To allow for the sensitivities that exist between North and
South Wales, the Royal National Eisteddfod takes place alternately in North
and South Wales.
It is an eight day cultural festival which is held at the beginning of August every year. It attracts about 6000 competitors and 150,000 visitors. It is the largest popular festival of competitive music-making and poetry-writing in Europe
If you do not speak Welsh you will have to rely on the similtaneous ranslations, as the event takes place solely in the Welsh language.
The Eisteddfod (meaning "sitting together" or "gathering") evolved from ancient bardic tournaments in which apprentice poets and musicians would compete against each other for a seat of honour in the households of noblemen. Winning such a tournament was a certain passport to employment, for poets depended on the patronage of wealthy noblemen and landowners for their livelihood. Today it is a unique celebration of Welsh language, art, culture and heritage.
These tournaments were in existence as long ago as the 10th century, when Hywel Dda, a Welsh King, is reputed to have awarded a seat of honour to a poet in his household during a competitive meeting at his court. A 12th century manuscript refers to a similar gathering at Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd's castle in Cardigan in 1176, which included poets and musicians from all over Wales.
The Caerwys Eisteddfod of 1523 was an important milestone in
the Eisteddfod's development as it regulated the patronage
system and graded poets and musicians according to rank and status. At the beginning of the 19th century, an Eisteddfod of
historic significance was held at the Ivy Bush Inn in Carmarthen. By this time, the Eisteddfod was no longer confined to poetry but had developed into a fully fledged folk festival on a much larger scale.
The first National Eisteddfod as we recognise it today was held
at Aberdare in Mid Glamorgan in 1861. In 1880 the National Eisteddfod Association
was formed and charged with the responsibility of staging an annual festival.
Wales has other Eisteddfodau, including the Urdd National Eisteddfod (for the youth of Wales) and the International
Musical Eisteddfod - which is held each July in the town of Llangollen, in North Wales. The first International Musicial Eisteddfod was held in 1947, with the aim of promoting peace between nations after the war-torn years of 1939-45, through the international language of music. This week-long Eisteddfod attracts 2,500 competitors from over 40 countries. In addition to the daily music, singing and dancing competitions, gala concerts are performed in the evenings.
There is an Eistddfod site with more info
Land of bards and poets - Wales