Visiting the 2005 Welsh Eisteddfod

As a Welshman born and brought up in England I never learned to speak Welsh as a child (even though both my parents came from Welsh speaking families). A number of years ago, however, I decided I would learn, even though I was living in Melbourne, Australia. It has been a slow process but it has been fun and more and more it has opened up the culture of my ancestors to me and allowed me to enter into and appreciate the beauty of it's poetic and musical language.

The next few pages describe some of my experiences at the Welsh National Eisteddfod. Never having been before I decided that it was time for me to it even if it was for only a day. I took an English friend of mine, who was interested in seeing what makes the Welsh tick.
Every year the staging of the National Eisteddfod is alternated between the North and the South of Wales. This year it was the turn of the North and it was held just outside Bangor. The first thing to do then was to drive through the rugged Welsh mountains to get there. From Porthmadoc, where we were staying we drove up through the centre of Snowdownia, With Yr Eryri, the Eagle's Nest on our right and smaller peaks, rushing rivers and deep lakes on our left we eventually came out of the mountains onto the coastal plain at Caernarfon and from there towards Bangor.
The National Eisteddfod of Wales is one of Europe's largest competitive cultural festivals, annually attracting over 160,000 visitors. The Eisteddfod is organised into a number of fields or `maes' witha different focus for each maes. In 2005 the setting was the Faenol; a beautiful estate, parts of which are National Trust parkland. It nestles alongside the Menai Straits with the foothills of Snowdonia looming from the opposite direction.
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The 3,500 seat pavilion is the focal point of the festival where competitions in music, dance and the spoken word take place.

During the week local and National Newspapers show the Eisteddfod results, just like they would the Olympics.
The first part of the Eisteddfod's constitution is that it is a Welsh festival, which means that everything is done within the Welsh language.

An Archdruid is elected each year to preside over the procedings and a bard (poet) is also crowned after competing for the crown. As well there are numerous other cultural categories that are competed for.

At the Eisteddfod there's a theatre, an arts and crafts exhibition, a literature pavilion, a Welsh learners centre, a science and technology exhibition and the largest travelling visual arts exhibition in the UK, as well as over 300 trade stands and exhibitors.