Monmouthshire’s invitation to the National Eisteddfod to visit the county has been more than justified, said council leader Peter Fox. Speaking on the final day of the festival of Welsh language and culture, Councillor Fox said: “We’ve waited over a hundred years for the Eisteddfod to return to Monmouthshire and this week has been absolutely fantastic. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! There has been a willingness to embrace the Welsh language and we need to build on this. Everyone I’ve spoken to has enjoyed their time on the Maes and they have been very complimentary about the 2016 Monmouthshire & District Eisteddfod. This Eisteddfod has displayed Monmouthshire at its best and we hope that people will return to experience the many attractions that our county offers.”
Councillor Fox added: “I would like to recognise the contribution of our fabulous ambassadors who volunteered to ensure this week was a wonderful success.”
Monmouthshire’s ambassadors underwent the same training programme as that used in the 2012 London Olympics and this paid dividends. Many Eisteddfod–goers commented on the warm welcome provided by volunteers and the park and ride bus drivers as well as the efficient and friendly service on offer.
Elfed Roberts, Chief Executive of the National Eisteddfod commented: “Thank you to the people of Monmouthshire for their welcome over the past two years and to the council for the fantastic working relationship. It’s taken us over a hundred years to return to Monmouthshire and I think the whole of Wales and beyond has fallen in love with the area. We were delighted with the week itself, and in particular with the figures for the final Saturday, and the number of local people who came back for more after visiting us at the beginning of the week.
“It was a memorable and happy week for Eisteddfod visitors and also for staff and volunteers alike, and one that we’ll all treasure for many years to come.”
Attendance figures through the week were very encouraging and the figure for the final Saturday – 19,086 – was the best for seven years. The total attendance of 140,297 at Abergavenny’s Castle Meadows compares favourably with recent Eisteddfodau, especially given Monmouthshire’s isolation from the Welsh-speaking heartlands and its relative inexperience of Eisteddfod culture.
Among its eclectic mix of music, drama, dance and poetry, one of the Eisteddfod’s major attractions was the impressive Love Monmouthshire/Caru Sir Fynwy pavilion displaying the best of the county’s arts, crafts, culinary skills and sports. The flower-decked arena offered a mix of colourful permanent, semi-permanent and one-off features drawing large and appreciative crowds within its three areas – the Give It a Go Zone where people tested their sports prowess, the Vale of Usk Country Kitchen showcasing the best of the region’s food and cookery, and a main staging area. This is where a range of activities took place – choirs, individual singers, exhibitions like the River Severn Lave fishermen display, belly dancing, writing workshops, sand-sculpting, pottery making, stalls offering local produce, children’s activities and much more.
Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for the Welsh language, Councillor Phil Hobson said: “We eagerly looked forward to the National Eisteddfod for a long time and it exceeded all expectations. Many Monmouthshire residents have revelled in this wonderful and vibrant celebration of language and culture. Our Love Monmouthshire/Caru Sir Fynwy pavilion was outstanding and featured spectacular performances as well as demonstrating the best of the county’s rich heritage.”
The previous time that the National Eisteddfod was held in Monmouthshire was in 1913 – also in Abergavenny. The 2017 National Eisteddfod will be held in Ynys Môn/Anglesey before it returns to Cardiff ten years after it was last held there. For more information go to: www.eisteddfod.wales.