Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is looking for a new motto after fears that its current one, which refers to a ‘white world’ could be open to misinterpretation.
But its executive producer stresses this re-think does not imply the organisation has been guilty of racism.
The Eisteddfod management is currently reviewing its entire organisation to ensure it meets the standards laid down by the Charities Commission, public funding bodies and audiences.
It recently went out to consultation with its stakeholders on how the new-look festival should be marketed and received some feedback that it should be aware of 'potential misinterpretation' when translating its motto from Welsh into other languages.
That motto, which adorns the Eisteddfod official logo and other branding, reads, in Welsh ‘Byd gwyn fydd byd a gano. Gwaraidd fydd ei gerddi fo’. In English that is ‘Blessed is a world that sings. Gentle are its Songs.’
Based on a T. Gwynn Jones’ couplet, the words ‘byd gwyn’ mean ‘blessed’, come from ‘Gwyn eu bid’, the opening words of St. Matthew’s Beatitudes in the Welsh translation of the Bible.
However, a literal translation - including those provided by online translation tools and apps - is instead, 'white world'.
After the matter was aired on the BBC and on social media, executive producer Camilla King says in a statement issued earlier today (Friday): “We felt that having had this brought to our attention, it was responsible to embark on research and consultation to clarify this issue and consider potential ways forward.
“This included speaking with numerous Welsh and non-Welsh speakers, Welsh language experts and advisors, both within and outside of our organisation, locally and further afield, and our funders the Arts Council of Wales.
“Their unanimous advice was that the motto is beautiful when read with an understanding of the nuances of the Welsh language, but that for non-Welsh speakers and new generations of audiences and indeed Welsh speakers, the intended meaning is not clear enough.”
The statement adds: “As Llangollen Eisteddfod continues on an important path of renewal of our purpose in a modern world, the Board has agreed that this presents a rich creative opportunity to consider Welsh as a living and evolving language.
“At a meeting on 15 March 2023, the Board voted unanimously to work with a Bard to develop a new motto which reflects the organisation’s vision for the future.
“Our current motto and much-loved shield will remain part of the Eisteddfod’s visual identity in 2023, and the Board will spend the next five months in consultation with our stakeholders on the best way to commission our new motto, which will be unveiled for 2024.”
It goes on: “In response to this review being picked up by media and individuals on social media, we wish to provide some additional context that we feel has been misunderstood or misrepresented. We want to clearly state that we have not at any point implied any racism.
“ The Eisteddfod is, and has always been, a beacon for togetherness. We also wish to emphasise that we fully understand that the majority of Welsh speakers do not read the words ‘byd gwyn’ within the context of the motto as anything other than ‘blessed’.
“This is a matter of translation by the method most likely to be used by non-Welsh speaking audiences around the world.
“And finally, we cannot state enough that we stand by the sentiment of the words as intended by T. Gwynn Jones. As we look to the future we look forward to commissioning new poetry that builds on our proud heritage.”