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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 15:49 GMT
Alcohol go-ahead for eisteddfod
Dr Robyn Lewis, archdruid
Archdruid Dr Robyn Lewis discussed changes to the event
Radical changes made by National Eisteddfod of Wales organisers will allow alcohol to be served on the festival field for the first time.

A meeting of the Eisteddfod Council on Saturday also agreed to slacken the Welsh language-only rule at Europe's largest cultural festival, which this year takes place in Newport.

The changes made by the council also includes introducing a fake Gorsedd stone circle to try to make the annual Welsh language event more appealing to a wider audience.

Although visitor numbers have been high in recent years, the festival has been losing money - leading organisers to make the wide-reaching changes to its image.

There will be a mobile bar on one or two of the food patches so that people can buy alcohol with or without food
Elfed Roberts, eisteddfod director

From 2004 alcohol will sold on the festival field - or maes - as a way of making the event more attractive to visitors.

"There will be a mobile bar on one or two of the food patches so that people can buy alcohol with or without food," said the eisteddfod's director, Elfed Roberts.

Circus performers

He agreed there was room for improvement to make the festival more attractive to non-Welsh speakers.

"You have got to remember that the eisteddfod is a cultural event held through the medium of a language which is spoken by the minority of the people of Wales," he added.

"We need to educate the people of Wales - whether they speak Welsh or not.

"We need to tempt them to come to the eisteddfod and taste the festival for themselves."

Ioan Gruffudd was admitted to the Gorsedd last summer
Actor Ioan Gruffudd was admitted to the Gorsedd last summer

Mr Roberts said that posters and information boards would be provided for visitors in languages other than Welsh.

Other ways to breathe new life into the festival could now include enlisting the help of circus performers, buskers, and other entertainers to liven up the proceedings outside the competition pavilions.

Last year organisers decided to take a serious look at the future of the eisteddfod after an independent report concluded it was old-fashioned and lacking in appeal.

Research was carried out after the festival ran up debts of about 180,000 after the 2002 festival in Pembrokeshire.

An action plan, The Way Forward, was drawn up, and the meeting on Saturday was the first opportunity for members of the council to discuss the suggestions in earnest.

One major move will now be to concentrate more activities in the heart of the maes, rather than on its fringes, by introducing a new-style Gorsedd circle.

Mobile stones

Fake stones will be ferried from venue to venue although the traditional stone circles will still be erected for Proclamation ceremonies.

Supporters of the idea said mobile stones would be cheaper, and would allow ceremonies to take place at the centre of the eisteddfod field.

The Gorsedd stones are usually placed in a field or park, sometimes miles away from the maes.

It is often impracticable to install the stones on the eisteddfod site itself, as once the event is over the field often reverts to being used for farming.

Last November, Archdruid Dr Robyn Lewis agreed that some "radical changes" would have to be made - but without harming the traditions of the national event.

Recent moves to improve the appeal of the eisteddfod have included inviting younger celebrities to join the elite Gorsedd.

Actor Ioan Gruffudd was admitted last summer.

The 2004 National Eisteddfod is taking place at Tredegar House and Country Park, Newport, between 31 July and 7 August.

Ioan joins the Welsh elite
04 Aug 03  |  Wales
When a druid isn't a druid
06 Aug 02  |  UK News
Archdruid supports changes
29 Nov 03  |  Mid

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