Mam Cymru was invited to the Urdd Eisteddod this week, to give our honest opinion on the festival as a family day out. Mam was sadly too busy at work to attend this year’s festival, but luckily Dad was keen to take our daughter Elsi along. Here’s his honest review.
As a Dad who’s learnt welsh with my daughter, I was a bit wary of the Urdd and thought that welsh learners and non-welsh speaking families wouldn’t feel welcome. I was raised in Aberdovey, a seaside village in Gwynedd and with only a handful of welsh speaking kids at my school, the Urdd wasn’t on our radar. As a result, I thought that the Urdd was just a welsh language festival for kids who wanted to sing. In truth, it’s so much more than that!
The Urdd offers lots of fun activities for kids throughout the year. Elsi attends the Urdd’s after school club and we’ve both really enjoyed the Urdd’s rugby classes. The Urdd Eisteddfod is the highlight of the Urdd’s calendar, it’s one of the largest children’s festivals in Europe.
Elsi is almost 6 and is old enough to compete this year, but she chose not to and we supported her decision. For those who do compete and win the regional Eisteddod’s, the festival is where the cream of the crop compete against each other on a national level and on a massive stage – an amazing opportunity! They also showcase the best competitors in the arts and crafts competitions. There’s a lot more to it than just the singing, but we weren’t here to watch the competitions, we wanted to see what else families could do at the Urdd.
The Urdd Eisteddfod is held in a different area of Wales every year, and this year it was held at the Royal welsh Showground in Builth Wells. The location was within an hour’s drive from home, with lots of parking and toilets – perfect! When we arrived, we were welcomed by the Urdd’s staff at the ticket offices and the turn styles, they were all smiley and friendly and the colourful and lively reception area was really inviting. It was obvious from the start that this event is all about the kids and all families were welcome. There were plenty of maps available there too so you could easily find your way around the festival or the ‘maes’ as it’s known.
Tickets cost £16 for an adult and £8 for children, or you can buy a family ticket for four for £45, which I believe is a good price as the majority of activities and attractions on the field are free and there’s loads of things to do for kids of all ages! Elsi had lots of fun taking part in all sorts of activities from the climbing wall to the bouncy castle, from spinning plates to craft activities and from stilt walking and juggling to the maze and more!
As we wondered around the field, we came face to face with lots of famous characters and presenters from S4C’s Welsh language kids shows which Elsi loved! We also met the Urdd’s mascot, Mr Urdd!
Elsi’s highlight was the Cyw Show, where many of the characters and presenters from S4C’s children’s channel Cyw come together to perform a live show. This year marks Cyw’s tenth anniversary and the show was all about the birthday party and the cake, a big deal for every young child! Elsi loved it and I secretly enjoyed it and the catchy songs too!
Food is always on my priority list at any event! There were the usual food trucks and coffee and doughnut stands, but there was also the Urdd’s own café, ‘Caffi Mr Urdd’ and that’s where we ate. I had a jacket potato and no cake (very unusual!) and Elsi had sausage, chips and beans and it was really reasonable, about £6 for both of us, really unusual for festival food! She also spotted the ice cream truck..of course!
If you like shopping there’s lots of stalls with homeware, clothes, gifts and Welsh produce, I’m glad Heulwen wasn’t here to see these! There’s also lots of other trade stands and a specific tent for Welsh learners which is brilliant, and this had various events and launches throughout the day. We bought a few birthday gifts and then headed to the funfair to hook a duck! You did have to pay for the fair, and like most fairs it was rather expensive, but if you set a budget from the start, it helps and you usually get less tantrums!
The Urdd isn’t too big, so there’s not too much walking and as a result you’ll soon bump into lots of friends and families from your child’s school. Myself and other Dad’s made the most of the opportunity to sit back and relax as the children played and collected stickers! It’s a really chilled and friendly festival all round and because most activities are aimed at kids of all ages, it makes it and easy and stress-free day out.
So, would I recommend it as a family day out? Yes! It was really good, easy to park, easy to get around, lots to do and reasonable food. Elsi and her friends loved it. What’s not to like? I can honestly say that as a welsh learner with limited welsh, I felt at ease and welcome. It’s obvious that the Urdd Eisteddfod is for all families so be sure to put the dates in your diary for the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay in 2019!
PS! Another bonus is that the kids sleep like a log after a day at the Urdd …and the parents too!
By Gareth Davies.
*Copyright: Mam Cymru
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