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Festival may have to pull in its horns; COSTS: Visits to small centres could be ruled out.

Byline: CLIVE BETTS

THE Urdd Eisteddfod could be forced to abandon most of its touring of Wales because of lack of money.

Two out of every four of the annual festivals could be held either at Cardiff Bay, attached to the Wales Millennium Centre, or at Llandudno, making use of the town's North Wales Conference Centre and its theatre, plus parts of the promenade. The other festivals would be held in major centres of population in order to attract sufficient crowds to pay the costs.

``That means we will never again return to areas such as the Llyin Peninsula,'' said honorary president Ifan Prys Edwards.

The only way to prevent the Urdd having to draw in its horns in such a way would be a boost in grant aid.

``Only 15pc of the Urdd's income comes in grants from public bodies,'' said Mr Edwards. ``If we are going to develop we will have to get more money from that source.''

Mr Edwards, son of Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards, the Urdd's 1922 founder, gave his warning despite an announcement that the Cardiff festival achieved record attendance fig-ures which easily exceeded the 100,000 target. The 117,000 who attended the festival in sunny weather in Cooper's Field behind Cardiff Castle was the largest figure yet attained. The 10,200 figure achieved on the last day was between 2,000 and 3,000 more than usual.

Each annual festival, lasting from Monday morning to midnight on Saturday, costs pounds 1.2m to stage. The cost is rising by 10pc a year because of tougher health and safety regulations and continual demands from the public for improvements.

Mr Edwards said, ``If we do not get that money from the public sector how can we ever raise it ourselves?'' He said it was not possible to transfer money from other Urdd sources, which were already under pressure from the membership, particularly to extend provision of services through Welsh in social rather than educational contexts.

A similar demand for language aid to be boosted for community activities is likely to result from the National Assembly culture commit-tee's report on Welsh-language policies, now being completed.

The urgent need for the youth service to hold the attention of its young clients is through constant innovation, which costs money. This need for change lies behind the ideas of senior Urdd officials to hold a series of festivals throughout Wales.

These could range from festivals for individual sports and a festival in the autumn for older members who find it difficult to compete in the traditional early summer eisteddfod because of increasing pressure of school and college examinations to festivals for unusual ``sports'' such as PlayStation competitions which appeal to youngsters but are beyond the comprehension of many adults.

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THEY'VE GOT RHYTHM: The Dohl drummers from Fitzalan School, Cardiff, play in the Pavilion at Urdd 2002
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 10, 2002
Words:480
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