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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Eisteddfod 'optimistic for the future' says new chair


* Eisteddfod chair Chris Adams speaks to volunteers and supporters.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod still isn’t “out of the woods” but is “very optimistic” about the future.

That was the positive message from Chris Adams, the festival’s new chair, when he opened yesterday (Monday) evening’s latest public briefing session – both in-person and online – at St Collen’s Community Hall.

It was also used to announce the starry line-up for evening converts during the Eisteddfod’s core week from July 2-7, which starts with Sir Tom Jones on the Tuesday and ends with Katherine Jenkins on the Sunday.

The chair said that many ideas and suggestions for how the Eisteddfod could not only survive its traumatic financial loss of last year but also thrive had come from a public meeting held at the Pavilion last August.

“We talked through our problems and were delighted with the response we got. Offers of help and support came from all over. Decisions had to made and we moved as quickly as we would.”

A number of special groups were set up to look at how various aspects of the festival could be improved, from the grounds and staging to marketing and publicity.

The group members – all volunteers – were tasked to examine other key areas such as fundraising and sponsorship.

Much work has also been done as part of an initial one-year partnership with show business agency Cuffe and Taylor which has led to a package of “bookend” concerts in the weeks leading to the Eisteddfod by stars including Paloma Faith and the Manic Street Preachers.

Two special Christmas concerts built around the theme of The Snowman and featuring a live orchestra were at that point down to just a few tickets, explained Mr Adams.

However, he stressed: “There are a lot of things still to do over the next six months to make next July a festival to be remembered for years to come.”

Mr Adams – the Eisteddfod’s 11th chair since its foundation in 1946 – also revealed how just a few days earlier he had replaced Sarah Ecob in the role.

Because of heavy work commitments in her local authority job, she had found it necessary to relinquish the chair but had parted with the Eisteddfod on “really good terms”.

“The Eisteddfod is unique is not unique in its idea of promoting peace – people have found other ways of doing this,” he told the audience but he added: “We are looking to be a major force in the cultural life of Wales into the 21st century.”

* Dave Danford: Something for everyone

Lead programmer and production manager Dave Danford said: “Everything that happens at the Eisteddfod is because of our volunteers. It’s not down to individuals but is a team effort and I’m sure that next year is going to be a success.”

He assured that Cuffe and Taylor were “here to support us and not to interfere” with the way the festival is run.

“The concert programme we’ve got has something for everyone and we’ve had some incredible applications from all over the world for our competitions,” he added.

The floor was then thrown open to questions and answers. Issues included:

* Ways people can get various concessions on tickets - One of the main ways to avoid the inevitable queues for concerts tickets is to join the Friends of the Eisteddfod group, which had signed up 100 new members just that day, it was explained.

* Dance competitions - Chris Adams said lots of work was being done to see these were spread evenly across the five days of the festival.

* Volunteers - A plea was made from the floor for people to fill three key roles in music and staging.

* The Eisteddfod field - Chris Adams explained work was going on make this as attractive as possible to visitors.

* Higher than usual concert ticket prices - Dave Danford said this was down to the rising cost of signing artistes. He gave the example of one who could have been booked for £15,000 in 2020 now demanding £30,000 for an appearance.

* Accommodation for Eisteddfod visitors - Deputy chair John Gambles said most visitors went directly home so priority was given to competitors from around the world, with “wonderful co-operation” being given by hostels and hotels within a 30-mile radius.

* Coping with the number of visitors the additional concerts would bring - Trustee Dave Henningan said letters had been sent to residents of Abbey Road and Dinbren Road assuring that a robust traffic plan would be in place controlled by professionals arranged by Cuffe and Taylor and a strict curfew of 11pm would be enforced. People living nearby were given an email address to contact if they had any problems and a “frequent questions” section had also been incorporated in the Eisteddfod website.      

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