This annual event is by day a stage to experience culture from across the world, and by night host to a star studded line up from across the spectrum – from jazz to indie-rock.
The International Eisteddfod was established in 1947, in an effort to celebrate international peace and the new found friendship across Europe in the difficult post-war era. The small Welsh town of Llangollen in North Wales created a unique combination of cultural performance and competitions for various titles throughout the week.
At the first Eisteddfod, Germany were invited to attend. They received a touchingly warm welcome from the audience, and were introduced as ‘our friends from Germany’. It’s stories like this one, from well before my time that recognise the political situations of history, and reinforce the meaning of the Eisteddfod to this day and its peace-promoting roots.
Fast forward to today and the Eisteddfod still maintains these core values of peace. This year we are welcoming 26 countries to our picturesque home in Llangollen. From Albania to Zimbabwe, Canada to Indonesia and a whole host in between. Reading the list of participants is pretty exciting as your mind drifts off to far away countries such as Cote d’Ivoire or Ghana, whose performers will be on the stage in our hometown in just a few weeks’ time. For me, the costumes are the most exciting part - the colour and meaning behind the traditional dress of the groups is a story in itself. Of course, this is topped with a performance of song or dance which you may never experience again in your lifetime. To say that you walk away feeling a total embrace of culture is an understatement! Whilst many people only come for the evening concerts, I would strongly encourage you to get here early and immerse yourself in the daytime atmosphere. It is a completely unique experience.
Whilst many people only come for the evening concerts, I would strongly encourage you to get here early and immerse yourself in the daytime atmosphere. It is a completely unique experience."
Each evening concert has a different theme in order to offer variety and to appeal to a wide audience across the week. The line-up really is star studded, and because we just couldn’t cut down our options, this year we even have a concert on the Monday evening, totalling seven shows during the week. Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra return to Llangollen this year to kick the week off. Jools is one of the Eisteddfod’s absolute favourites, and his shows in the past have been described as legendary! As a first timer to one of his concerts, to say I am counting down the days would be about right!
Tuesday night’s ‘Classical Gala’ brings some impressive names to Llangollen. Making his Eisteddfod debut, Rolando Villazon is one of the most critically acclaimed performers in the opera-world. Joining him will be two of the best sopranos in the business, Rhian Lois and Charlotte Hoather.
The rest of the week at a glance: Shân Cothi celebrates the music of Wales on Wednesday, whilst MABON celebrate the music of the world in a toe tapping folk and Celtic infused evening on Thursday. A flamenco guitar twist on the Friday, as the Gipsy Kings come to Llangollen - did someone say Bamboléo?! And finally, the prestigious Pavarotti Trophy is awarded to the Choir of the World on Saturday, hosted by Welsh harpist Catrin Finch.
To finish the week in style, on Sunday we change genre completely for what is essentially a separate event- we call it Llanfest! In the blink of an eye Llangollen enters the Indie-Rock world, and this year we have The Fratellis, The Coral, The Pigeon Detectives and Dodgy headlining. In line with the summer festival spirit, we offer boutique glamping, huge varieties of food stalls and outdoor stages. This one day event attracts a much different audience to Llangollen and just shows how innovative and progressive the Eisteddfod is. Follow @Llan_Fest on Instagram for more specific updates and announcements.
As always, I look forward to seeing familiar faces at the Eisteddfod again in July, and even more so we love to see new ones too. The event really is a unique cultural treat, transcending international borders and political situations. With a whole range of talent and stars too, there is something for all ages and backgrounds, and no excuse to not visit Llangollen at least once during the week!