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

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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.

Ar­wyn Roberts

> Mi­rain Alaw Jones, win­ner of the drama medal

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