The Festivals in Wales make it absolutely clear why the country is known throughout the world as the Land of Song. Few countries of such comparatively small populations can have such a wonderful abundance of music festivals held throughout the year. The most famous Welsh festivals, of course, are the historic eisteddfodau – a compelling mixture of music and poetry. There are many eisteddfodau held during the year in towns and villages across the country, especially around the time of St David’s Day, but there are three that are especially important. The International Eisteddfod, every July, is always held in the attractive and well-known town of Llangollen in Denbighshire and attracts performers and visitors from far afield.
The National Eisteddfod, however, is much more competitive and the majority of the proceedings are in Welsh, although some are simultaneously translated. Whereas the International Eisteddfod has a permanent venue, it is the policy of the National to change each year, usually alternating between North and South Wales.
One of Europe’s largest arts festivals for young people, Eisteddfod Yr Urdd, caters for those up to 24 years of age during a week each May. As well as singing, dancing and other competitions of musicianship, there are categories for acting and poetry reading. Although the festival again changes venue, the plan is for it to return to Cardiff every four years.
Music festivals in Wales, however, come into a host of other categories. There are a number of top quality folk music gatherings in towns such as Fishguard, Chepstow (The Two Rivers Folk Festival) and Pontardawe. There is the notable Bluegrass Music festival in Conwy each July and Jazz Festivals such as the Brecon Festival in mid-August and the Mumbles ‘Mostly Jazz and Blues’ Festival that is usually in early May.
For more classical music followers, the North Wales International Music Festival, founded in 1972, brings top class musicians to the St Asaph Cathedral in Conwy, a venue noted for its phenomenal acoustic qualities.
Modern music is catered for by many different festivals, including The Green Man Festival in August in a fabulous scenic location in the middle of the Brecon Beacons near the River Usk. Cardiff has a Big Weekend, which is three days of free live music and a travelling fun fair in the city centre and the Workhouse festival, in July, is a truly eclectic event in Llanfyllin, Powys. Those people who want to combine a few days of white knuckle wake board riding and live music, in a superb beach setting, might like to visit Wakestock in Abersoc, Cardigan Bay at the beginning of July.
Festivals in Wales cater not just for music lovers, though. For example, there are in excess of 20 food festivals each year in mid Wales alone. The Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, in Aberaeron Harbour, and the Newtown Multicultural Food Festival are particularly popular events.
Eisteddfodau apart, Wales’ most famous international festival is undoubtedly the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival which, since its inception in 1988, has developed into the most prestigious of its type in the world. During the end of May and beginning of June each year, some of the most important writers and critics of the modern age read and discuss their work and other themes. There are always a number of free events and some wonderful activities for children. The picturesque small town of Hay has created quite a reputation as a festival town as, apart from the Literary Festival, it hosts both Music and Food Festivals each year.
Many of the wonderful festivals in Wales offer a high quality festival experience – and the opportunity of visiting some of the most beautiful parts of Britain at the same time.