Byd gwyn fydd byd a gano. Gwaraidd fydd ei gerddi fo
Blessed is a world that sings. Gentle are its Songs
The words above form the motto of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. Written by T. Gwynn Jones in 1946, they were commissioned as a poetic description of our purpose and have beautifully served the organisation for 75 years. They form a significant part of our history and the motto can be seen adorning our artwork, competition trophies and home, the Royal International Pavilion.
We are currently reviewing our entire organisation to ensure that we are meeting the standards expected by the Charities Commission, our public funding bodies and our audiences. Part of this process involves considering who we are now, who we want to be in the future, and how we communicate this. After sharing samples of a new ‘look’ with a number of stakeholders during a feedback process, we received advice from trusted external partners who work regularly in Welsh, that as part of our continued renewal, we should be aware of potential misinterpretation when translating our motto from Welsh into other languages.
Many Welsh speakers would know that in the context of T. Gwynn Jones’ couplet, the words ‘byd gwyn’ mean ‘blessed’, coming from ‘Gwyn eu bid’, the opening words of St. Matthew’s Beatitudes in the Welsh translation of the Bible. However, a literal translation (including those provided by online translation tools and apps) is instead, ‘white world’. We felt that having had this brought to our attention, it was responsible to embark on research and consultation to clarify this issue and consider potential ways forward. This included speaking with numerous Welsh and non-Welsh speakers, Welsh language experts and advisors, both within and outside of our organisation, locally and further afield, and our funders. Their unanimous advice was that the motto is beautiful when read with an understanding of the nuances of the Welsh language, but that for non-Welsh speakers and new generations of audiences and indeed Welsh speakers, the intended meaning is not clear enough.
T. Gwynn Jones’ words have travelled from Llangollen around the world, spreading the Welsh message of peace, and our motto has served us tremendously well for 75 years; we are rightly proud of it in its intended meaning and translation. As Llangollen Eisteddfod continues on an important path of renewal of our purpose in a modern world, the Board has agreed that this presents a rich creative opportunity to consider Welsh as a living and evolving language.
Our current motto and much-loved shield will remain part of the Eisteddfod’s visual identity in 2023, and the Board will spend the next 5 months in consultation with our stakeholders on the best way forward for 2024 and beyond.
In response to this review being picked up by media and individuals on social media, we wish to provide some additional context that we feel has been misunderstood or misrepresented. We want to clearly state that we have not at any point implied any racism. The Eisteddfod is, and has always been, a beacon for togetherness. We also wish to emphasise that we fully understand that the majority of Welsh speakers do not read the words ‘byd gwyn’ within the context of the motto as anything other than ‘blessed’. This is a matter of translation by the method most likely to be used by non-Welsh speaking audiences around the world. And finally, we cannot state enough that we stand by the sentiment of the words as intended by T. Gwynn Jones.
To clarify some of the points in Professor Gruffydd Aled Williams’s letter to the Western Mail on 22 March 2023, we would like to make it clear that the Arts Council of Wales did not advise the Eisteddfod to discontinue the use of our current motto. The advice offered on this subject was in the context of an informal conversation about the consultation on a new brand. They agreed with us that discussing the motto, and the nuances and impact of words and language in an international context, was part of a process of examining a new brand identity. The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is independent from the Arts Council of Wales and we are not one of its revenue funded organisations. We have been successfully awarded with two grants from The Arts Council: ‘Building bridges across the world’ – to support a meeting place at Llangollen 2023 for global performers to experience Welsh festival traditions, and ‘Emerging Voices of Wales’, a new project that explores the multicultural and multilingual nature of modern Wales.
Our small staff team and invaluable group of volunteers will now focus on delivering the exceptional 2023 Eisteddfod that our audiences expect and deserve.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 15.03.23 (updated 28.03.23)