International Musical Eisteddfod

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2012, when Mike Abram told The Information Point about attending the 66th International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen. 

Mike and wife Diane.

In July my wife Diane and I attended the 66th International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen.

The Eisteddfod was started in 1947 by Harold Tudor, with the aim of trying to heal, through music and friendly competition, some of the damage caused by the Second World War. Fourteen nations were represented at the first Eisteddfod which cost £6,000 to put on and the event has been held every year since.

Today the Eisteddfod costs hundreds of thousands of pounds with more than 4,000 musicians, singers, and dancers from around 50 countries, descending on Llangollen each year to perform and compete at the festival, uniting countries through song and dance.

This is the fourth time we have attended the festival, having previously seen Michael Ball, Lulu and Russell Watson perform there. This year we saw the tenor Alfie Boe best known for his role in the musical Les Misérables perform. As expected, the show included operatic and musical numbers but unexpectedly we were also treated to songs from the Eagles, Roberta Flack, the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley and Elvis.

I think it may have been a little noisy for the die hard Eisteddfod bunch but the rest of the 5,000 sell out crowd, which included Alfie’s family and Terry Waite, the ex hostage and ex envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, now International Eisteddfod president, were roaring the tent down. Di and I would go back again without hesitation if we could. Alfie Boe has an amazing voice and a great sense of humor.

Our tickets were purchased over the phone at which time we requested a disabled pass. This was important as it meant we were able to park in the disabled car park. If we were not there, we would have been in a field next to canal which gets very wet after rain. Disability access to the Eisteddfod site was mostly good for an outside venue with hard road and paths and ramps to all areas. One negative point was the path to the the main gate which was short but steep. A local car dealer had provided free cars for those with mobility issues who couldn’t manage the slope and these were available to take people up the slope, to the craft and food area or all the way to the tented performance area. However, you had to be able to reach the main gate at the top of the path, to request the car. In my case, Di was able to go up for me but if the person I was with had also had issues or if I had been attending alone, it would not have been possible to request a car.

While the concert was a great experience there was much more than just that to see. We saw competitors take part in a street parade around Llangollen with everyone dressed in national costumes and enjoyed the festival atmosphere in the Eisteddfod field, which included a craft market and food stalls selling English, Welsh, Indian, French and Cajun cuisine, the latter which did food tastings.

The festival was a terrific way to spend a beautiful summer day and one I would be very happy to repeat.

Eisteddfod parade

* Eisteddfod Parade photo courtesy of Howard ‘H’ Pimborough.

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