Last week we went to the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Llandow, in the Vale of Glamorgan. We were invited as guests of the Principality Building Society which was very nice. 🙂 The Principality is Wales’ largest mutual building society and is the main sponsor of the National Eisteddfod choral competitions.
The Eisteddfod is a cultural festival and is held annually in Wales. Its location alternates each year between north and south Wales and is normally held at a new site each time. This year Llandow between Cowbridge and Llantwit Major was chosen.
The Eisteddfod is held on the ‘Maes’ which is home to a big pink Pavilion and up to three hundred stands and exhibits. The Pavilion is the focus of competing and ceremonies during the week long event. The whole festival takes place in the Welsh language but it welcomes visitors from all nations and speaking all languages.
A central part of the ceremonial part of the Eisteddfod is the Gorsedd of the Bards. As the Eisteddfod site says…
The Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain has a long and interesting history dating back to the end of the eighteenth century.
Iolo Morganwg, an academic, originally from Llancarfan in Glamorgan, created the Gorsedd, and this happened on Primrose Hill, London in 1792. Iolo Morganwg believed that the fact that the culture and heritage of the Celts belonged to the Welsh was a fact which needed emphasising, and he believed that the creation of the Gorsedd was the perfect vehicle to reflect this.
The Gorsedd of the Bards is used as a way of recognising people’s contribution to Wales in different ways: white robes are awarded to people who have won the National and Urdd Eisteddfod’s main competitions and as the Eisteddfod site says…
…those who have succeeded in the fields of Law, Science, Sports, Journalism, Media, local / national activities become Honorary Druids – Blue robes for their services to the nation. The Gorsedd also honours new members to the Green robes for their contribution to the arts. Those who have succeeded in the Gorsedd examination or are eligible because of their degree in literature, music, drama or art, also receive the Green robes, as will the winner of the Osborne Roberts Memorial Prize every year and the winners of the Urdd Crown and Chair.
We visited the Eisteddfod on the Monday. It was a heavily cloudy day with some rain. The Eisteddfod like any open air festival can be dogged by poor weather but we were lucky to avoid the worst of the rain. We were one of the few people there who actually walked to the site but we did hear that the carpark was exceptionally muddy. We saw the Gorsedd procession which was meant to convene at the Gorsedd stones outside, but due to the poor weather it was convened inside one of the pavilions. This was a shame as we could only watch it on a TV that we found in the BBC tent. We are still a little confused as to what was going on and why 🙂
The iconic pink pavilion was a little unwelcoming – it was unclear as to what was on, whether we could just go in, or whether you needed a ticket. The entry doors were all shut and of darkened glass so it was hard to tell exactly where to go. So we didn’t go in, which was a shame.
We spent the rest of our visit touring around the huge number of exhibit tents. There were a huge number of different exhibits which seemed dominated by Welsh educational institutes advertising their courses. There were also a large number of craft tents selling their wares that we found really interesting.
The Eisteddfod also has an excellent food complex – there was a huge range of different vans selling different types of food to cater for all tastes, though all menus were in Welsh only which could be confusing to overseas visitors or non-Welsh speakers. There was a large area of covered seating which was great to get out of the rain for a while!
Towards the end of our visit we went to the Principality’s exhibit tent which was really interesting. The BBC Wales team were using their veranda as a broadcast studio so there were a few TV celebs there including “Derek the Weather”. Inside we were treated to tea and cake and I had a chance to hold the rugby 6 Nations Cup which was fun. We were well looked after by Geraint. Many thanks to their hospitality.
In summary we really enjoyed going, and it’s well recommended for a day out. I would advise to prepare well in advance especially if you are not Welsh speaking. We should have found out more as to what was on that day and also more about the history of the Eisteddfod and the Gorsedd. If we had prepared more in advance then we could have planned our day around events that were on in the Pavilion.
Next year Eisteddfod 2013 will be held at Kilford Farm near Denbigh during 3rd to the 10th August. The entry fee this year was £17 per person for a day though discounts are available for groups and familes.
Click on any photo for a larger version.