The BBC needs to stop sniping at the Eisteddfod
Once again there are people tediously arguing that the National Eisteddfod’s ‘Welsh-only’ rule should be abandoned and that the festival should allow people to compete in English.
For some reason, it’s the BBC that seems to pick at this scab year after year. And not a year seems to go by without some sort of manufactured hit-job on the eve of the festival.
It’s hard to stay mad at the BBC because their coverage of the Eisteddfod during the week is second to none. They forget about the criticism and it’s clear that their presenters are enjoying themselves.
But having to man the barricades again every year is bloody tedious. I love the Eisteddfod, but I wish I could do so without being made to feel like a bad person.
So, let’s just get it out there once and for all:
The Eisteddfod is a festival about Welsh-language culture. Just like the Brecon Jazz Festival is a festival of jazz and the Royal Welsh is a festival about farming.
It’s not an attempt to exclude anyone. That’s just what the festival is. It’s its USP.
What if I argued that the Brecon Jazz Festival excludes people who don’t like jazz, and that it should feature more Death Metal? Would the BBC give me air time?
What about if I made the case that the Royal Welsh should become a vegetarian festival? Would my opinion be taken seriously?
No. It seems that the National Eisteddfod is the festival whose raison d’être comes under this relentless barrage of criticism every year.
You could argue that the National Eisteddfod would be much more successful if it were to become more accessible to non-Welsh speakers.
But you’d be wrong. The truth is that the Welsh-only rule is the key to the Eisteddfod’s success.
If the language rule was abandoned, the National Eisteddfod would just become a pretty mediocre English festival.
Just like hundreds of English-language festivals already in existence.
There are over 20 other high-profile festivals in Wales every year, but the National Eisteddfod is the only one that is specifically a Welsh-language event.
Do you want an Eisteddfod where you can watch performers from every country under the sun compete in a variety of languages? That’s the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, in the first week of July.
Take away the Welsh language and nothing particularly exciting would happen at the National Eisteddfod that doesn’t already happen in hundreds of other festivals every year.
See: You can’t even attack the festival from a quasi-logical liberal perspective. From a business POV, the case for keeping the Welsh-only rule is watertight.
The only reason hundreds of thousands of people visit every year is for their yearly dose of Welsh language culture.
The Eisteddfod is the heartbeat that keeps the blood of the Welsh-language culture circulating for another year. Let’s keep it as it is.
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Spot on. It will be a wonderful year where such bigotry is not indulged. I would call it bigotry rather than criticism as there is no sense or substance to it. We need to be proud of anything done through the medium of Welsh, and proud of those who maintain this tradition. It would be good to see positive english-language coverage of this event by the BBC. They should be building bridges of understanding so that people with no Welsh know why it’s so important to keep it as it is.
Absolutely right. If you want multi-lingual singing, Llangollen International Eisteddfod is the place.
Da Iawn couldn’t agree more!
Diolch. This annual existential debate about the Eisteddfod is draining and exhausting. It is already welcoming and steps are made every year to facilitate learners and even people who are not learning or speaking Welsh at all, but want to visit. Leave the competitions alone!
When people feel they can access a minority culture through a majority language, it gets dangerous. People in Scotland talk about how having bits and pieces of Gaelic in English-language films and the like will magically “inspire people to learn the language” who wouldn’t otherwise do so (because they wouldn’t go to something that was all Gaelic) but all it does in practice is make them feel like they’ve had some kind of Gaelic experience, or that they can enjoy Gaelic culture without ever needing to understand it. The numbers of people who have actually learnt Gaelic to fluency because… Read more »
It is a very staid festival though and doesn’t have much appeal for first Language Welsh speakers like me.
Rhydd i bawb ei farn, ac i bob barn ei llais. Dwi’n mwynhau’r Steddfod!!
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I enjoy the Eisteddfod!
Have you attended recently?Seems you’re out of touch.The Eisteddfod has a new,progressive and exciting programme.
But that’s part of the problem. There are so few arenas where Welsh speaking people can express themselves in Welsh without having to consider English speakers. Let’s face it, this is Wales, our own country, and we have a right to our own institutions in our own language without having to justify it on any other grounds than it is a fundamental human right of expression. If people have no interest, then that’s fine, but if they have any genuine interest whatsoever, then they can learn Welsh and then be able to fully understand. I don’t see why Wales should… Read more »
If you think the Eisteddfod is staid and unappealing Meleri, then by all means voice your ideas to change that at least, if not participate/campaign to get the things that you’d like to see included. However, all of that is a completely separate issue to the one discussed in this article, which is rebutting calls for the Eisteddfod to be anglicised. To anglicise it would be to fatally erode it’s very purpose and spirit. Actually, in my experience, nowadays the Eisteddfod has a great deal to hold the interest of just about anyone, including much contemporary/edgy stuff of interest to… Read more »
The comparison with Brecon Jazz is an interesting one. The festival did indeed try to broaden its appeal at one stage by stretching the definition of the jazz genre ton include some pop and soul, and the result was an increase in casual attendees and a decrease in purists, resulting in no net gain, a continuation of financial problems and, on top of that,a crisis of identity. The eisteddfod (both the concept and the National Eisteddfod of Wales itself) is Wales’s and Welsh language culture’s great gift to the world. What would be the purpose of diluting that gift to… Read more »
As ever: short, to the point and spot-on correct! Well said!
glad to join you
When I was younger I did the circuit of Eisteddfodau singing Solo Starting with the Urdd and eventually progressing to the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, I’ve also sung in choirs on the stage and it helps build a persons confidence and character. I retaught myself to speak Welsh as I was brought up in England from 4/11 and couldn’t speak English when we arrived! So I found that singing in Welsh helped me speak it and I’m now fairly fluent for a Cardi
Ond mae pobl yn codi’r cwestiwn bob blwyddyn. Anwybyddu nhw o hyn ymlaen felly ia? Ond wedyn chaiff erthyglau fel hyn yn amddiffyn y rheol a cholbio’r gwrthwynebwyr byth moi cyboeddi eto! Plus ca change…..
I am convinced that there are some people in the BBC Wales establishment, either home grown or planted from London, who see it as their function to attack the Welsh Language at every possible occasion. They are the ones who pick on any minor dispute and inflate it and also ensure that there is barely a mention of Welsh language events on BBC Wales. At the turn of the 20th century English was allowed in competitions and there was a decline in the popularity of the Eisteddfod – it was only the advent of the Welsh only rule that restored… Read more »
This is correct Dewi – the BBC’s new charter under the Tories main raison d’etre is to keep the union together. Having a population who have an independence of mind and independence of language roaming in their backdoor is seen as a obstacle to total homogeneity and uniformity. That’s why I just don’t watch bbc wales, it just too obvious and transparent. BBC Cymru are also constrained by the charter, less obvious, but also transparent.
Totally agree. The main challenge to the Eisteddfod is for it to appeal to a large number of Welsh speakers who never attend or listen to any of it’s activities. There is a perception , that it is a middle class institution. That is wrong, and dangerous for the future of the language.The Welsh rule should stay. The challenge is to broaden the language’s appeal not only to non speakers, but more importantly to those who allready speak it.
Eisteddfod isn’t for everybody. Ok, no problem. I hate tennis so I don’t go to Wimbledon. I like squash. Do I bemoan the fact that Wimbledon is racquet-ist and should have equal coverage of squash too? I could learn tennis but am too lazy, much easier to stick with squash and have a dig at tennis at every turn. I’m going to get the BBC to argue the case…
As a Welsh learner, any dilution of the Welsh only rule would destroy my interest in, and my challenge during, my attendances at the Eisteddfod.
Mae’r Eisteddfod yn cynnig cyfle gwych, unigryw bron i ddysgwyr ymdrochi yn yr iaith. Heb y rheol Cymraeg fasai apêl yr ŵyl yn diflannu i nifer fawr o bobl. Wedi deud hynny, yn fy mhrofiad i o ymweld cyn i mi ddysgu’r iaith, mae’r Eisteddfod yn ymdrechu rhoi croeso i ymwelwyr di-Gymraeg, ac i gynnig teclynau cyfieithu/pamffledi dwyieithog a ballu.
They just want to clamp down on welsh culture – we can’t have a sense of cultural identity if everything is just english, right?
I am not a Welsh speaker but enjoy the eisteddford keep it Welsh speaking only been many times when down south
I think it would still be a pretty good festival (to say it would become mediocre in a different language does suggest that it’s pretty mediocre as it is) but it is, as you say, a Welsh-language festival – it’s part of Welsh-language (any by extension Welsh) culture just as Reading and Leeds festival or the Oxford Shakespeaker festival, to give two random examples, are part of English-language/English culture. It’s a very valuable thing that we should be proud of – we have a major cultural event that belongs to us and we can be part of and enjoy and… Read more »
Largest youth festival in Europe – not bad for a dying language. Second most used minority language on Twitter, again not bad…The language is so dead, I use it on all my iphone settings, windows settings, Office 2016. I choose to use a machine in a shopping market because it speaks to me in Welsh. McDonalds even gets in on it. These dying languages, they just won’t die, so they evolve and are embraced in technology, and they live on.