Many of us look forward to the wonderful Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod at this time of year.
A week before the 2018 Eisteddfod opened, I had the privilege of showcasing this incredible event in Strasbourg to MPs from 47 European countries at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Because Llangollen is our local festival, I sometimes think it’s easy to take it for granted. We shouldn’t because our local Eisteddfod is amazing and quite unique across the globe.
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is a festival that was dreamt up by visionaries who came together after the Second World War and committed themselves to a world of peace and cultural exchange.
The same spirit that drew people together to give birth to Llangollen Eisteddfod also led to the creation of closer political, economic and trading union between European nations – something envisioned in a powerful speech made in 1946 by Sir Winston Churchill.
I believe that we are indebted to that generation of our fellow Welsh, British and European citizens. Whatever our personal feelings are about the political and economic situation we now find ourselves in (and people across the country hold different views), I think few would disagree that international cultural exchange with other European and global nations is a massive positive.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people from across the world have come together to compete as choirs, as dancers and as instrumentalists and to take part in concerts in Llangollen. Among their number was a young Italian chorister by the name of Luciano Pavarotti who came as a very young man. Concert artistes this year include Van Morrisonand Alfie Boe and there will be the annual and spectacular choir of the world competition – as well as an inspiring peace message. And let’s not forget the local service organisations, charities and businesses present on the Eisteddfod field (it’s a highlight for me going around every year to talk to them all) and the hundreds of dedicated local volunteers who make the Eisteddfod possible.
As the Eisteddfod’s own literature states:
“Every summer since 1947, Llangollen has staged one of the world’s most inspirational cultural festivals. Each year around 4,000 performers and as many as 50,000 visitors converge on this beautiful small Welsh town and its International Pavilion; to sing and dance in a unique combination of competition, performance, and international peace and friendship.”
As the motto of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod puts it: “Byd gwyn fydd byd a gano. Gwaraidd fydd ei gerddi fo”. “Blessed is a world that sings, Gentle are its songs.”
At a time when too many seek to divide and separate our continent and our world, how we need that message of cultural exchange and a world and a continent that sings.