Posts Categorized: Archive ‘Tent’

Each year, you will find our Archive Tent on the field – a treasure trove of books, programmes, photographs, newspaper cuttings, posters, film footage and sound recordings. For Llangollen Online, our Archive Committee has been working hard to share some of the material we hold in our archive collection in the form of a daily blog during ‘Eisteddfod Week’.

Archive FlipBook

This compilation of posters shown in the Eisteddfod Archive Tent between 2016 and 2019 gives a very short factual history of the festival. It’s based only on verified records. This year we’ve turned them into a flip book which can be viewed for free HERE  or downloaded as a booklet from AMAZON.

You’ll find a timeline reporting the main changes which the Llangollen International Eisteddfod has gone through, and why: from the first glimmerings of the concept through to the very different world of the 21st century. It tells you about a few of the topics for which the Eisteddfod is famous, like its floral displays. It includes a bit of what other people have written about the festival, particularly in the early years. You can understand the transformation of the Eisteddfod finances during the inflation and depression of the 1970s. And it’s packed with wonderful photographs.


Here’s how the flipbook came about

For nearly two decades the small dedicated group of Eisteddfod volunteers in the Archive Committee has been collecting and organising a host of material about the Eisteddfod: papers, correspondence, newspapers, photographs, memorabilia, written and recorded memoirs, films, videos and recorded music.

In 2016 we decided to use the collection to tell and explain the history of the International Eisteddfod. We had brilliant visual, audio and audiovisual material, and lots of interesting objects, including amazing gifts given by competitors, volunteer badges, tickets, first-day covers, programmes, newsletters, examples of almost anything from the world that is Llangollen. We were fortunate to get a great tent, filled nine display cabinets, put up ten posters, and ran a continuous loop of old films, which showed the changes in performance styles over the seven decades. Object-based histories were tried. There were lots of enthusiastic visitors. The display was modified each year through to 2019. With no possibility of a physical display this year, putting something on the web was an obvious step.

We wanted to help new generations of volunteers understand the festival for which they were working so hard. We also wanted new visitors to have a glimpse of the 70-odd years of efforts which were the basis of their enjoyment. Our visitor book tells us we achieved these aims, but the Archive Tent also became a draw for people who’d been coming to the Eisteddfod for years, and wanted to meet and reminisce.

The Eisteddfod has much to be proud of in its lifetime of more than 70 years. But the story is complex, as were the individuals involved. A further motivation, then, was to present a factual history of the festival, based on reliable, well documented sources. Setting the record straight, perhaps, and challenging some of the myths and legends which had gained prominence. As archivists we collect everything, and try to make it all safe and accessible. As historians we try to present a factual history covering every aspect of the festival in a way which does justice to this wonderful Welsh initiative.

We hope you get value and enjoyment from this approach to the Eisteddfod story.


Barrie Potter
Archives Committee

The First International Eisteddfod 1947: Movietone Newsreel

The eight minutes and twenty seconds of this film are a unique audiovisual record of the first festival in 1947. You’ll see and hear the winning choirs. You’ll share the excitement with the audience packed into the marquee, made from war surplus canvas with 6000 seats borrowed from schoolrooms, chapels and elsewhere round the area. The first President, Mr W. Clayton Russon, articulates the Eisteddfod’s concept of how an international musical competition can help promote better understanding and friendly relations between people of different nations. The stage presenters, borrowed in 1947 from the Welsh National Eisteddfod, are busy and down-to-earth, just as they are now.

As was common in the early years, most of the concerts featured the competitors, but celebrity evenings on the Saturday and Sunday included superstars Joan Hammond and the Hallé Orchestra conducted by John Barbarolli. Especially in the first decade the concerts brought to Llangollen world-leading exponents of classical music, opera and dance.

A surprise, both for the organisers and the audience, were concert performances by two Spanish dance troupes. They were on a tour of Great Britain, organised by the Esperanto Society. They so enthralled the festival that in 1948 folk dance and folk song competitions were introduced, and quickly became the main attraction. Looking at the dances on the newsreel you can see why there were stories of the need for emergency measures to prop up the stage.

One of the mysteries about 1947 is why, in the “Land of Song”, there were no Welsh male voice choirs among the competitors. After all, three men’s choirs from England turned up, and so did six Welsh ladies choirs. Many explanations have been proposed over the years: from fear of having their quality exposed; costs of doing both the National and International Eisteddfodau; active discouragement by the National Eisteddfod, whose concerns about the lusty upstart festival are documented in archived correspondence. Best to leave all that to the conspiracy theorists, and instead celebrate the famous Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir, founded in 1948 to rectify the omission.

In 1947 the International Eisteddfod was very much a creation of the Llangollen community. Many heroes made enormous contributions along the paths from the glimmerings of the initial idea in 1943 to the international groups arriving in Llangollen in June 1947, but it was the leadership of the Llangollen Urban District Council which in May 1946 crystallised the event. From the outset there was an ambition to be independent. The British Council’s help in finding groups in Europe was welcomed, but their offer of financial support was declined: the first Eisteddfod was funded by local subscriptions. Before the end of the five days the local organisers had publicly committed to holding another festival in Llangollen in 1948, despite some loudly expressed opinions that it should move around Wales like the National. Since 1947, a quality prized in the volunteers has been fierce loyalty to the idea of holding an annual event in Llangollen.

The 1947 organisers approached several newsreel companies to cover the Eisteddfod. Movietone won out because they were best able to cope with the limited power supplies available on the Llangollen Recreation Field.

Click Here to see the film on the AP Archive (The Associated Press),

In the film, in sequence:

  • Females Choirs singing Benjamin Britten’s “This Little Babe”
  • Femina Female Choir, Amsterdam
  • Grupo Musicale Feminino, Porto (famous for travelling to Llangollen in a red and yellow bus)
  • Penarth Ladies Choral Society
  • Hungarian Men Workers Choir singing “Hey Nonny No” for which they won competition
  • Spanish Dancers performing their traditional dance “Fandango Sequidillas”
  • Amsterdamsch Kamerkoor singing “Die Winter is Verganghen
  • Belfast Choral Union Mixed Choir singing “Quick, we have but a second”
  • Madrigalkoren I Kalmar singing Folk Song “Gottland” (thIs Swedish group was the first actually to arrive in Llangollen)
  • Sale & District Musical Society Mixed Choir singing “Early One Morning”, with their conductor receiving trophy


Chris Adams
Archives Committee

Oscar-winning director makes a film about the Llangollen Eisteddfod

“The World Still Sings” is a documentary film of the 1964 International Eisteddfod, directed by Jack Howells and produced jointly by Howells’ own company and the Esso Petroleum Company, Ltd. In 1962, Howells won an Academy Award for his documentary of Dylan Thomas, and at the time of the Eisteddfod film he was working for ITV on a film about Aneurin Bevan. By opting to film the Llangollen Eisteddfod he placed the festival firmly in the pantheon of Welsh icons.

The title responds to lines from Dylan Thomas’s 1953 radio broadcast about the Llangollen festival:

“Are you surprised that people still can dance and sing in a world on its head? The only surprising thing about miracles, however small, is that they sometimes happen.”

The film can be viewed here.

The film of the 18th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 1964 captures the festival at the height of the highly successful early period. Its focus is on the competitors, as was all the newspaper and broadcast coverage. There were competitors from 17 countries in addition to the United Kingdom, and about 20 choral or dance groups in each of the major competitions. The winners came from West Germany, England, Italy, Ukraine (ex-pats from Manchester), Portugal and Sweden.

You get a glimpse in the film of the prestige then attached to the event. There was a royal visit (Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon). The new Secretary of State for Wales attended. TV coverage was UK-wide, and led by senior presenters who spent the week in Llangollen. Reporters and photographers came from all major newspapers and news agencies. The field is packed every day. Also evident from the film is the way that the festival spreads through the town, hardly surprising when many of the competitors stayed locally. Spontaneous late-night singing and dancing filled the homes and hostelries.

Unlike today, the concerts got little publicity. They were filled with the competitors doing special pieces. The professional performers included: a Spanish Harpist; and Geraint Evans, popular Welsh baritone. The opening concert presented the Czechoslovak National Ballet; the week closed with massed brass bands.

Look carefully at the film and you will be struck both by the contribution made everywhere by volunteers, and by the lack of commercialisation. Apart from a few food stalls, there are no concessions on the field. The small tents have a strong utilitarian ethos, typical of the festival: post office, Wales Tourist Board, newspapers, banks, organisations promoting international cooperation. Despite its policy of keeping ticket prices as low as possible to encourage attendance, the Eisteddfod more or less broke even; grants from the Arts Council for Wales and very recently from local authorities were used for improvements, not to defray running costs.

Look even more carefully and you’ll spot current Chairman Rhys Davies as an angelic young lad.

Lastly, the origins of the film are a bit of a mystery. The initiative came from Esso, who approached Jack Howells, but there are no papers about the film in the Jack Howells archive in the National Library of Wales, and Exxon Mobil couldn’t supply any insights. It is perhaps relevant that at the time all the large oil companies were promoting tourism as a way of increasing petrol sales. Nevertheless, the choice of Jack Howells as director was inspired. His documentary of Dylan Thomas had won an Oscar in 1962, and he had a way with Welsh subjects. He captured the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in a good year.



Chris Adams
Archives Committee



The Audio Archive

There have been audio recordings since the first Llangollen Eisteddfod in 1947. In the part of our Archive currently held in the LIME Pavilion, we have a recording of the Coedpoeth Youth Choir singing ‘Robin Ddiog’ (or ‘Lazy Robin’) during the 1947 Eisteddfod. The sound quality is not brilliant, but for just over a minute, we go back in time, and listen to this young group entertaining their audience, which erupts in applause at the end.

A festival based around music was bound to try to capture the essence of what was being performed by the choirs, instrumental groups and soloists taking part, and by the great artistes and orchestras invited along as guests. The earliest recordings take the form of 78 rpm discs, usually of individual choirs. These were often provided courtesy of the BBC from its Llangollen broadcasts. Most recordings in the LIME Archive consist of reel-to-reel audio tapes made year by year at each Eisteddfod, which preserve the entries at each of the competitions. These are listed as ‘Official Audio Recordings’ made on behalf of the Eisteddfod. More recent audio formats, such as the audio cassette and the CD, have been used in later years and have frequently been made available to the public through sales at outlets on the Eisteddfod field.

Some of these recordings are still retained in the LIME Pavilion, but the majority have been deposited over the years at the Denbighshire Archive in Ruthin. One of the aims of our current Archive Project is to digitise these recordings so that they become accessible to enquirers and researchers from across the world.

A small selection of accessible recordings has already been made, and a playlist created, which is available to hear in the Archive Tent during each Eisteddfod Week. We hope to build on the work done already, and to create an audio archive which will preserve much of the Llangollen Eisteddfod’s musical heritage for posterity.


Alan Tiltman
Archives Committee

Archiving the Past

We were looking forward to meeting you all at this year’s Eisteddfod and sharing our vision for the Archiving the Past project. As this is sadly not possible, we have put together a number of blogs to create a virtual Archive Tent this year to tell you more about it.