Held during the first week of August every year, the National Eisteddfod is a celebration of Welsh arts, language and culture. The setting changes each year, alternating between north and south Wales.
Although primarily a competitive event, the festival element has particularly grown in recent years and now mirrors some of the best festivals in the UK. Glitter now sits side by side with the Gorsedd.
As the Eisteddfod’s reach and appeal widens beyond the Welsh language community, here are ten things new visitors shouldn’t miss on the maes (the name of the festival site!)
The 1,700-seated pavilion is still the festival's focal point and is the main stage for honouring the best of the best. Some of Wales’ leading writers, musicians and poets take to the stage, with competitions ranging from acting and dancing to solo singers and large choirs, poetry and prose, all delivered in Welsh. Simultaneous translation services are available for non-Welsh speakers and learners. After-dark, expect star-studded theatre shows, cabaret and orchestral pop gigs.
Mas ar y Maes
An innovative partnership between the LGBTQ+ community, Stonewall Cymru and the Eisteddfod. The varied programme of events includes Q&As, performances and readings - from light entertainment to deep discussions. Highlights include Pink Party: This is Ballroom presented by the Welsh Ballroom Community and Qwerin - a queer take on folk dancing.
Gorsedd of the Bards
The Gorsedd of the Bards ceremonies in the pavilion are unmissable spectacles. Under the leadership of the Archdruid, the identity of the award-winners in certain top categories is revealed with the backing of the Druids, all dressed in white, blue or green robes – indicative of their various ranks. The two main poetry prizes up for grabs are the Chair (Cadeirio) and the Crown (Coroni), and the winners are honoured with a range of performances, including a floral dance performed by local children. Yes, it’s as fabulously far-out as it sounds!
Maes B is the after-dark little brother of the Eisteddfod aimed at a younger audience. A stone's throw from the main site the best Welsh pop, rock, indie and hip hop bands and DJs take to three stages to perform until 3:30am. Adwaith, HMS Morris, Breichiau Hir and Eädyth are only a few of the past performers. This is the pinnacle performance for many Welsh bands, and for many youngsters, this will be their first experience of live music and late-night festival fun.
The Welsh language
You don't have to be a Welsh speaker to enjoy the Eisteddfod, but you’ll never get a better chance to learn and practice a few phrases, so head to Maes D (D stands for Dysgwyr, which means learners) and have a chat with one of the friendly experts. Simultaneous translation of all the main Pavilion events and many of the events around the maes is also available free of charge.
Over 20 stages are dotted around the maes. From Y Babell Lên (literature) to Theatr y Maes (theatre productions), Tŷ Gwerin (folk music) to Encore (opera and classical) there’s entertainment for everyone. But one of the busiest and liveliest areas will always be Llwyfan y Maes. Because it stages over 60 of Wales’ best artists and bands? Or because it’s next to the bar? A bit of both maybe!
Welsh Food and Drink
Keep the kids entertained at Pentre Plant - the children’s area curated to encourage children to use their imagination. Adventures include tug of war, den building and street theatre performances. The Science and Technology Pavilion is always a popular draw for kids too, full of experiments, demonstrations and games with a keen eye on taking learning out of the classroom. In fact, most of the tents have some provision for entertaining the kids while you sit back, relax and enjoy a paned (cuppa).
Y Lle Celf is a national celebration of visual arts and architecture and an important platform for the industry. It’s the biggest contemporary art exhibition in Wales and some of Wales’ leading artists have won here including Elfyn Lewis and Shani Rhys James. Hundreds of trade stands and stalls also exhibit on the maes including many crafters who display and sell their work at Artisan.
Getting the show on the road
One of the best things about the Eisteddfod is the fact that it’s a touring festival. Therefore, every year there’s an opportunity to take a break from the maes and explore a different, unique part of Wales that’s been dressed to the nines in red, green and white. The Eisteddfod is to a large extent funded by the hosting communities, with businesses, residents, schools, community groups and the likes all coming together to raise funds to contribute towards the spectacle. Getting out and about to explore and give back to the local area is therefore a crucial part of the experience.
Find out more about the National Eisteddfod of Wales: