Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
180. So do you think the WDA are giving their
all now or do you think they could give more?
(Mrs Jones) I think they are giving their all. Our
President this year is Sir David Rowe-Beddoe, the Chairman of
the WDA so
181. So you have to say that!
(Mrs Jones) No, the WDA has been very, very supportive.
182. What about the WTB; what have they given
and what could they give?
(Mrs Jones) The WTB could give an awful lot more.
If you look at their main holiday brochures the information on
Llangollen is very sparse. It is something that bugs me that I
have to pay a membership fee to each of the three regional councils
in Wales to have our literature displayed. If we do not pay a
membership fee our Eisteddfod cannot be represented. I think that
is stupid because we are a catalyst for Wales.
183. Have you been involved with the Assembly's
recent proposals to set up the cultural consortium Cymru'n Creu
to bring together the various cultural, artistic and sporting
bodies in Wales?
(Mrs Jones) No we have not been involved at all. Unfortunately,
because we were not revenue clients of the Arts Council we have
never had any review from the Assembly. We have fallen between
two stools. I did raise it with somebody in the Assembly and they
said they had gone on the list of Arts Council clients and as
we were not an Arts Council client we were not reviewed. We do
hope with the Assembly coming here that we will have stronger
links with them.
184. Something we hear from the Welsh Rugby
Union and Sports Council is that there are events being organised
all around Wales and they have to reinvent the wheel each time
to organise these events. If they had one central office who had
the expertise and the administrative staff it could ease the burden
on those many organisations, many of which like your own rely
on volunteers. Do you think that that would be a specific help
(Mrs Jones) Yes, I think so. For example, this year
we are going to have a clash. The International Eisteddfod is
going to be taking place here from the 2nd to 8th July and we
have the WNO up in Llandudno at the same time. North Wales is
small, compact, it does not have a lot of industry for corporate
hospitality and sponsorship, which has a big role for both the
WNO and myself, and companies cannot be in two places in the one
week, and I think we could try and spread and balance the load.
We will lose out and the WNO will lose out as well because there
are loads of people who work here in the Eisteddfod who would
love to be able to go but cannot go because they are working here
and the same for Llandudno.
185. A central organising body would be able
to spot those clashes from the outset?
(Mrs Jones) Exactly, it would be invaluable to us.
186. I would like to ask a couple of questions
about UK government bodies. Before I do that, just following on
the theme that you were taking of the particular value of people
from all over the world coming here and talking about their experience
here and talking about Wales when they get home, do you make any
attempt either directly or through those people to involve the
local media in the communities where they come from?
(Mrs Jones) Sometimes they bring their own media with
them but our television company Opus will always provide each
competing country with a synopsis of the week and the competing
groups' own performance at the end which can be used by their
own local television companies. That is something provided free
of charge to all overseas groups that compete here.
187. Is the take-up good on that, do you know?
(Mrs Jones) Yes the last time I had a list from Opus
I was very pleased. We had probably gone to 12 countries. Our
biggest problem is that we do not go out in England. Bearing in
mind that 62 per cent of our season ticket holders come from England
188. 62 per cent?
(Mrs Jones) That is people who come, buy their ticket
and stay here for the week in hotels and guest houses. You have
got to remember that during Eisteddfod week people who would never
do bed and breakfast in their life open up their homes. That is
the only way the town is able to absorb the number of people who
come. Everybody does bed and breakfast. If you have a spare bed
we scrounge it either for competitors or for visitors.
189. Are they given the TV synopsis you do for
each country at the end of the week to take away in video form
or are there satellite connections?
(Mrs Jones) We have had satellite connections particularly
for the "choir of the world" which is the premier competition
here for groups and that has been relayed by satellite if they
would request it. That is all done through the television company,
not done through us. The Tourist Board has also tried to provide
an Internet link so that groups can go down to the Tourist Board
and report back to their own countries exactly how they have done
in the competitions.
190. Is there any attempt made to use those
2,000 visitors as ambassadors for Wales when they go back by giving
them information leaflets in their own language so they can go
back and say, "I had a wonderful time here", and they
can give it to their own local tourist board to try and get more
visitors here on the back of their visits?
(Mrs Jones) The Tourist Board two years ago picked
out some countries that they considered fitted into their marketing
strategy and they invited them down there and gave them some information.
I doubt it was in their own language because I think they only
have it in three languages. We give them a souvenir brochure to
take back. We give them as much stuff as we can on Llangollen
to take back.
191. Moving on to the question I was going to
ask about UK government bodies; you told us in the your written
memorandum that the British Council is the only UK government
body that you have any association with. Have you approached any
others for assistance?
(Mrs Jones) We have tried BTA but the BTA is such
a vast organisation that unless you are prepared to spend astronomic
amounts of money and go into their brochures you are wasting your
time. You hope that through the Wales Tourist Board you will get
a link into BTA. The British Council from the very beginning have
had a major role in Llangollen. W S Gwyn Williams and Harold Tudor
were the founders and Harold Tudor worked for the British Council
in their Manchester office in 1946 and he was instrumental in
getting the syllabus we produce distributed. They used to be mailed
to London to the British Council and they used to send them around
the world because we never invite any group to compete; they have
to apply. We depend on the British Council and the foreign embassies'
cultural attaches to get those syllabuses around the world for
us. Otherwise how do places like Tuva ever get to hear about places
like Llangollen? So the link with the British Council is very,
very important to us. But everybody seems to suffer from finances
these days. In 1992 they said they could no longer do it. So until
1997 we mailed these to their 110 offices worldwide. Now we have
got our own web site, which is fine, and the British Council are
very much into IT, they seem to do everything by e-mail, so we
e-mail all their offices and we say, "The syllabus is up
and it is on the Internet, it is on the web if you want it and
if you want hard copies we will send you hard copies."
192. Do you think that modern communications
through computer systems can completely replace the brochure that
(Mrs Jones) They can print it. They can download it.
There used to be a time when we used to send one leaflet to every
BTA office worldwide. They will not take them now because they
say they do not have room to store them but they can go on the
web and they can reproduce our leaflet. The only thing that worries
me is do they remember your web address? I think we are going
to end up having directories of web addresses.
193. An issue that has come up during our investigations,
which we would be grateful for your view on, is does it make more
sense for Welsh bodies to have a greater role in promoting Wales
abroad or could this potentially lead to confusion and competition
within the United Kingdom?
(Mrs Jones) I would be very happy to see Welsh bodies
promoting Wales abroad providing they were fully briefed on what
Wales had to offer within all sections of its community. Unfortunately,
here in North Wales we think that several people think that "Wales"
means "Cardiff" and that is what would worry me personally.
Mr Caton: Some of us in West Wales feel that
194. Do you use the international network of
Welsh societies around the world to help promote the Eisteddfod
and help fund the Eisteddfod? I think there are something like
300 St David Societies around the world. What use do you make
of those, especially using the Internet and web sites?
(Mrs Jones) To be honest, not a lot because we find
that Welsh Societies around the world when they come back to Wales
they want to come back for the National Eisteddfod. They want
to come back for their culture which they are missing, not the
international culture we are providing. Yes, there are wonderful
Welsh societies, particularly Toronto and the Dewi Sant. There
are two very good Welsh newspapers for North America, the Ninnau
and Y Drych and we do run small ads, but the other Eisteddfod
has much greater appeal. I think the Wales Tourist Board did a
lot in what was called "The Homecoming" for the Millennium.
195. We are very grateful for what you have
been able to tell us this morning. Is there anything that we could
suggest that any government body, be it local government, central
government, whatever, could do to help promote the Eisteddfod?
Money would be a help, but is there anything else?
(Mrs Jones) Yes, I think that maybe British embassies
could charge a lot less for the visas that are necessary for groups
to come. If I could ask Keith Hall, our Competitors' Liaison Officer,
to comment. Keith has the nightmare of dealing with the embassies
and the visa problems. If there was to be a flat fee for groupsWhen
a group coming from Bulgaria has to pay for their visas could
be the equivalent of three months' wages.
(Mr Hall) Good morning. I have not said much this
morning so far. I have been doing this liaison job with the overseas
competitors now for six years. Just on one point that has cropped
up, in fact, on the knowledge side of the Eisteddfod we are more
well-known abroad than we are in the United Kingdom because we
have twice as many applications to come to the Eisteddfod that
we can take on board, so from that point of view our presence
abroad is worldwide. Going back to the visa problem, I get involved
with visas as we get near to the Eisteddfod. I have a list of
competitors sent to me by the various groups and in turn I send
these to the British embassies. Normally that is the end of it;
they are issued with visas. I do tell the various groups at the
beginning that the visa cost is £33 per person and, as Maureen
says, that is a lot of money to some of the Eastern European countries
and they leave their applications for visas late, I am sure because
of that financial impact. They do not want to commit themselves
to £33 early on in the year if for whatever reason they cannot
come at the end of the day. So we have this last minute panic
situation arising where we get these letters from the groups with
the list of names which I send on and then for some reason there
are some queries. There are two types of queries. Yes, the group
will get visas but the interview is two weeks after the Eisteddfod,
which makes me a bit annoyed. The other one is that certain key
members of the group, for whatever reason, are not allowed visas
which means it breaks up the group and they cannot come. There
are underlying reasons for that, asylum seekers comes into the
question, but generally speaking, as Maureen says, to us £33
is not a great deal but it is a problem and they leave their visa
applications so late that, quite frankly, the British embassies
have their own timetable in which to process these applications
and a number fall outside and beyond the date of the Eisteddfod,
so it is very frustrating from that point of view. If they could
be helped in any way in this visa application cost that would
go a long way towards ensuring that we get the competitors who
have been practising very hard all the year. They must be very
disappointed if for whatever reason they cannot get here.
Chairman: That is a good point.
196. This is a copy of the Yrenfys magazine.
Do you make use of this? Do you use it to promote the Eisteddfod
and, if not, are you considering using it?
(Mrs Jones) No, I have not used it to promote the
Eisteddfod and, yes, we would consider using it.
197. You will?
(Mrs Jones) Yes, certainly.
198. Any reason why you have not so far?
(Mrs Jones) Because they have never been in contact
Mrs Williams: Thank you.
199. Just going back to the problem that you
clearly identified of the lack of focus in England on the International
Eisteddfod. From one of your earlier answers you see the media
as a potential way of overcoming that. Is there anything else
you think could be done? Are there any other agencies that could
be promoting the Eisteddfod in England?
(Mr Evans) It would appear and we believeand
we cannot prove it but we believethat the problem arises
from a perception in England that when you talk about the Eisteddfod
you are talking about bards and speaking Welsh and all that. I
think we suffer a great deal from that perception. We appear to
have a problem even as far as the media are concerned because
Opus, who have been doing the televising for seven years, have
the same problem that the BBC had for 40 years before that (who
used to put our programmes out on sound and television) of selling
the programme to England, to the BBC or anybody on a national
basis, and they cannot do it. You come to the Edinburgh Festival
and that gets coverage anyway and we do not believe we are any
different from the Edinburgh Festival. We are different in lots
of ways but from a media point of view we are not any different.
For one reason or another, and we believe that is down to perception
in Englandas I say it is Welsh speaking and bards and people
dressing up and all sorts rather than what we are hereit
is a difficult one to get over, but any way of getting over it,
be it the media or any other way or any body that could help us,
I am sure we would be very pleased to know about it.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. Before
I finish I should have said at the beginning that Karen Sinclair,
the Assembly Member, whom we automatically ask to come, is in
session down in Cardiff and she rang me up to apologise yesterday.
She is a supporter of the Eisteddfod, as you all know I am sure.
That is very useful. We will, I am sure, include some of what
you have said in our report and thank you for giving your time