When I was a child, my parents and I would only go if it was in the north. When I was 16 I started going with friends and camped on Maes D (the young people site) - this was when it was managed by Cymdeithas yr Iaith and before it got all commercialized and sterile. The sole purpose of the week was to get wrecked, and then as I got a little older and more interested in music, it was the gigs that were the main attracton - in fact, I'd travel the lenth and bredth of Wales to an Eisteddfod and maybe not even bother venturing on the Maes at all.
Only now do I actually know what goes on on the Maes, it's not all boring stuff like Cerdd dant or reciting, but bloody hell it's not easy finiding these things out. Not that I agree with everything Chris say's here in his critique, he's got a point when he mentions (sowhere else, in an article in Barn) that for the newcomer, the Eisteddfod is just "not very user-friendly".
There's also the language. Although the Eisteddfod now uses much more English in signage, on it's website, they offer gudied tours in English (and Mandarin, Greek, Urdu and Somali I believe) and simultaneous translations for Pavillion events, some things remain Welsh only, which can appear daunting if you don't speak Welsh or are just learning. That's why it was interesting to read, see the following by for different Eisteddfod 'virgins'. Some didn't speak any Welsh, while others are learning Welsh.
Available on i-Player for the next 6 days you can view an entertaining account of Hardeep Singh Kohli's visit to the Eisteddfod. This item was shown across the UK, on BBC2 I think, and despite showing a bit too much selebs and translations of 'hits' from musicals (ok maybe Chris is right!) , it showed the Eisteddfod in a positive light.
Hardeep Singh Kohli visits one of the largest travelling cultural festivals in Europe - the National Eisteddfod of Wales. This year it is being held in Cardiff and Hardeep explores the phenomenon with the likes of Bryn Terfel, Cerys Matthews, Connie Fisher and Matthew Rhys.
He delves into the pink pavillion and the strange rituals of the Bards of the British Isles, all in the city with one of the oldest Sikh communities in the UK.
My favourite is by Bo, who'd actually been to the Eisteddfod before, but this time he speaks Welsh and he kind of compares the two visits.
I've been following the blog of Leiafee, a learner from Swansea (I think) for a while, and her tale was interesting, if not for the following comment alone:
In any case I’d managed to fail to realise until last weekend that it was in Cardiff at all...
And finally, a post on the Telegraph blog of all places byPolly Corrigan, under the heading: An Englishwoman at the Eisteddfod. Despite her fears that;
Will an angry mob of Welsh nationalists shake their fists at me every time I open my English mouth?she seems to have enjoyed herself.
It's strange that 'fear' of Welsh speakers, or the inability to speak Welsh was something mentioned by others as well - or maybe it's not surprising, when the media write articles like this.