Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 16:10 UK

Eisteddfod aims to broaden appeal

Splott sign in English and Welsh
We asked residents in Splott in Cardiff whether they would be attracted to the Eisteddfod

Organisers of one of Wales' cultural "jewels" are appealing for more non-Welsh speakers to attend.

The National Eisteddfod starts on 2 August in Cardiff, where just 11% of people speak Welsh, according to the last census figures.

But organisers say the event also "belongs" to English-speakers, while pointing out translation services are available during the week.

The event will be set up in Pontcanna Fields in the city.

Eisteddfod organisers, looking to broaden the appeal, point to attractions such as the science and visual arts pavilions, which can be enjoyed by all.

Visitors can also buy jewellery and crafts from trade stands, watch sporting activities and dine at restaurants on site.

Penelope Rollinson (top), Adam Lloyd and Tracy Pallant
The Eisteddfod is trying to attract non-Welsh speakers, like these in Splott

Eisteddfod chief executive Elfed Roberts said: "A myth that circulates suggests that the Eisteddfod is for Welsh-speakers only and that is completely wrong.

"We would encourage everyone to come to the Eisteddfod, which is one of Wales' jewels.

"It belongs to the people of Wales whether or not people speak Welsh."

He also says it is a myth that all the competitors are Welsh speakers.

"A lot of the competitors in the music competitions, such as members of brass bands, can't speak the Welsh language," said Mr Roberts. But despite the warm welcome, would the non-Welsh speakers of Cardiff consider attending?

In Splott, a suburb of the city where 8.9% of residents speak Welsh, according to the 2001 census, many people appeared unaware that the Eisteddfod was even taking place in their city.

If it's in the capital city of Wales, it should be trying to appeal to everyone

Tracy Pallant, resident

Michele Worthington, 40, a non-Welsh speaker who works at Rolfe's florist on Splott Road, said: "No, I didn't have a clue it was in Cardiff.

"It shouldn't just be for Welsh language speakers, it should be for everybody but it's just not portrayed that way."

Tracy Pallant, 47, was also unaware the event was in Cardiff this year but she welcomed efforts to broaden the appeal.

"I have been before but I wouldn't go out of my way," she said.

"I think it would appeal a lot to tourists, Americans or whatever, and people wanting to see particular events but I would assume it's geared mainly at Welsh speakers.

"If it's in the capital city of Wales, it should be trying to appeal to everyone."

One 60-year-old Splott resident, who did not want to be named, said he was not at all interested in the Eisteddfod.

"It's something you do in school, going to Urdds and things like that, but after that it dies," he said.

"In my particular circle of friends, I couldn't think of one person who would go, it's just not something that appeals to people.

Culturally elite

"It might do to youngsters if they've done their GCSE in Welsh, they may like it, but middle-aged, inner-city people, I wouldn't have thought so."

But 53-year-old Penelope Rollinson was rather excited about the Eisteddfod even if she did not previously know it was taking place in Cardiff.

"I paint so I would be very interested in seeing the art and the traditional Welsh songs and costumes," she said.

"People should be coming over from England for it, they can still enjoy it.

"I will go along now, most definitely."

Eisteddfod in Newport
The Eisteddfod was in another south Wales city, Newport, in 2004

One person who certainly knew about the Eisteddfod was 35-year-old Adam Lloyd.

"I work for Rubicon dance school in Splott and we're performing there," he said.

"It's such a big event it's lovely to be involved in something so associated with Wales.

"Do my mates know about the Eisteddfod? No, probably not.

"I'm not sure if it's seen a culturally elite.

"I don't think it's populist, I don't think they're reaching out to everybody."

He also admitted he probably would not have attended if he had not been directly involved.

Changing people's perceptions of the Eisteddfod will be difficult, a point illustrated by 22-year-old Calum Jones, who speaks Welsh and will probably attend.

"I can imagine it would put a lot of people off if they don't speak Welsh," he said.

"Welsh everywhere in their face without any clue what's going on.

"It's important to get English speakers involved as well."

• The National Eisteddfod takes place in Pontcanna, Cardiff, from 2-9 August.

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