Llangollen Eisteddfod

Polish dancers at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, 1948.

Last updated: 22 June 2010

Or to give it its full title, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

For one week each July, the small town of Llangollen in north east Wales becomes a melting pot of people from all over the world, who have travelled often thousands of miles to take part in this unique festival of international cultures.

From Tuesday to Sunday of the second week of July, the Maes, close to the centre of the town, hosts competitions and concerts from early morning to late at night. The main events take place in a specially-built concert hall, but just as much activity takes place in the field and in the town itself.

Each day, the competitions have a theme - for example international children's day, international song and dance, Celtic and folk day. The week culminates in the Choir of the World competition, in which the winners of the five choral competitions go head to head for the chance to win the Pavarotti Trophy. The great tenor gave his name to the competition in 2005, fifty years after he and his choir from his home town of Modena won the Men's Choir Competition.

In the evenings, top international classical and popular music stars take the stage in a series of concerts, alongside the cream of the competitors.

The Eisteddfod started in the wake of the second world war, as an attempt to unite the peoples of the world through music. Harold Tudor, a British Council officer from nearby Coedpoeth, developed the idea with two local luminaries, WS Gwynn Williams and George Northing. This followed an approach from a member of the Czechoslovak government in exile, writer Juraj Slavik, promoting the smoothing over of international differences through music making, and the first Eisteddfod was held in 1947. A similar feeling would lead to the establishment of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Each year, performers travel from all corners of the earth to Llangollen, often spending days on buses, and many groups are regular visitors. But the international flavour also comes from less far away, with groups of people who live in the UK celebrating their ethnic origins at the Eisteddfod. These range from Ukrainian choirs to Kurdistani dancers, side by side with English morris dancers and Welsh clog dancers. The high standard of competition also attracts top performing groups from all round the UK.

The international flavour is continued on the field with world music concerts, story telling, arts and crafts and theatre performances, and the atmosphere in this small town by the river Dee is pure carnival.

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