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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Annual Urdd youth festival begins
An eisteddfod site
The location alternates annually between north and south Wales
Thousands of young people have gathered in the grounds of a school in Denbighshire for the start of this year's Urdd National Eisteddfod.

Urdd Gobaith Cymru is the largest youth organisation in Wales, and one of the leading youth organisations in Europe.

The week-long 2006 event, which started with a Sunday night concert, is being held at Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin.

The Urdd usually attracts more than 100,000 visitors, 15,000 competitors, and nearly one million TV viewers.

The organisers say the eisteddfod is "Europe's largest cultural youth festival".

Competitions range from choirs to solo recitations, dance, science, arts and crafts, composition and the awarding of the bardic chair to the winning poet.

The Urdd Eisteddfod gives youngsters confidence, an opportunity to appreciate high standards, and to learn how to lose with dignity
Caryl Parry Jones, singer

The location of the eisteddfod alternates every year between north and south Wales.

In 2005, it was centred around the Urdd's new headquarters at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) in Cardiff Bay.

This year the eisteddfod returns to the site of the Bro Glyndwr Eisteddfod of 1992.

But since then, organisers said the site has developed "extensively".

The main events start on Monday and last until 3 June, with a large pavilion in the centre of the maes (eisteddfod site), with 1,600 seats.

There will be translation facilities in the pavilion to help non-Welsh speakers, as well as a Welsh learners tent.

Festival goers can also toast Mistar Urdd's (the organisation's mascot) 30th birthday, with a non-alcoholic cocktail in the Urdd bar.

The opening concert held on Sunday night was a tribute to local singer and composer, Caryl Parry Jones, for her contribution to the Welsh entertainment scene.

Ioan Gruffudd
Past performers include Ioan Gruffudd

The cast included international tenor Rhys Meirion, female group Eden and TV favourites Dewi Pws and Emyr Wyn.

The chief executive of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Efa Gruffudd Jones said the excitement was already building.

"Children enjoy taking part, and young people certainly gain confidence and they develop their talents," she said.

"Many children will be travelling from afar to this year's eisteddfod, and taking part will be an important element.

"There will be plenty of things for them to do on the eisteddfod field, whether they reach the main stage or not," she added.

The Welsh Rugby Union will be hold its summer roadshow, promoting community rugby.

The Welsh assembly and the Electoral Commission will be joining forces at the eisteddfod in an effort to "engage" with the youth in Wales.

An exhibition includes assembly members' "bingo", a democracy treasure hunt and a "build your own politician".

Organisers say the festival is the "pinnacle of years of preparation and co-operation" between the Urdd, Denbighshire council and local volunteers.

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