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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Festival rings to sound of euro
Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones launches the eurozone
The euro can be used in many Llangollen venues
One of the highlights of the Welsh cultural year got under way on Tuesday as competitors and Europe's newest currency all converged on a small north east Wales town.

To mark the 56th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, most traders have agreed to accept euros alongside pounds in the UK's first official eurozone.

Ukrainian folk singer competitors
Ukrainian folk singers compete on Wednesday

The dual currency scheme was officially launched by its originator Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones on the first day of the festival.

"It's important that Llangollen welcomes as many people as possible in the best way possible, and one of the things we can do is to allow them to use their euros in the shops," he said.

Mr Jones has denied that he has used the scheme for his own political advantage.

"It is a political issue but I'm not doing it solely for that.

"If I was, what difference is Llangollen going to make to the wider scheme of things?"

Many European visitors were happy to use the euro on the Eisteddfod field.

One competitor Liz from Ukraine said: "We are very pleased because our group travel all over the world and using the euro is easier for us.


It's important that Llangollen welcomes as many people as possible in the best way possible

Martyn Jones MP

"We have got our own money but we don't mind the euro - it's very good for us," she added.

Visitors who pay with euros will receive their change in sterling.

There have been fears the changing exchange rate could effect the amount of money handed back to the customer.

"The change may not be exact but they're not paying commission, so to that extent many differences may be ironed out," said Mr Jones.

One local trader who is not taking part is local postmistress Wyn Mayne-Flower, who said she would not be "railroaded" into using the euro during the festival.

Tuesday's opening day was earmarked for the visiting youngsters.

Pupils from Ysgol Bryn Collen
Youngsters read the peace message

Many local schoolchildren attended the eisteddfod and competitors have been showing them a sneak preview of their competition pieces.

A 19 strong Ukrainian folk group spent the opening day practising ahead of their performance on Wednesday.

Ukrainian dancer Olga said: "I'm impressed, we have nothing similar in Ukraine.

"It's very well organised and the platform where we performed was great."

The eisteddfod began in 1947 after it was set up to bring countries closer together following the end of the Second World War.

Ever since, the festivities have began with a Peace Message.

This year children from Ysgol Bryn Collen in Llangollen delivered the message.

Dyfan Phillips, the school's head of Welsh, wrote the message.

Eisteddfod competitors
Competitors admitted they felt nervous

"The year in its entirety has been bad, so I wanted something for the kids to enjoy and with the World Cup being on, we thought that would be an appropriate place to start," he said.

Ten-year-old Robert Wright from Trevor said: "I had to do a message on my own and I wore an England shirt.

"My message is about team work," he added.

The competitors will take part in a parade through Llangollen at 1700 BST on Tuesday.


More news from north east Wales
See also:

08 Jul 02 | Wales
08 Jul 02 | Wales
13 May 02 | Wales
20 May 02 | Wales
12 Jun 02 | Wales
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