Plans afoot for Urdd Eisteddfod to have its own permanent site
A review is under way to consider the benefits of a fixed location for the Welsh-language youth festival. Anna Lewis reports
Apermanent site for the Urdd Eisteddfod is being seriously considered, it has been revealed.
Discussions are under way to explore the possibility of creating a multi-purpose ground with its own accommodation to host the annual celebration of the Welsh language.
This year’s event is being held at the permanent site of the Royal Welsh show at Llanelwedd showground and as a result organisers have benefited from the infrastructure at their disposal.
It has now been revealed that the Urdd could follow that model.
Taking to the Maes on the third day of festivities in Builth Wells, Aled Sion, Eisteddfod yr Urdd director, said the review followed nearly a year of meetings with Urdd committees.
He said: “The Urdd has never held a review of the decision to travel to a different site each year.
“We are looking at the practical elements, artistic elements and financial elements and holding discussions based on that information.
“If the intention is to hold a successful festival in a different area every year then we succeed in that aspect.
“What we are thinking is that if we didn’t change location every year we would be able to provide better opportunities for other people and a better experience when they get there.”
Under the current system the location for the Urdd Eisteddfod alternates between north and south Wales every year.
But this year the decision to host the event in Builth Wells has been criticised by north Wales residents after it was held in Bridgend last year.
Mr Sion said: “Sometimes when we go around we are performing in a shed in a field.
“Last year we had to have shuttle buses and they are not cheap, this year we don’t have everything but it’s a lot easier.”
In July the idea will be discussed by the Eisteddfod Board, with the suggestion that the Urdd Council conduct a feasibility study.
It follows a decision to continue the debate by the wide majority of regional and central Urdd committees.
Mr Sion said: “All committees except one want to proceed with the discussion as they have seen the information we have given them.
“The head says one thing and the heart says another. Everyone wants to see the Eisteddfod in their back yard but sometimes facilities are lacking.”
Sian Lewis, Urdd chief executive, said: “Everywhere we visit there is a very positive message in terms of the Welsh language but we want to work with cultural and artistic grassroots groups.
“There are schools which aren’t engaging with us and we want to bring them to the Eisteddfod.”
The announcement yesterday came moments after Welsh actress Sian Reese-Williams issued a powerful message of support to the Urdd in the wake of cuts to children’s services.
Acting in the role of Urdd president for the day, the Hinterland and Emmerdale actress said: “Growing up I competed on the Eisteddfod stage, which is something I think is so important to develop confidence and nurture talent – and something which is more important now than ever before.
“We are living through financial cuts and children and young people’s services are struggling.
“Some local authorities have closed their youth clubs because more money is needed to maintain them.
“Not every child competing here will develop into a professional actor or musician but they will be more dynamic, confident and have wider opportunities.”
During the press conference plans were also announced for a five-year partnership project between the
Urdd and the National Eisteddfod of Wales ahead of the National Eisteddfod of Cardigan 2020.
Boasting a theme of astrology and geophysics, the collaboration is now looking to commission musicians, dancers, soloists and artistic directors for the Eisteddfod’s opening ceremony based on the stars.
The performance, which will also celebrate the Royal Astronomical Society’s 200th anniversary, will also be showcased in a separate concert at the Urdd Eisteddfod that year.
Applications to take part are open until August 31.
> Mirain Alaw Jones, winner of the drama medal