Make Urdd more of a festival

25th May 2007 at 01:00
The Urdd Eisteddfod, said to be Europe's largest youth cultural event, needs more of a festival atmosphere, says Aled Sion, who in July replaces Sian Eirian as festival director. "We need to make it relevant to everyone," he said.

Grassroots enthusiasm for the Urdd appears strong. Early rounds of the competition pulled in around 40,000 to do battle in singing, dance, arts and crafts, composition, poetry and recitation. Past Eisteddfods have nurtured the talents of artists such as Bryn Terfel and Aled Jones.

When this year's event starts on Monday at Carmarthen's United Counties showground, more than 13,000 competitors will remain. But although the week-long event is expected to draw 100,000 visitors, Mr Sion wants future festivals to offer more.

"Young people can be knocked out by 8.30am and then wander around with nothing to do," he said. "We need to keep their interest for the whole day."

Mr Sion, director of the Glan llyn residential centre near Bala, says the Urdd needs to attract the more anglicised parts of Wales.

Supporters in Carmarthen, a Welsh-speaking stronghold, have raised Pounds 280,000 to help stage this year's event, exceeding their pound;250,000 target. It is also funded by local authorities and the Welsh Language Board.

Ms Eirian, who is to become head of children's services at Welsh language TV channel S4C, recently called for LAs to help get the Urdd culture more deeply embedded across Wales.

One innovation this year is a cooking competition featuring S4C chef Dudley Newbery. New sports are being offered, and organisers promise many activities for children of all ages.

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