A brand new festival is to offer Wales’s dancing hopefuls a unique route into one of the world’s greatest cultural events – and the chance to compete for a share of £3,500.
In a ground-breaking partnership the inaugural Festival of Discovery on Anglesey in May will give 12 troupes of folk dancers the chance to perform on stage at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
It’s the first time the Eisteddfod, founded in 1947, has allowed another event to act as a qualifier for its prestigious competitions which have helped launch the careers of world stars like Sir Bryn Terfel, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.
The Festival of Discovery Wales will take place at the Anglesey Showground over three days from Thursday, May 30, to Saturday, June 1, and is really three events rolled into one combining adventure, culture and the great outdoors.
It chimes with the Visit Wales campaign which has designated 2019 as the Year of Discovery and includes a packed programme of music, dance, food, nature, science, adventure and evening entertainment as well as the chance to take up a glamping offer of luxury tented accommodation on site.
Folk dance will be an integral part of the cultural section with four competitions, Traditional Folk-Dance Group, Choreographed/Stylized Folk-Dance Group, Children’s Traditional Folk-Dance Group, and Cultural Showcase – with the top three in each class invited to Llangollen in July – as well as dance workshops to introduce dance to a new audience.
Wales’s very own king of clog dancers, Huw Williams, winner of dancing crowns at Wales’s National Eisteddfod and at Llangollen Eisteddfod, will be among those running dance workshops at the festival and he will also be a judge for the dance competitions.
Huw, 59, from Brynmawr, in Blaenau Gwent, has written songs for folk music legends Fairport Convention, performed with the chart-topping Ralph McTell and manages the acclaimed Welsh band Calan which includes his daughter, Bethan Rhiannon, also a Welsh clog dance champion.
He said: “Welsh folk music is enjoying a revival. It’s like watching a tornado starting and I think the same could happen to Welsh dance because it is quite unique.
“Welsh dance struggled to survive the religious revival of the 19th century with dance particularly affected and it used to be that no Welsh dance group could ever win a folk dance competition because none of their dances were traditional – they were all composed.
“When I started in the 1970s we had to develop our own dances, inventing new steps and that is a unique aspect of Welsh folk dance.
“I invented many of the steps and younger dancers have come along and taken dance along and they are much better and more inventive than me and I’m looking forward to seeing that on Anglesey.
“It should be a fantastic festival and a chance to celebrate our Welsh culture and language.”
Festival of Discovery organiser Davina Carey-Evans, managing director of Beaumaris-based Sbarc Event Management, said: “It’s very exciting to have a partnership with Llangollen Eisteddfod and to have Huw Williams involved.
“He is a real legend of Welsh dance and this is a real opportunity to showcase dance as an important and vibrant element of Welsh culture and the competitions give a chance for dancers from across Wales to earn a place at the Eisteddfod and perhaps feature on the stage on Saturday night competing for the Dance Champions of the World title.”
That’s something the Eisteddfod’s Acting Musical Director Edward-Rhys Harry is excited about and he said: “This partnership with the Festival of Discovery is a first for us and is about reaching out into the community and forging links with other cultural events.
“Dance is very important to us at Llangollen and we are very well represented from an international point of view and we hope this will encourage a stronger entry from within Wales, across all ages, no holds barred.
“We have the Dance Champions of the World on stage on Saturday night at the Eisteddfod and I hope to see not just representation from Wales but for them to go all the way.”
Entries for the Festival of Discovery’s four dance categories, must be in by March 29, and details of how to enter, as well as full information on the three-day event, are on the website at https://www.festivalofdiscovery.wales/
This year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod takes places from July 1-7, see website for further details, https://international-eisteddfod.co.uk/