A message for those who want an English Eisteddfod

Another pretty OK day at the Eisteddfod
You may have heard that the Minister responsible for the Welsh language has appointed a special task force which will decide on the future on the National Eisteddfod.

It is perhaps inevitable that there are a few people arguing that the ‘Welsh rule’ should be abandoned and the festival should be conducted in English.

After all, it makes perfect sense that an English festival would be more successful than a Welsh festival, right?

Over a billion people speak English while only about 600,000 speak Welsh. It’s a no brainer!

I suppose you may also feel a bit excluded. Like someone who hasn’t been invited to the hottest party in town, you can only imagine how great the Eisteddfod is.

Like some kind of linguistic bouncer, the Welsh language is stopping you from sampling all the riches within.

The problem with this view is that the Eisteddfod isn’t especially magnificent and exciting as festivals go.

If the language rule was dissolved, the truth is that it would just be a pretty mediocre English festival.

All those people who felt excluded would probably throng in, look around for a few hours, shake their heads, and never come back.

According to the chairman of the new Eisteddfod Task Force, Roy Noble, one possible answer would be to establish an English language version of the Eisteddfod alongside the Welsh version.

I’m not sure if he was joking or not. There are hundreds of English festivals of the same kind already in existence in Wales, and millions around the world.

We’ve got singing festivals, dancing festivals, jazz festivals, writing prizes, and endless opportunities for camping and rolling around in the mud. And that’s just within a few miles of Cardiff.

And most of these festivals do a better job in their individual field (no pun intended) than the National Eisteddfod.

Even if you must have an English Eisteddfod, there’s already one being held in Llangollen every year.


The one and only point of the Eisteddfod is that it is in Welsh. People get to compete in Welsh, converse in Welsh, and roll around in the mud in Welsh.

That's the only reason a lot of people go, and a lot of very talented people compete.

Otherwise it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill, not-especially-special festival. But it’s the only one we have.


  1. Nid fy mod i am newid mymryn o'r rheol Gymraeg yn y Genedlaethol - ond rwyf yn meddwl y gall Eisteddfodau lleol dwyieithiog fod o gymorth wrth adfer Cymreigtod mewn ardaloedd wedi eu Seisnigo.

    Yr enghraifft orau y gwn i amdani yw Eisteddfod y Fenni a sefydlwyd yn 2002 ac sy'n gwneud lles sylweddol i broffeil yr iaith ac addysg Gymraeg yn Sir Fynwy.


  2. Wow.....Roy ("we support England") Noble....y meddyliwr craff hynny!

  3. Who are the "few people arguing that the ‘Welsh rule’ should be abandoned"?

    Given that the Minster's task force will not consider the Welsh Laguage rule, what relevance is there to this comment anyway

    "one possible answer would be to establish an English language version of the Eisteddfod alongside the Welsh version"

    Answer to what?

  4. There is a case to be made for a festival celebrating Welsh identity in English. However, that said, being in English, and seeing as Wales is now 'multicultural', it would soon be taken over by the Alternatives and the downsizers, the candle-makers and the rest. (Did, you know, there are more candles being made in Wales now than in the 18th century? And most of them never get lit!)

  5. Thank you all for the comments.

    @Anon1 – Rydw i’n cytuno bod yna le i wyliau dwyieithog wrth hybu Cymreictod. Pob lwc iddyn nhw.

    Ond dydw i ddim yn credu mai’r Eisteddfod yw’r lle hwnnw.

    Yr Eisteddfod yw’r unig beth sy da ni sy’n gyfan gwbwl Gymraeg. Dyma ein Mecca symudol ni, y pafiliwn pinc yw ein Coeden Nadolig diwylliannol.

    Os ydi pobol yn credu y byddai Eisteddfod dwyieithog yn lwyddiant ysgubol mae croseo iddyn nhw brofi hynny drwy sefydlu un. All e wneud ddim drwg, ar yr amod nad ydyn nhw’n cyffwrdd yr Eisteddfod Gen fel y mae.

    @Anon 3 – One constant theme over the last few years is ‘making the Eisteddfod more appealing to people who don’t speak Welsh’. That slippery slope is only going to lead in one direction – that is, more and more English on the maes in the name of making it more ‘accessible’.

    What it will actually do is just turn the only Welsh festival into just another interchangeable English festival, which wouldn’t be mourned by anyone if it died, because there are hundreds more just like it.

    I’m a bilingual Welshman and am proud of the contribution that both languages have made to the nation’s culture. But as I say above there are hundreds of English language festivals already in existence.

    Including more English on the maes wouldn’t make our English language culture any stronger. But it would be a hammer blow to our Welsh language culture.

    The Eisteddfod is the heartbeat of our Welsh language culture. It keeps the creative blood pumping for at least another year. Losing it would basically give Welsh culture a heart attack from which it would never recover.

    What the Eisteddfod needs to do is make itself more appealing to Welsh speakers. I’d say only about 5%-10% of Welsh speakers actually go to the Eisteddfod. I know many Welsh speakers who’ve never been. That’s who they need to target.

    The whole point of the Eisteddfod is that it’s in Welsh, and to sacrifice the whole raison d'etre of the festival just to get a few more people in through the gate is completely self-defeating.

    @Jac – A festival celebrating Welsh identity in English is held in the middle of Cardiff five or so times a year, whenever a rugby match is held at the Millennium Stadium. :P

    In all seriousness though I agree that there’s a strong seam of Welsh culture to be had through the medium of English. But no one’s stopping anyone from celebrating that.

    What needs to be appreciated is that the Eisteddfod gets a lot of its funding from money collected in the local community.

    Hundreds of people compete regularly because we love the event.

    The Eisteddfod belongs to the people whose passion makes it happen year after year.

    If there are enough passionate people out there there’s nothing stopping them from creating a bilingual or wholly English Eisteddfod.

    But I don’t think they have any right to demand changes to an event that’s been sustained by the blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, competitors and benefactors over the years.

    In closing:

    I think the argument basically boils down to whether it’s a National EISTEDDFOD, or a NATIONAL Eisteddfod. It depends where you put the stress.

    Those who put the emphasis on the word National believe it represents the whole of Wales and so should, like the rest of the country, be bilingual.

    I and others put the stress on the word Eisteddfod – i.e. it’s a celebration of Welsh language culture. The word National is just to denote that, unlike other Eisteddfods, it is held everywhere in Wales.


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