Wales’ annual celebration of the country’s language and culture is kicking off in Cardiff this weekend.
For one jam-packed week, Cardiff Bay will be buzzing with traditional Welsh music, dance, drama and crafts as the biggest Welsh language event in the world takes over the water front.
Set to be Eisteddfod’s most urban and experimental year yet, there will be activities and events happening all around landmark buildings on Cardiff’s waterfront.
With so much going on, it’s difficult to decide what you want to see and do. To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of the highlights at the 2018 Eisteddfod.
Welwn ni chi yno!
When is the Eisteddfod 2018?
This year’s festival starts on Friday 3 August and finishes on Saturday 11 August.
The largest travelling festival in Europe is heading down south, and will be held in the Cardiff Bay area of the Welsh capital.
And 2018 has been earmarked as “no ordinary Eisteddfod” with an exciting mix of iconic permanent buildings and temporary structures being used in Cardiff Bay throughout the week, making it the most exciting festival yet.
What happens at the Eisteddfod?
Eisteddfod is primarily a competition-based festival which attracts over 6,000 competitors every year.
Showcases of Welsh music, dance, visual arts, literature and dramatic performances are just some of the exciting events that happen throughout the week, alongside celebrations of traditional arts and crafts.
However, the Maes (site) has also grown into a vibrant festival area, with food, drink, events and activities taking place to compliment the competitions.
Although the festival is a Welsh language celebration, you don’t need to be a Welsh-speaker to enjoy the festival. Welsh learners and non-speakers are welcomed with open arms. There’s opportunities to start your journey learning the Welsh tongue as well as translation help throughout the site.
What Competitions Should You Catch at Eisteddfod 2018?
With so many competitive events happening, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Singing, instrumental solos, recitation, drama, dance – there’s too much to see in one festival!
We recommend making sure you catch some Cerdd Dant, which is a traditional Welsh art of vocal improvisation over a given melody.
There’s lots of categories, from Cerdd Dant Quartets and Solos to “Parties” of up to 20 singers, as well as childrens’ competitions. The Cerdd Dant events are all taking place in the HSBC Pavilion (Pafiliwn HSBC) , located in the Donald Gordon Theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre.
For access to any events in the Millenium Centre, you’ll need a wristband which is available to buy from the Eisteddfod website here. Most of the competitions regular wristband access.
Another must-see competition category this year is the Folk Songs, or Alawon Gwerin, which are also taking place in the HSBC pavilion.
What Else is Going on at Eisteddfod 2018?
Across the rest of the Maes (site), you’ll be able to take part in interactive activities and enjoy a tonne of music, as well as indulging on decadent treats from a host of food and drinks stalls.
First things first, we recommend you catch the Carnifal y Môr, happening at 10:30pm on Saturday 4 August. This fiesta of Welshness is a community carnival celebrating the diversity of Welsh life and the arrival of the Eisteddfod in Cardiff.
Catch the procession as it winds its way down to the waterfront and in front of the Senedd, where a film by artist Megan Broadmeadow will be projected onto colossal water screens, exploring the remarkable biodiversity of sea life in the waters of Cardiff Bay.
Traditional Arts and Crafts
Head on over to the Tŷ Gwerin tent (near the Norwegian Church), to catch some folk and traditional events, including folk dancing, clogging and storytelling.
In case you were wondering, clogging is a dance that was originally performed by farmers and slate quarry workers which showed off stamina and athleticism. Welsh clogging is more complex than most step dance traditions as it includes ‘tricks’, such as snuffing out a candle with the dancer’s feet, leaping over brooms and performing ‘toby stepping’.
Alongside the competitions in singing and instrumental solos, you’ll also be able to catch loads of performances from Wales’ top artists across the Maes during the week.
The Llwyfan y Maes BBC Radio Cymru stage will be hosting artists and groups from the Welsh rock scene.
For a more chilled vibe, head to Caffi Maes B, close to the Norweigan Church, to enjoy some acoustic sessions, conversations and chilled-out workshops. The intimate atmosphere of this wigwam is perfect for enjoying the best of Welsh music.
There’s also a number of concerts set to take place. Our highlights include the Eisteddfodd Choir’s Concert and the boundary pushing Pendevig on the Pavilion stage on Thursday 9 August, where bands such as Calan and Mabon will be performing a unique combination of traditional Welsh music coupled with jazz, funk and drum’n’bass. Think fiddles and pipes with synths.
If you’re more interested in classical music, a brand new programme for 2018 is taking place in the Norwegian Church on the waterfront. ENCORE will see the Welsh National Opera, instrument recitals and discussions on welsh music influences throughout the week, including a number of harp recitals.
And for after-dark adventurers Maes B, the naughty brother of Eisteddfod, is kicking off on 8 August until 11 August, with gigs being held in the previous home of the Dr Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. Late night performances of over 20 Welsh language bands promise this year’s Maes B to be bigger and bolder than ever before. The late night debauchy is 16+ years only, and you need to buy tickets here.
Debates and Discussions
If you’re feeling political, some exciting discussions are set to play out on the Llannerch Gudd stage, on topics including “The ‘democratic deficit’ in Wales: how to engage with the public”, “The Communist Party of Great Britain and the National Question in Wales” and, perhaps more lightheartedly, “Cardiff Restaurants – the good, the bad… and the ugly!”.
More heavy-headed discussions will be happening in the National Assembly for Wales Building as a number of societies debate the most heated topics of our era: think the existence of the Welsh language, climate change, mental health and even the pros and cons of traditional Welsh medicine.
Over in the Sinemaes tent, you can catch some film-related activities, exclusive premieres and exciting screenings throughout the week.
If you can, try and see the Y Siwper Stomp! Concert as it’s one of the biggest poetry competitions of this century! Catch performances from duo Join Aneurig, Gwennan Evans and Osian Rhys Jones. Tickets cost £15.
If the gigantic celebration of everything Welsh seems a little overwhelming, why not join a guided tour of the Maes? Happening throughout the week, and setting off from the Red Information Hub, you can find more information, including times, on the Eisteddfodd website here.
What’s On for Kids at Eisteddfod 2018?
Children will love the Science and Technology Village, were STEM subjects and science are being showcased, particularly scientific research of international importance which is being conduced in Wales. Located near the train station, all science activities are free.
The Children’s Literary Festival will see a host of interactive activities for kids to get stuck into including fairy and pirate workshops and, on Saturday 11 August, a Sherlock Holmes Treasure Hunt, to find a disappearing diamond. There’s also story-telling and children’s yoga.
Food and Drink
The food village at Eisteddfod is jam-packed with a yummy selection of cuisines for all tastes.
Of course, we can’t rate highly enough the traditional home-cooked Welsh meals on offer, but there will also be Mexican, vegan, Indian, Spanish and Italian on offer, plus much more.
Head to The Syched bar for Welsh beer, ciders and wines and the new Gin Bar which will be serving up Welsh-made spirits.
The Gorsedd of the Bards at Eisteddfod 2018
It wouldn’t be an Eisteddfod without the Gorsedd, would it?
For those not knowledgeable on the link between Eisteddfodd and the Gorsedd of the Bards, the spectacular ceremonies are an integral part of the festival.
Set up in 1792, by Welsh academic Iolo Morganwg in London, the group celebrates the heritage and culture of Wales and its links to Celtic traditions.
Today, the group is made up of Welsh academics, writers and artists who must either complete examinations to join the prestigious institution or be granted an honoury position within the organisation.
During Eisteddfod, a number of ceremonies take place where the Gorsedd don their full ceremonial dress robes, making them an incredible sight to see. Ceremonies include the welcoming of new members, the Crowing Ceremony (honouring one of Wales’ leading poets), the Prose Medal Ceremony and the celebration of honoury members. For more information, visit the Gorsedd Ceremony website.
Where to Stay During Eisteddfod 2018
With the camping and caravan sites at this year’s festival all booked up, the best place to stay during this year’s Eisteddfod is The Exchange Hotel Cardiff.
Located within a historic, grade II* listed building at the heart of Cardiff Bay, it’s the perfect base from which to enjoy the festival of Welsh culture. Some of the must-see events at Eisteddfod are happening on the doorstep of this iconic hotel.
The old coal exchange building is deeply embedded in Cardiff’s industrial past, and remains steeped in history and grandeur throughout, reminiscent of the time when it was at the heart of the coal industry in Wales.
With luxurious suites perfect for family or group holidays and equipped with decadent amenities including spa baths and walk-in showers, plus an incredible bar and restaurant serving a delicious, locally sourced menu, you can continue to celebrate the culture and history of Wales even after you’ve left the Eisteddfod.
We can’t wait to celebrate the best of Wales with you. For more information and to book a room at The Exchange Hotel Cardiff, call our team on 02920 107050 or visit our reservations page today. Cymru am byth!