Six months before the curtain goes up on this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, a dedicated team of backroom staff are already well ahead with preparations to ensure the great festival goes as smoothly as ever.
And getting an early start on the myriad arrangements is always absolutely vital to the success of the event according to Eisteddfod company secretary Sian Eagar.
Sian, now in her third year in the post, said: “There’s quite a long planning process so that we can secure all the competitors from around the world for the week of the Eisteddfod and put together a programme of concerts which will have the widest possible appeal to our visitors, and naturally all this takes time to arrange.
“We’re thinking about the next one almost as soon as one year’s festival is finished in July and we start getting down to actual detailed planning from September or October onwards.”
The Eisteddfod has just six paid employees based at its headquarters in the Royal International Pavilion and, assisted by a small number of volunteers, they have all been hard at work on arrangements for Llangollen 2015 since the autumn.
One of the most important roles is that of events co-ordinator, a job done by Sue McEvoy since 2011.
Sue and fellow events team members Christie Gerrard and Peter Budd have a range of important tasks, from ensuring a broad and varied selection of entrants in the famous choral and dance competitions to the detailed planning of when and where they will take to the famous pavilion stage once they arrive for this year’s festival, which takes place from July 7-12.
Sue said: “I actually started work on detailed planning for this year as long ago as September, contacting likely choral and dance competitors from the UK and around the world.
“We have our own database of groups which have previously appeared or have expressed a desire to come to Llangollen and we send out letters to all these organisations and we also go out to see them perform at events like the North Wales Choral Festival which was in Llandudno last November.
“We made the final selection of competitors before Christmas and we are currently sending our confirmation letters to all the groups chosen.
“A total of 109 choirs and dance groups will be competing this year, including 62 from the UK and 47 from countries including China, Australia and the USA.”
Sue said that it’s not uncommon for representatives of some of the groups selected to visit the Eisteddfod headquarters to cast an eye over the venue where they will eventually perform.
In fact, earlier this week, one of the leaders of the St Paul’s Co-ed Primary School in Hong Kong, Kelvin Suen, was at the pavilion to meet Sue and her team to see for himself the legendary stage on which stars from Pavarotti to Bryn Terfel and from Lulu to Status Quo have performed and where his singers will make their own Llangollen debut.
Sue’s team also handle the applications for the Eisteddfod’s own bursaries – a pool of cash built from fundraising and on which accepted competitors can draw to help cover the cost of their accommodation, food and travel.
They are also busy putting the final touches to the programming of the event, painstakingly working out precisely when competing groups will appear on the stage during the preliminary rounds of competition and the finals.
Another vital job has been working on the contracts for artists who will appear at the concerts throughout the week and also helping to arrange hotel accommodation for the performers and adjudicators.
Sue added: “The arrangements for this year are now well in hand and I must say that everything is looking good for another great festival.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Eisteddfod office at the pavilion, pressing ahead with the gargantuan job of ensuring that everyone visiting the festival has the correct tickets to hand when they turn up at the field is long-time Llangollen volunteer Keith Potts.
Keith, who lives in the town, has been helping out at the eisteddfod since he was a little lad of four and for the past decade or so has held the highly responsible position as chairman of the tickets committee.
He said: “I usually start making the preparations in November and at the moment I am in the process of sending out letters to all our season ticket holders and Friends of the Eisteddfod.
“I’ll eventually send out about 1,000 of these, which takes myself and a few helpers about three days of work.
“I’ve also been making sure that our box office computer system is set up and ready to go, which I’m pleased to say it is.
“When I first started volunteering it was a case of putting the money in wooden drawers at the turnstiles and dishing out the tickets.
“But over the past 20 years it’s has all been computerised and we’re now on to our third or fourth generation system.”
It’s essential that the all-important ticketing process is handled as speedily and efficiently as possible as last year, for instance, Keith’s committee sold a staggering 30,000 of them amounting to about £1.2 million.
However, it’s not all down to computers and over the week of the festival a small army of around 35 volunteers will be on hand to help at the turnstiles at both ends of the Eisteddfod field.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s festival and thanks to all the work beforehand and during the week I’m sure we’re going to have another great event,” said Keith.
Sian Eagar added: “We’re all very excited about Llangollen 2015 and we’re looking forward very much to the public launch of our 2015 programme in early February.”
Chairman Gethin Davies said: “We’re very fortunate in having a tremendous team here at the Eisteddfod who do a fantastic job in tying everything together ahead of the event.
“When they’re added to the wonderful volunteers who are the lifeblood of the Eisteddfod it makes for something very special but without all the work done months in advance that week in July just wouldn’t happen.”