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Heaven on Urdd despite the mud

Denbighshire's Ysgol Brynhyfryd was delighted to host this year's biggest youth event in Europe. Jill Tunstall reports

For most schools the biggest highlight - and headache - of the calendar is the Christmas concert or sports' day. Not Denbighshire's Ysgol Brynhyfryd, which this week opened its gates to more than 100,000 visitors.

The Ruthin school has been hosting this year's Urdd Eisteddfod, Europe's biggest youth event, with all its associated razzamatazz, excitement and, of course, mud.

Add to the number of visitors 15,000 competitors and one million television viewers, and Ysgol Brynhyfryd has had the kind of boost to its profile that most heads can only dream of.

That said, the scale of the event would have many in a hot sweat. But head Mrs Eleri Jones took in her stride the combined forces of rain and 2,000 first-day visitors turning her sports field into a combination of Glastonbury and the Somme.

"The ground maintenance team from the council will be looking at it afterwards, but I don't think it will take too long to recover," she said, as visitors squelched by in wellies and flipflops followed by a troupe of singers in national Welsh dress.

With three years to prepare for the event, the activity started hotting up a month ago as the 1,600-seater main pavillion was built on the maes. And, although the school doesn't benefit financially - except for the takings at the parent-teacher association's cafe - the advantages for its pupils are numerous, she said.

"The children were involved in the opening show on Saturday night, our musicians provided the fanfare to all the main ceremonies, we have dancers in all of them and they have been involved in the competitions as well."

"Some of the older students have been involved in the committees, looking at the provision for young people at the event, and others have shown the media around."

Information technology students also worked with the television company filming the event and relaying the results to websites and TV.

"The Urdd committee chose us because the school building was available for the preliminaries, and the school field and adjoining farmland could be used for parking, the caravans and the Eisteddfod itself," said Mrs Jones.

"I can't think of another school that has all of that. Some are used to stage the prelims, but then the children have to be bussed to the main site. Here, it is all in the one place."

Was she daunted when she was approached?

"Not at all, we were delighted. Having attended eisteddfodau myself over the years, I know that children from all over Wales benefit from the event.

"And it is a great boost for those in school who aren't first-language Welsh speakers. I have seen many of our Welsh learners on the site."

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