Two festivals, two languages, worlds apart

Last week was the start of the festival season in and around Wales and I could not have witnessed two more diverse events only 50 miles or so apart.

Remember that I’m writing this in the knowledge that, although Dylan spoke only English, both his parents spoke English and Welsh and his work was developed through the sounds of the Welsh language spoken and sung around him.

So, to hear that the Welsh League of Youth Eisteddfod – the Urdd – in Ceredigion positively discriminated against the English speaker raised the hackles a little. My confidante tells me that she felt decidedly unwelcome as an English speaker and couldn’t believe that competitors had to pay to enter the ground.

For an organisation that enjoys vast public subsidy this is pretty scandalous money-grabbing particularly as most of the children are entered by their teachers who promote the event (how else would you get over 15 entries in an under 10 violin competition?).

Perhaps the vast number of Welsh quangos present have forgotten that whatever the language – English, Welsh or Chinese – everyone one of those doting parents had paid for accommodation, food and entertainment in a massive boost to the local economy. With a little encoragement they might even start to learn the language.

Next year the event is in Swansea – pity no one was there to promote it!

Cross the country to a little town just across the border into England and experience a proper welcome. I attended the Guardian Hay Festival for the first time and found it refreshing – reasonable priced car park immediately opposite the ground, no entry fee (you pay for the events that you wish to attend), reasonably priced food and drink (was beer £3 a pint at the Urdd?) and plenty of things for adults and children to see and do.

 This is an event that should be required attendance for anyone contemplating running any kind of festival or event – it’s an object lesson in how to get the best speakers at little or no cost and exist without massive state subsidies – they’ve already taken over the ailing Brecon Jazz Festival and have franchise events all over the world – more power to their elbow!


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