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An eisteddfod (Welsh: [ə(i)ˈstɛðvɔd]; plural eisteddfodau [ə(i)stɛðˈvɔdaɨ]) is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance. The tradition of such a meeting of Welsh artists dates back to at least the 12th century, when a festival of poetry and music was held by Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth at his court in Cardigan in 1176 but, with the decline of the bardic tradition, it fell into abeyance. The present-day format owes much to an eighteenth-century revival arising out of a number of informal eisteddfodau. The word eisteddfod is derived from the Welsh word eistedd, meaning "to sit", and bod meaning "to be" and therefore means "to be sitting" or "to be sitting together" ("bod" is softly mutated into "fod").

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The date of the first Eisteddfod is a matter of much debate among scholars, but boards for the judging of poetry definitely existed in Wales from at least as early as the twelfth century, and it is likely that the ancient Celtic bards had formalized ways of judging poetry as well.The first Eisteddfod can be traced back to 1176, under the auspices of Lord Rhys, at his castle in Cardigan. There he held a grand gathering to which were invited poets and musicians from all over the country. A chair at the Lord's table was awarded to the best poet and musician, a tradition that prevails in the modern day National Eisteddfod. The earliest large scale Eisteddfod that can be proven beyond all doubt to have taken place, however, was the Carmarthen Eisteddfod, which took place in 1451. The next recorded large-scale eisteddfod was held in Caerwys in 1568. The prizes awarded were a miniature silver chair to the successful poet, a little silver crwth to the winning fiddler, a silver tongue to the best singer, and a tiny silver harp to the best harpist. Originally, the contests were limited to professional Welsh bards who were paid by the nobility. To ensure the highest standard possible, Elizabeth I of England commanded that the bards be examined and licensed. As interest in the Welsh arts declined, the standard of the main eisteddfod deteriorated as well and they became more informal. In 1789, Thomas Jones organised an eisteddfod in Corwen where for the first time the public were admitted. The success of this event led to a revival of interest in Welsh literature and music.

Eisteddfod revival

Iolo Morganwg (bardic name of Edward Williams) founded "Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain" (Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain) in 1792 to restore and replace the ancient eisteddfod. The first eisteddfod of the revival was held in Primrose Hill, London.

"The Gentleman's Magazine" of October, 1792 reported on the revival of the eisteddfod tradition.

This being the day on which the autumnal equinox occurred, some Welsh bards resident in London assembled in congress on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage. Present at the meeting was Edward Jones who had published his "The Musical and Poetical Reelicks of the Welsh Bards" in 1784 in a belated effort to try to preserve the native Welsh traditions being so ruthlessly stamped out by the new breed of Methodists.

The Blue Books' notorious attack on the character of the Welsh as a nation in 1846 led to public anger and the belief that it was important for the Welsh to create a new national image. By the 1850s people began to talk of a national eisteddfod to showcase Wales's culture. In 1858 John Williams ab Ithel held a "National" Eisteddfod complete with Gorsedd in Llangollen. "The great Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858" was a significant event. Thomas Stephens won a prize with an essay demolishing the claim of John Williams (the events organiser) that Madoc discovered America. As Williams had expected Stephens's essay to reinforce the myth, he was not willing to award the prize to Stephens and, it is recorded, "matters became turbulent". This eisteddfod also saw the first public appearance of John Ceiriog Hughes who won a prize for a love poem, Myfanwy Fychan of Dinas Brân, which became an instant hit. There is speculation that this was a result of its depiction of a "deserving, beautiful, moral, well-mannered Welshwoman", in stark contrast to The Blue Books' depiction of Welsh women as having questionable morals.

The National Eisteddfod Council was created after Llangollen and the Gorsedd consequently merged with it. The Gorsedd holds the right of proclamation and of governance while the Council organises the event. The first true National Eisteddfod organised by the Council was held in Denbigh in 1860 on a pattern that continues to the present day.

The National Eisteddfod

The National Eisteddfod of Wales, Mold 2007.

The most important eisteddfod is the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe. Its eight days of competitions and performances, entirely in the Welsh language, are staged annually in the first week of August usually alternating between North and South Wales (see the main National Eisteddfod of Wales article for a full list of past and future venues). Over 6000 people competed at the 2006 National Eisteddfod with 150,000 visitors attending.

Recent Eisteddfodau have been held at:

Recent Eisteddfodau
Year Location
2000 Llanelli
2001 Denbigh
2002 St David's, Pembrokeshire
2003 Meifod, Powys
2004 Newport
2005 Bangor
2006 Swansea
2007 Mold, Flintshire
2008 Cardiff
2009 Bala

Future National Eisteddfodau are scheduled to be held at:

  • 2010
Blaenau Gwent
  • 2011

Urdd Eisteddfod

Another important eisteddfod in the calendar is 'Eisteddfod Yr Urdd', or the Youth Eisteddfod. Organised by Urdd Gobaith Cymru, it involves Welsh youth aged 7 to 24 in a week of competition in singing, recitation, dancing, acting and musicianship during the summer half-term school holiday. The event is claimed to be Europe's premier youth arts festival.[1] Regional heats are held in advance and, as with the National Eisteddfod, the Urdd Eisteddfod is held in a different location each year. With the establishment of the Urdd headquarters in the Wales Millennium Centre, the eisteddfod will return to Cardiff every four years.

Recent Urdd Eisteddfodau have been held at:

Recent Eisteddfodau
Year City
2003 Margam Park

Llangefni, Anglesey

2005 Cardiff
2006 Ruthin
2007 Carmarthen
2008 Llandudno
2009 Cardiff

Future eisteddfodau are scheduled to be held at:

Future eisteddfodau
Year City
2010 Llanerchaeron
2011 Carmarthen

The International Eisteddfod

The International Eisteddfod is held annually in Llangollen, Denbighshire each year in July. Choirs, singing groups, folk dancers and other groups attend from all over the world, sharing their national folk traditions in one of the world's great festivals of the arts. It was set up in 1947 and begins with a message of peace. In 2004, it was (unsuccessfully) nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Terry Waite, who has been actively involved with the eisteddfod.

Other eisteddfodau

Smaller-scale local eisteddfodau are held throughout Wales. One of the best known is the Abergavenny Eisteddfod (Welsh: Eisteddfod Y Fenni). Schools hold eisteddfodau as competitions within the school: a popular time for this is on Saint David's Day.


Eisteddfods (Australian plural) have also been adopted into Australian culture. Much like the Welsh original, eisteddfods are competitions that involve testing individuals for singing, dancing, acting and musicianship. One has been run by the Royal South Street Society in Ballarat since 1891.[2] At least 20 years earlier, as described in the diaries of Joseph Jenkins, Ballarat's Welsh community was conducting an annual eisteddfod each St David's Day (1 March). Modern equivalents in Australia are competitions reserved for schoolchildren, though many have open sections where anyone (including professionals) may participate and compete. Typically, a prize may be a scholarship to pursue a further career. Many young Australian actors and dancers participate regularly in the various competitions scheduled throughout the year. The most popular is the Rock Eisteddfod, which involves 40,000 students from 400 schools in a yearly competition. Many other communities host smaller eisteddfods, including Alice Springs and Darwin.


Eisteddfodau have been held since the initial Welsh settlement in Argentina in the late nineteenth century. Competitions nowadays are bilingual, in Welsh and Spanish, and include poetry and prose, translations (Welsh, Spanish, English, Italian, and French), musical performances, arts, folk dances, photography and video among others. There is an annual youth eisteddfod held in Gaiman in September, and the main Chubut Eisteddfod is held in Trelew in October. An annual eisteddfod is also held in Trevelin, in the Andes.[3]

Non-Welsh eisteddfodau

In Cornwall, an analogous event is known as "Esethvos Kernow" (Cornish for "Eisteddfod of Cornwall") and is connected with Gorseth Kernow.

The eisteddfod idea has been taken up by non-Welsh speakers in the Channel Islands, particularly for the preservation of Jèrriais and Guernesais, and is called such. See Jersey Eisteddfod.

The Scottish Gaelic Mod and the Breton Kan ar Bobl both have similarities to an eisteddfod.

In 1926, the Pasadena Playhouse in California, USA, undertook an Eisteddfod of one-act plays by local authors presented to the public, offering a prize for the best. This subsequently evolved into an annual Summer One-Act Play Festival.

The Bristol Festival of Music, Speech and Drama was formerly known as the Bristol Eisteddfod,[4] with the name still being used by the Bristol Dance Eisteddfod.[5]

External links



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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Welsh eisteddfod (session), from eistedd (to sit) +‎ bod (to be) (be sitting).




eisteddfods or eisteddfodau

eisteddfod (plural eisteddfods or eisteddfodau)

  1. Any of several annual festivals in which Welsh poets, dancers, and musicians compete for recognition.




From eistedd (to sit) + bod (to be) (be sitting)



eisteddfod f. (plural eisteddfodau

  1. An eisteddfod.


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