As one bright spark quipped, “This isn’t Eisteddfod weather!” as the sun shone down on the first full day of the festivities with plenty of English speakers (and English accents) mingling with the Welsh speakers (and, dare I say, predominantly very un-South East Walian accents).
The decision to have a free to enter Maes will no doubt out have changed the dynamic of this year’s National Eisteddfod as the very regular visitors (usually the overwhelming majority of attenders come back year after year and, naturally, speak Welsh) are being joined by people who have either chosen to come to see this annual gathering or happened to be in the Bay for the day. Either way, there were lots of conversation going on with the vendors at the stalls and the usual suspect, public sector “must be there” brigade, in both and in English. Reaching out to non-Welsh speakers is a big objective of the Eisteddfod and this seems to be working in this untraditional setting and set-up.
Around the area, which stretches from the bottom end of Bute Street near Craft in the Bay all the way to the ridiculous named Porth Teiger entry into Never, Neverland, sorry BBCland. The old Doctor Who Experience structure is Maes B for the Eisteddfod and will have bands etc. Just beyond is the pathway that leads to the fairground with the ferris wheel and then across the Barrage. So in some ways it is had to tell if people are walking through “the Maes” on their way to the fairground (which is not part of the Eisteddfod) and at one stage the flow pedestrians was definitely, should we say, the wrong way. However, whatever their reasons for walking in and around or just through the Maes, the Eisteddfod was visible to probably far more people who would not dream of going to the Welsh party in the park with the big pink tent.
It is slightly baffling that the Pavilion isn’t actually the whole of Wales Millennium Centre but the Donald Gordon auditorium (i.e. the big theatre space inside). This actually means other events can take place in the building (which has a number of the spaces and organisations) which I suspect have nothing to do with the Eisteddfod but I may be wrong. The Pavilion is the main area that you do have to pay to enter and where concerts, separately ticketed, take place the evenings. I have to confess there was so much to do and see outside of the Pavilion I did not go in on the first day and will reserve that journey of discovery for carefully selected events that are most suitable to a not very good Welsh learner.
The map that has tents for venues that are actually buildings or , even more confusing, are actually inside buildings is also confusing so a 15 minute sit down to decipher all of this is good idea. The £2 pocket guide is particularly useful as it explains where these spaces actually are i.e. translates them into the real places rather than what they are called for an Eisteddfod. I overheard one lady asking someone were she could find the dance tent which is actually in an old bank in Bute Street, off the Maes.
The atmosphere was both fun and relaxed with a smattering of the Welsh-speaking Establishment gathering for little launches of something or other or a tete-a-tete here and there, but most of the people (of all ages – another good sign) just wandering around exploring, listening to live music, checking out goodies for sale, and groups being gently led around for explanations and little bits of Welsh pronunciations and vocab lessons on the hoof.
As I wended my way off the Maes i.e out of Cardiff Bay to my patient lift (easier than paying hefty park charges or, yes, I know this sounds ridiculous, trying to get there by Cardiff’s bonkers public transport.
Next visit will be venturing into the Pavilion and also checking out the art in the National Assembly Senedd as the politicians make way for something not only pleasant but useful. Having checked out the guide I have actually missed lots of other places so maybe see you in a tent (or a venue inside WMC masquerading as a tent).
There are also other venue hosting Eisteddfod activities including dance in Portland House in Bute Street. I did say it was a bit complicated.
Go and give it a try – you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. I even came home with a free tree.
Maes B – the quiet before the storm
Cafe Maes B
Universities getting them young
Young and younger…..
St John’s Ambulance
At last – a good use for the Senedd
Is it that time of the year again already?