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Urdd plans talent-spotting pilots

Organisers of the Urdd Eisteddfod are pushing for the week-long extravaganza to be preceded by talent-spotting masterclasses in schools.

They claim the special workshops - to be held out of hours - could also encourage more young people to speak Welsh socially.

Heledd James, a project leader at community learning charity ContinYou Cymru, confirmed she had been locked in discussion. But she claimed more funding was needed to make it happen.

"We're looking at the possibility of a pilot in a school, or cluster of schools, rather than a local authority-wide approach," she said.

I've had discussions with the community focus schools co-ordinator in Conwy, where the Urdd Eisteddfod will be in 2008, and I'm hoping to meet the Welsh Language Board after Easter to see if they can support us and direct us towards pots of funding."

This year's festival is being held in Carmarthen. Sian Eirian, director of the Eisteddfod and Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh-medium youth movement, wants to see a structured plan to coax latent talent from host areas more effectively.

"The young have the chance to develop skills. I hope it would lay a solid foundation," she said.

Although Ms Eirian has started the ball rolling, she leaves the Urdd in June, after more than 20 years, to become head of children's services at S4C. Her successor is due to be announced next month.

Last year's Urdd Eisteddfod saw more than 14,000 out of 40,000 entrants taking part.

"At the moment we know which children will be in shows," she said. "I'd like to see a 10-year plan so every child and young person can have the experience."

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