Culture

National Eisteddfod ‘too elitist’ and needs to modernise says columnist

12 Aug 2021 3 minutes Read
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Sir Conwy 2019

The National Eisteddfod is “too elitist” and needs to modernise in order to reach a wider audience, according to a columnist.

Writing in Golwg magazine, Huw Onllwyn said that despite visiting every Eisteddfod since the 90s he had not missed the Welsh language festival which had been postponed twice as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that the festival had become “stuck in the past” and needed to “think about what is really of interest to the modern Welsh speaker”.

“Too much time and money is spent on maintaining the old way of doing things rather than exploring more exciting possibilities,” he said.

“Even the main events (such as the Chairing of the Bard) are not relevant to 98% of Welsh speakers. How many of us are really interested in cynghanedd – and read the winning poem?” he asks, referring to a system of alliteration and internal rhyme used in some Welsh poetry.

“It’s too elitist. The only excitement is the part of the ceremony where they announce the name of the winner – and seeing if you recognise the person who stands up.

“There should be a much smaller pavillion for the competitions, and more of a focus on creating an event that is a celebration of our culture.”

‘Colourful’

Instead, he suggests spending more on gigs and other events on the Eisteddfod field, comparing the staging and lighting to a “school disco” or “illegal rave”.

“We should merge Maes B (the music gigs) with the rest of the Eisteddfod field with famous bands, new bands, jazz, country, comedy. Entertainment to be enjoyed!” he said.

“We also need to make better use of technology. We should do away with queuing in the mud for food or drink. You should be able to book using an App – and have staff bring the order to your table. This has worked successfully at Tafwyl.

“We need to change the focus of the festival from the old uninteresting traditions – and focus on celebrating and enjoying an exciting and colourful festival through the medium of Welsh.”

The next National Eisteddfod is planned to take planned in Tregaron, Ceredigion in August 2022. This year a virtual Eisteddfod, Amgen, was held, and the recorded events can be viewed online here.

The current Archdruid, Myrddin ap Dafydd, praised the Amgen Eisteddfod, saying that they had learnt the lessons of last year and extended the coverage from the internet to traditional media such as TV and radio.

“There is work to be done now to see what is worth keeping and developing,” he told Golwg.

“This has always been the spirit of our culture, we survive. We face difficulties and overcome them. In that spirit, we should be very happy with what happened this week.”

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
stuart stanton
stuart stanton
1 month ago

Read my chapter in ‘Culture: raise ‘high, rethink ‘low’ (ed. Emma Buchanan 2020) for a similar view. Came out of an excellently curated and presented Bangor Uni. Conference.
Chapter entitled ‘The national Eisteddfod of Wales: A permanent feature in a changing landscape?’

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

I found Buck House Garden parties a bit elitist for me. I kept tripping over would be “Welsh” OBEs.

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Quornby

OBNs

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Two hundred events and activities seems pretty “fast lane” to me.

Chris Priest
Chris Priest
1 month ago

I am totally in favour of adding to the experience of the Eisteddfod and I accept all the positive suggestions Huw has made here. I feel that his messaging about cynghanedd, poetry and chairing ceremony is a little drastic. It can all exist in perfect harmony but do we really need invasive surgery and amputation at the National? There is a tradition here and it needs to be preserved and maybe augmented. Elitist? To me discos are elitist because, if you can’t dance well, you can’t get the girl! I wouldn’t want to get rid of them though. Lets have… Read more »

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris Priest

Absolutely. Whilst a little traditional to some tastes, cynghanedd etc are USPs of the Eisteddfod. It is one of the reasons they are respected everywhere in the world except England. Ditch those and it just becomes a Welsh Glasto.

Glen Parry
Glen Parry
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris Priest

Well said.

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago

Oh gods of Cymru! Everything the “gut feeling” brigade hate has to be “elitist” now.
There may well be an argument for bringing the Eisteddfod up to date. It’s still incredibly popular, so that might be a challenge. But infantile language won’t help

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Cywir! Try as I might, I can see nothing elitist about eisteddfodau.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago

I don’t see it as elitist at all, it is a great festival of Welsh culture 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Sioned
Sioned
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

-and please do not dilute it to the lowest common denominator!
Mae yn eithaf iawn fel y mae!!

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  Sioned

It is a wonderful festival 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  Sioned

I don’t want to dilute anything.

Glen Parry
Glen Parry
1 month ago

The first step to bring down the Eistedfodd is to change it. Why not just add some music to please the young?

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Parry

No doubt somebody will suggests union flags or GSTQ, or English translations of everything to make it more accessible to Unionists

Shan Morgain
1 month ago

The cynghanedd are at the distinctive core of Welsh culture. They are an incredibly intricate and delicate form of poem which requires disciplined composition of every syllable. They date back 1,500 years, long before any English literature existed. Such a tradition needs to be celebrated with pride. When I went to an Eisteddfod Genedlaethol I felt that pride, I loved the Heddwch! ceremony. A relatively modern construction by Iolo it’s still deeply moving. But cynghanedd and Heddwch! were embedded in a wonderfully diverse event of so many Welsh cultures for all ages. Above all people were KIND and not Cymru snobbish… Read more »

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

Da iawn 😊

Mawkernewek
1 month ago

The Eisteddfod stages being like an “illegal rave”, sounds interesting!

Eva Schenkel Arnott
Eva Schenkel Arnott
1 month ago

It depends on what we mean by ‘elitist’. When I was a student at Cardiff High School for Girls in the’50s, the grandfather of a friend was a coal miner in the Rhondda who was highly respected because he had won the competition to write a hundred-line poem whose first line rhymes with the 100 th and so forth

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
1 month ago

This is a very perculiar perspective. The aim should be to add, not to detract. Add activities that broaden the appeal. Not to disparage the core components of poetry and music.

Personally, I should like to see more of a “fringe” (Edinburgh style) growing around the Eisteddfod.

Alun
Alun
1 month ago

Yes, that’s the point. It needs to be broader, not shallower.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Needs to differentiate between niche and elitist. I find the Eisteddfod very niche but that’s tough on me. I can’t expect those who enjoy it to change just to cater for me or any number of others who are like me. If this niche doesn’t appeal go away and set up something else. You can rest assured that it too will become niche, even elitist, in the fullness of time. Alternatively you could go away and read a book or trek through our countryside.

Alwyn ap Huw
Alwyn ap Huw
1 month ago

Mae’r syniad bod y gynghanedd yn elitaidd ac amhoblogaidd yn lol botas. Mae ornestau Ymryson y Beirdd yn llenwi’r Babell Lên pob dydd, gyda nifer o bobl yn cael gwrthod mynediad oherwydd diffyg lle yn y babell. Mae Talwrn y Beirdd yn parhau i fod yn un o raglenni mwyaf poblogaidd Radio Cymru ac mae llyfrau barddoniaeth Cymraeg yn gwerthu yn well, trwy Brydain, na llyfrau barddoniaeth Saesneg.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 month ago

I’m not sure whether the term ‘elitist’ really carries much currency in the context of yr iaith Gymraeg, and it’s a term overused, often by those who have some kind of grudge against the language: maybe some Cymry di-Gymraeg who have conflicting internal complexes about their own identity and lack of the language.

My own feelings about the Royal Welsh for humans tend to fluctuate in sympathy with and between the sentiments expressed about the festival by fellow Cardis David R Edwards and Caradoc Evans. 😀

Last edited 1 month ago by Padi Phillips
Marc Evand
Marc Evand
1 month ago

Fe welais gyfraniadau Huw Onllwyn ar ‘Am Dro!’ S4C pa noson; i’m tyb i roedd ei agwedd at deithiau cerdded ei gyd-gyfranwyr yn tueddu at y negyddol y tro hwnnw hefyd, gan ymddangos ei fod yn gosod y ‘modern’ (Eingl-Americanaidd) fel y meincnod i’w efelychu o hyd. Fel ‘dysgwr bondigrybwyll’ (tebyg i f’athrawon Tedi Millward a’r diweddar Athro Bobi Jones) dwi’n ymfalchïo nad oes gennyf edefyn o frethyn ‘elît’ yn fy magwraeth na’m cynefin – ond y gwir yw mai’r Mabinogi a’r Hen Ganu (a’r frwydr dros y Gymraeg) a’m denodd at y Gymraeg. Roedd mynychu’r Eisteddfod yn rhan annatod… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.