gobaith Cymru has had on his life.
The New York-based Welsh actor has paid tribute to the youth organisation as it celebrates its 100th birthday with a world record attempt today.
Rhys said that it has given him “incredible foundation” for his professional career, which includes working alongside the likes of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.
He joined in with the Urdd and people from across the nation as they to attempted an official Guinness World Records™ title by uploading as many videos as possible of individuals, groups and families singing the iconic song, Hei Mistar Urdd, on Twitter and Facebook between 10:45 and 11:45.
Rhys is one of a string of high profile figures, who include footballers Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, opera singer Bryn Terfel, that have credited the Urdd as playing its part in inspiring them in their youth.
The organisation was founded by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards a 100 years ago because he felt there wasn’t enough opportunity to use the Welsh language.
Over four million members have joined since then and it’s nurtured the talents of many in the field of sport, literature and the performing arts.
This morning, Rhys, star of the Americans and Perry Mason, told the Today programme on Radio 4 why the organisation was to close to his heart.
He said: “It’s a youth movement but I think it’s something far more multi-faceted than that.
“It has a membership of about 55,000 young people between the ages of… I don’t even know what the starting age is but its up to the age of 25.
“It basically encompasses any amount of things that any young person would like to do, only that it’s done through the medium of the Welsh language.
“For me personally as an actor, I always felt it was an incredible foundation to what I went and did as a professional career because, for those who do know something about the Urdd, at its core is one of the largest festivals in Europe which happens in the month of May where it’s the enormous cultural competition between young people.
“When I say cultural, it far reaches every element of culture, be it art or dancing or reciting and it obviously goes back to the ancient tradition of the Eisteddfod. For those who know, it was the chairing of poet and they’ve taken it to the youth of Wales, so every May as a young person I would go to whichever part of Wales it was going to be held and compete in various disciplines.
“There are several memories of the Urdd, competing in the Eisteddfod: especially, there are preliminary competitions to see who goes to the stage and then the stage itself where you’re competing in the worst possible acoustic laden places they will throw at you.
“I always say if I’m speaking to any children who’ve been to the Urdd and have any thoughts or dreams about becoming an actor, I say ‘If you can compete in the Urdd and they can hear you, there’s no theatre in the world that they can’t’.
Matthew Rhys added: “What they very shrewdly went about doing was setting up these activity camps which were for me, as a young kid you kind of quiver with the pinnacle of excitement because it was your first time away from home.
“And not just going away from home with all your friends and staying in dorms, you were doing all these incredible thing; like there were motorbikes climbing and sailing. Offering things that would delight any young child in Wales and therefore just asking them to do it in Welsh. They were the real halcyon days of youth really.
“They also do these incredible things like the annual global message of peace that they do every year when they ask the youth of Wales to send these messages of peace around the world.
“I was also attending the Urdd youth club as a young teenager and therefore all the sports that came with that, so they just harnessed what young people wanted to do and presented it for them.
“Back in the early 70s, the introduced a mascot which was a small triangular man called Mistar Urdd and to accompany Mistar Urdd was a very catchy song.
“The Urdd are attempting a Guinness world record of the number of people singing this very famous song called ‘Hei, Mistar Urdd’ of which I myself will be participating and putting it on Twitter, so that’s going to be one of the highlights of today’s centenary celebrations.”
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