The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod will boost the local economy to the tune of £1.5 million.
That’s what the great annual event means to the south Denbighshire area and the town of Llangollen which has been hosting the festival since 1947 and which will again welcome the world this July.
The famous event that helped launch the career of opera superstars Luciano Pavarotti is again expected to attract nearly 40,000 visitors. The arrival of so many people from outside North East Wales means a cash injection that ripples out across businesses within a 20-mile radius of Llangollen.
Last year 36,000 people came to the Eisteddfod and with an average daily visitor spend of £42 that added up to a massive £1.5 million cash injection for the local economy.
This year’s Eisteddfod starts on Tuesday, July 7, and runs until Sunday, July 12, and already one of the biggest draws is proving to be the Thursday night concert when Alfie Boe will be joined on stage by Britain’s Got Talent star Jonathan Antoine.
Other musical highlights include Oscar-winning music legend Burt Bacharach, the immensely popular Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, choirmaster Gareth Malone and former Royal harpist Catrin Finch.
Another big draw will be and Ali Campbell, the voice of UB40 who sold 70 million records, who’ll be reunited on the eisteddfod stage with two other founding members of the group, percussionist, trumpet player and vocalist Astro and keyboard player Mickey.
Meanwhile, members of Jonathan Antoine’s fan club, the Fantoines, are gearing up to travel to Llangollen from far and wide, from all over the UK and from Europe too and even from Dubai.
Musical Director of the Eisteddfod, Eilir Owen Griffiths, says reaction to the news the Britain’s Got Talent star would be appearing at Llangollen has been amazing.
He said: “Jonathan Antoine is a real talent and has a huge career ahead of him; there is no doubt about it. I’m really not surprised at the sheer numbers of fans that have expressed an interest and booked tickets for the concert.
“And the huge distances fans are travelling is amazing and with most booking accommodation in and around Llangollen its clear the festival has a massive and positive impact on the regional economy.
“It really is going to be a special evening of music and I’m looking forward to greeting some of Jonathan’s ‘Fantoines’ to Llangollen.”
Clwyd South AM Ken Skates, who is also the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, is a big fan of the Llangollen Eisteddfod.
He said: “I love the International Eisteddfod and was honoured to become a Vice President of the festival last year. It is a fantastic event and one of the jewels in the Welsh cultural crown.
“The Eisteddfod gives Llangollen another opportunity to showcase itself and provides a massive boost to the local economy, but it also helps to promote Wales on an international stage, which is hugely important as we strive to further strengthen our burgeoning tourism industry.”
News of the Eisteddfod’s £1.5 million economic contribution to the area was music to the ears of the festival’s Chairman, Gethin Davies.
He said: “Llangollen has long been known as the town where Wales welcomes the world.
“The Eisteddfod has always been lauded for the cultural enrichment it brings to the area and I am delighted the event is also being recognised for the economic riches it generates.”
Among this year’s visitors will be retired teacher Jan Smith, 62, of Andover, Hampshire, who describes herself as ‘Head Fantoine’ and she block books concert tickets so fans can sit together, hands out merchandise promoting Jonathan Antoine’s website and keeps runs a dedicated website.
She said: “I’m driving up on Thursday to visit the Eisteddfod before the show. I’m coming with a friend and we have booked accommodation in Wrexham.
“I have block booked tickets for the Fantoines and we have people coming from all over the UK, from Denmark and Germany for the concert with one fan who coming from Dubai.”
Jan was spellbound when she first saw Jonathan on Britain’s Got talent stage and said: “I was channel hopping that night and saw Jonathan and his then singing partner Charlotte Jaconelli walk out on stage. I have to admit I was intrigued. He looked so out of place.
“But then he began to sing. He has a voice that just has an effect on you. There is just this feeling you get that he’s singing to you and you alone. I’ve been reduced to tears on more than one occasion.”
Pam Rose, 71, is driving up to Llangollen in a campervan from her home in Hemel Hempstead for the concert and is staying three days.
She said: “I just adore Jonathan. I don’t like Britain’s Got Talent but happened to drop on his audition with Charlotte Jaconelli by accident.
“There was this overweight and clearly very nervous 17-year-old dressed in a shabby T-shirt. And then he started to sing and I was hooked. I have now seen him several times including in a concert with Russell Watson at the Royal Festival Hall.”
NHS admin officer Liz Whelan, 60, is travelling to Llangollen for the concert from her Glasgow home along with her sister Janice Leleux, 57, and their 79-year-old mum, Elizabeth Wortman.
Liz said: “We are staying in Wrexham and have booked into a hotel for a few nights. I watched Jonathan and Charlotte’s Britain’s Got Talent audition and when he began to sing, wow!
“I don’t know what it was about Jonathan but his voice is so powerful and so incredible. I just fell in love.
“I bought his album and played it in the car. I had to pull over as I was crying so much I couldn’t see properly. His voice is such a joy.”
Sally Anne Adams is travelling to Llangollen from Essex and said: “I have travelled all over the UK to see Jonathan perform. I first saw him at St Pancras Station and I plucked up the courage to ask for a picture with him and not only did he oblige but his mum knew who I was from a comment I’d put on his page. She actually knew my name.”
The Eisteddfod will also feature Children’s Day and the Parade of Nations on the Tuesday, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite before the evening Heart of Llangollen concert featuring a galaxy of international talent.
Highlights of Wednesday will include the debut of the International Young Musician of the Year and the Children’s Choir of the World while Thursday’s competitions will see another first, the International Voice of Musical Theatre Trophy.
Friday’s Open Category for choirs will showcase styles like gospel, barbershop, jazz, pop and glee styles and will also see the International Voice of the Future decided with the prize including the chance to sing at one of the evening concerts the future.
The Blue Riband event, the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy, is decided on Saturday night as well as the Lucile Armstrong Dance Final and Sunday sees the Eisteddfod let its hair down for Llanfest before the climactic final concert with Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey.