A picturesque North Wales town is buzzing with excitement as final preparations get underway for the return of an iconic international festival in all its glory.
It will be the first full length Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod since before the Covid pandemic and the Parade of Nations is also coming back with a colourful cavalcade of competitors through the streets.
The event was cancelled in 2020, went online in 2021 and there was a much reduced live festival last year.
But after an absence of four years things are back to normal and thousands of singers and dancers from around the planet will be heading for the Dee Valley town where it’s said that “Wales meets the world”.
An extension has once again been added to the famous international pavilion to increase capacity to 4,000 seats in the canvas-covered auditorium.
Also back will be the spectacular floral display at the front of the pavilion stage, lovingly created by a band of dedicated volunteer flower growers and arrangers.
Meanwhile, the town itself has been festooned with bunting and an expert abseiler has placed a giant banner high above Llangollen railway station.
Llangollen Eisteddfod was founded in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Organisers say it’s more important and relevant than ever as a force for good to foster peace and harmony between nations.
It all gets underway on Tuesday, July 4, and the competitions and concerts continue until Sunday, July 9.
Each day features a full programme of competitions in the pavilion and a line-up of stalls and exhibitions on the field along with the competitors from around the world, many in colourful dress while three open-air stages run a stream of live performances.
Entertainment on the outside site includes workshops, talks, international showcases, outdoor theatre performances, circus skills, sound bath sessions, yoga, belly dancing, beginner’s Welsh and salsa.
The Globe Stage will feature music acts spanning folk, jazz, world and indie.
There will also be an international flavour to the cuisine available in the new Globe Food Court.
It will be a special occasion for Eisteddfod Executive Producer Camilla King who took up her role last year but will this time preside over the event in its full, traditional format.
She said: “This is definitely our first all bells and whistles event since 2019 and I hope that people who have been in the past and really loved the event will enjoy that experience this year.
“We’re delighted that the spectacularly colourful Parade of Nations will be happening once again this year with support from Everbright Hotels.
“We will be encouraging our competitors to get involved with doing impromptu pop-ups on the Maes and interacting with the public attending the event.
“There is going to be so much going on with bands playing, a dedicated kids’ area and three performance stages, including the Globe Stage for a wide variety of music, as well at the Globe Food Court which celebrates the cuisines of eight different countries.
“There’s also the Amphitheatre showcasing our international performers and the Dome for acoustic music, talks, panel sessions and readings while elsewhere there will be free workshops in floral art, sound bath sessions, yoga, belly dancing, beginner’s Welsh, salsa and much more.
“It all takes place on a self-contained site which is safe and secure and just an easy walk into Llangollen and with secure dedicated festival car parking nearby for just £5 a day.”
The magnificent display of flowers cascading across the front of the stage is the work of volunteers on the Floral Committee whose team grow their own, buy from Liverpool Market and even occasionally beg blooms from attractive gardens in the town.
Floral Committee Chair Jane Williams said: “The theme this year is a country garden but often we don’t really know how it’s going to look until we’ve seen how the stage is set up.
“We use a lot of ironwork for the structure which has to hold the flowers in place and we have shelving and plastic containers of water and even dustbins with water for really tall plants like delphiniums which can be six to eight feet high.
“You never really know what you have until you get there – this year the foxgloves are quite ahead of time, but you just have to work with what you get and we’re grateful for donors like Chirk Castle who have been very kind this year and many others who have given flowers.”
Over the years the festival has grown into one of Europe’s premier music and dance events.
It has attracted cultural icons like Dylan Thomas who visited for the BBC 70 years ago and whose famous radio broadcast about the Eisteddfod is being recreated to mark its 70th anniversary.
A reading from actor, writer and director Celyn Jones will be the centrepiece of a mini programme of events to celebrate Thomas’s 15-minute masterpiece on the BBC’s Home Service – tragically he was to die just a few months later in New York.
That same year the late Queen Elizabeth also attended the Eisteddfod shortly after her Coronation while two years later the late great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, began his international career at Llangollen as a member of a choir from Modena.
The week’s highlights include a concert starring Alfie Boe and musical theatre supergroup Welsh of the West End on the first night of the Eisteddfod on Tuesday, July 4.
Wednesday will see The White Flower: Into The Light, a concert of remembrance for the fallen of Sarajevo and Ukraine, featuring the NEW Sinfonia orchestra with soloists from Bosnia, Wales and Ukraine, with the centrepiece formed by Karl Jenkin’s much loved work, The Armed Man.
The popular procession of international participants and celebration of peace takes place on Thursday, followed by Flight, a new mixed-media dance, music and theatre work by visionary artists Propellor Ensemble, inspired by migratory patterns in nature and humanity.
On the Friday night Guy Barker’s Big Band will take the stage with Strictly Come Dancing singer Tommy Blaize.
Saturday features the blue riband event, the Choir of the World competition for the coveted Pavarotti Trophy, and also Dance Champions and the Pendine International Voice of the Future 2023.
There is a new look to the final day of the Eisteddfod on Sunday with an all new live final which sees rising vocal stars battle it out to claim the title Voice of Musical Theatre, and Cân i Llan, a new song-writing competition for unsigned acts aged 14-22, providing a platform for emerging voices in contemporary popular music.
Camilla added: “The bridge spanning the River Dee in the centre of town is officially one of the Seven Wonders of Wales and Llangollen Eisteddfod should be acclaimed as the Eighth Wonder. I can’t wait.”