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 from the beautiful Welsh language, so head to Maes D (the Welsh learners tent) and have a chat with one of the friendly experts. Even if you don’t manage to perfect your lilt, the Eisteddfod is the place to see native speakers at their finest, with competitions ranging from acting and presentations to solo singers and large choirs, poetry and prose, all delivered in fluent Welsh.
Gorsedd of the Bards
Wales is a country that is proud of its poets, and the National Eisteddfod is the main stage for honouring the best of the best. The Gorsedd of the Bards ceremonies in the main pavilion are unmissable spectacles, and under the leadership of the elected Archdruid the identity of the award-winners across various battles of poetic genius is revealed. The two main poetry prizes up for grabs are the Chair and the Crown, and the winners are honoured with a Floral Dance performed by local children. In 2018 the main pavilion was in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre.
The Gorsedd is made up of ‘bards’, and honours people who have made a substantial contribution to the Welsh language and to Wales. Its main function is to promote the poetry, literature, music and the arts in Wales. Only Welsh speakers can be admitted as members of the Gorsedd, and recent well-known additions include BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, world-famous opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel, former paralympic athlete Dame Tanni-Grey Thompson and actor Matthew Rhys. More recent additions include singer Geraint Jarman and Welsh rugby star Jamie Roberts.
The first Gorsedd ceremony took place in London’s Primrose Hill in 1792 as a concerted attempt to emphasise the Welsh origins of Celtic culture and heritage. Centuries later, the procession remains as impassioned as it was back then – visit any festival in the world and you’ll never see anything quite like this.
Something for the kids
The Science and Technology Pavilion is always a popular draw for the kids, ablaze with experiments, demonstrations and fun and games with a keen eye on taking learning out of the classroom in style. The S4C and BBC Cymru/Wales stands hold daily shows for children, which include appearances by their favourite TV characters, and indeed many of the exhibitors at the Eisteddfod will have child-friendly activities available for the festival’s youngest visitors.
The dance, music and performance tents carry on well into the evening, fuelled by visiting chefs from some of the finest food and drink producers in the land.
Each year the National Eisteddfod attracts around 160,000 visitors, so for genuine Welsh culture, make sure you visit the festival of Wales.
Find out more about the National Eisteddfod of Wales.