One of the questions most frequently asked every year as the schedules and programmes are prepared and published is ‘what’s new this year?’
Naturally, everything’s new every year as the festival is different every time, with local events and activities – a chance to get to find out more about a different part of Wales, but people always want to know whether there are any themes, new buildings or anything that’s just a little bit different.
This year, we commemorate the centenary of the Great War with a programme of events and activities, starting with the opening concert, A Oes Heddwch? Taking the story of the winner of the Black Chair, Hedd Wyn, as its inspiration, this is the story of the boys who went to war a century ago and the communities they left behind here in Wales.
It is a new work by Aled and Dafydd Hughes (Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog), Guto Dafydd, Paul Mealor and Grahame Davies, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Eisteddfod choir and soloists, Osian Huw Williams, Casi Wyn, Emyr Gibson, Lleuwen Steffan and Gwen Elin.
Emotional, challenging and making use of letters and articles from the period, the concert is sure to be memorable. And if you can’t make it to the Maes by then, you can find out more at the Tŷ Gwerin on Monday afternoon at 14:00 for a talk with the creative team who’ve been working diligently for over a year and a half creating the concert.
Among the other events organised on the Maes to commemorate the War is a talk by Aneirin Karadog looking at the Hedd Wyn Cult and how Hedd Wyn developed to be more than a soldier poet of flesh and blood, organised by the National Assembly for Wales and held in Societies 1 at 11:00 on Tuesday.
Hedd Wyn’s nephew, Gerald Williams, will be discussing his life with Mererid Hopwood at the University of Wales and University of Wales Trinity St David session in the Literary Pavilion at lunchtime on Monday, and then on Wednesday we’ll find out more about some of the footballers of the Great War with Owain Tudur Jones, Gary Pritchard and Geraint Vaughan Jones, also in the Literary Pavilion.
Children can also find out about Hedd Wyn with Mewn Cymeriad’s brand new show on the Maes throughout the week, in a number of different locations, including Gŵyl Llên Plant, Maes D and the Snowdonia National Park Authority stand.
Full details on events relating to the commemoration on the Eisteddfod website, www.eisteddfod.wales. This is where you’ll also find out about other new events, as the Eisteddfod hosts two ‘festivals within the festival’ in various locations. This year is the Year of Legends here in Wales, and we’ll find out more about myths and legends with sessions for people of all ages as part of our Legends Festival. From an art session on the witches of Llanddona to legends with Ceri Matthews on the Llannerch Stage, and from a story session for Welsh learners in Maes D to the storytelling competition in the Studio, there’s something for everyone.
Comedy has been on the Eisteddfod Maes for a number of years, but this year, organisers have gone one better and put together a comedy festival. Sponsored by Cronfa Gari, which has made a substantial contribution towards some of our comedy companies, evenings and most popular tours. This support has enabled the Eisteddfod to create a full programme of events and activities to appeal to everyone.
Tudur Owen and his panel will be asking what’s funny in the Quarter to Six session in the Literary Pavilion on Monday night, and if someone asked the people of Anglesey what makes them laugh, then Emlyn Richards’ comical stories would feature high on the list, and the man himself will be in the Literary Pavilion on Wednesday evening.
There’ll be stand-up every day in Caffi Maes B and on the Llannerch Stage, with comedians like Hywel Pitts, Eilir Jones, Beth Jones and Gary Slaymaker performing. And Theatr y Maes is sure to be the place to be on Tuesday and Thursday – unless you’re famous and have a few skeletons in the cupboard – as Stifyn Parri lifts the lid on the great and the good, with his outrageous one-man show, Cau dy Geg.
And again, there’s plenty of fun and mayhem for children with comedy sessions in Gŵyl Llên Plant and a chance to create cartoon characters with Huw Aaron and the Mellten magazine.
If you’re over a certain age or not an avid follower of social media, you may nor have come across the Gareth the orangutan – a likeable character who interview stars of the music scene, with questions which seem innocent enough but are both scathing and hilarious. Yws Gwynedd and Eden will be joining Gareth in Caffi Maes B for a chat at the end of the week.
And for something a little bit different, come to Caffi Maes B at 18:30 on Wednesday evening, as Lisa Angharad presents and curates a cabaret evening, Cabarela. This show is not for children or those who are easily offended. But for everyone else, make sure you’re there early to get a seat. Go online, www.eisteddfod.wales for a copy of the full programme or it’s also in the Official Programme and the Pocket Programme available on the Maes during the week.
Flicking through the Programme for this year’s festival in Anglesey, it’s obvious how much the Eisteddfod has changed since we last visited the island in 1999. There were a few hundred events on the Maes then. This year, there are over 1,000 events and activities as well as the varied competitions, not only in the Pavilion but also in centres like the Pagoda and the Studio and across the Maes in attractive locations like the Tŷ Gwerin.
Something else which has changed much are the concerts. The varied programme is obvious for all to see this year. Tudur Owen and the team with Hynna Be’ Di O on Tuesday evening; the Thursday night Pavilion Gig with Yws Gwynedd, Yr Eira, Mr Phormula and Alys Williams, and then the total contrast with Gwyn Hughes Jones’ gala evening and the opening concert, A Oes Heddwch? and the Noson Lawen.