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Eisteddfod: delivering a local legacy key to future viability.

Byline: Dafydd Wigley Former Plaid MP writes for the Daily Post

Last week's National Eisteddfod at Llanelli was highly successful, with worthy winners of the main literary prizes. It was an innovative Eisteddfod, with Ty Gwerin, the new performance space for traditional music and "Lolfa Len" (literature lounge) highly praised.

The new feature "Pentref Drama" (drama village) had a spectacular programme, with many sell-out shows. Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru broke new ground with their new App "Sibrwd", which helps non-Welsh speakers to access Welsh language drama.

Socially it was very enjoyable, with Caffi Maes B a favourite for younger music lovers . New colourful designs were also widely acclaimed.

But has the Eisteddfod covered its costs? Like most cultural events, it depends on public sector subsidy. Local authorities have been generous benefactors.

Uncertainty now hovers over such funding, partly because authorities may be amalgamated; partly because of council funding cutbacks. So a familiar question resurfaces: can the Eisteddfod continue to circulate around Wales? The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, once peripatetic, adopted its Llanelwedd show-ground in 1963. It now benefits from having permanent roadways, buildings and utilities.

A peripatetic Eisteddfod re-provides such facilities each year. New teams of local volunteers are recruited; lessons relearnt. The Eisteddfod's handful of full-time staff, cover challenges ranging from cultural standards to health-and-safety; from traffic management to fundraising.

Last autumn, First Minister Carwyn Jones endorsed the Andrews Committee recommendations that the Eisteddfod should continue to move around Wales. But in practice, are we seeing a whittling down of locations where it is practical to hold an Eisteddfod? In recent years, the Eisteddfod has revisited Bala (1997/2009), Denbigh (2001/2013 ), Llanelli ( 2000/2014), and Meifod (2003/ 2015). Will we eventually settle on a handful of regular sites, rather than either one fixed site or a fully peripatetic festival? Moving around Wales is justified by the "legacy" the Eisteddfod creates in each area - such as new choirs, literary societies, local eisteddfodau and bringing the "eisteddfod experience" to many people for the first time.

If legacy is critical, what mechanism exists to ensure it happens? Does any one person, or organisation, take responsibility for facilitating the legacy of our National Eisteddfod, or similar events? Who took forward "legacy management" after the Ryder Cup or GB Rally visited Wales? The legacy of such events doesn't just "happen"; it has to be planned.

Hard work is needed to identify legacy potential before events take place. This ideally requires a pre-identified named body responsible for legacy delivery.

To my mind the time has come to assess the evidence the extent to which the Eisteddfod's local legacy is being fulfilled.

So I was delighted that Bangor University and the National Eisteddfod have established a joint project to evaluate the Eisteddfod's legacy in Carmarthenshire this year and Montgomeryshire next year. I understand that will include developing a methodology to assess its cultural, linguistic, economic and social impact.

This is a valuable step forward, which should help make informed decisions.

In the meantime, let's look forward to next year's Meifod Eisteddfod. If it is as successful as in 2003, we have a feast awaiting us!
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Aug 14, 2014
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