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.