13 August 2004
13 August 2004
The traditional Gorsedd circle, made of huge granite stones, is to be replaced with plastic or fibreglass ones in the National Eisteddfod – the highlight of the Welsh cultural year.
Supporters of the idea say the ritual circle of stones would be cheaper and more mobile, allowing ceremonies to take place at the centre of the eisteddfod field rather than on its fringes.
In the 19th century the national eisteddfod became a symbol for the promoting of Welsh culture, the 1860 festival at Llangollen and the 1861 festival at Aberdare are considered the first national eisteddfods. The eisteddfod is held every year, alternately in north and south Wales, with the Gorsedd being the organizing body.
The circle was used for picturesque ceremonies staged by the Gorsedd, the gathering of Welsh bards, and is one of many left in the Welsh landscape as the Eisteddfod migrates between northern and southern settings in alternate years.
But as part of moves to attract more visitors - including non-Welsh speakers - to the Eisteddfod, the Gorsedd wants its ceremonies to take place on the main field for all to see rather than in stone circles constructed some distance away.
The Gorsedd stones are usually placed in a field or park, sometimes miles away from the Eisteddfod field where many thousands who attend the eisteddfod don't see the ceremonies.
Consultants have told the Eisteddfod it needs a complete facelift if it is to survive by attracting more people.
The suggestion has been made because it is not always possible to build a stone circle in the middle of the festival site. ""One suggestion that could be controversial is that we should consider using fibreglass circles,"" said James Nicholas, recorder of the Gorsedd. ""These could be easily transported from site to site.""
The mock stone circle is likely to be used for the first time next year, when the Eisteddfod is held at Bangor's Faenol estate.
No decision has yet been made on fibreglass stones. But other changes, prompted by a report published last year and judged deeply un-Welsh by protest groups, have already taken place.