An eisteddfod is a cultural festival held throughout Wales and across the Welsh diaspora.
The earliest eisteddfod is thought to be that held by Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd in Cardigan Castle in 1176. There were two competitions, one for bards and one for musicians (including harp, crwth and pipes) and prizes of chairs were awarded to the winners in each competition, a tradition which continues today. The early eisteddfodau were organised by the nobility and the competitions were between their retained bards and musicians.
Another important eisteddfod was held in Caerwys, Flintshire, in 1568 where the set of rules governing the eisteddfod were devised.
In 1789 Thomas Jones organised an eisteddfod in the town of Corwen, Merionethshire, which for the first time, was a public event, and its success led to a revival of interest in Welsh literature and music.
However, the present-day eisteddfod format owes much to an 18th century revival by Iolo Morganwg, the bardic name of Edward Williams of Glamorgan, who founded Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain (English: Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain) in 1792 in an attempt to revive the ancient eisteddfodic tradition. However, many historians see Iolo Morgannwg as a fraud. The first eisteddfod of this revival was held on Primrose Hill, in London, England.
The first eisteddfod to follow the current format was held in Denbigh in 1860. In modern eisteddfodau there are competitions in singing, recitation, dance, music, drama, art and craft.
The National Eisteddfod
The National Eisteddfod is the most important festival in Wales and is staged annually in the first week of August. It takes place in a different location each year, usually alternating between venues in the north and south of the country. The festival attracts around 150,000 visitors and is also broadcast live on both television and radio.
Eisteddfod yr Urdd
Eisteddfod yr Urdd is an eisteddfod for the younger generation and is organised by Wales' largest youth movement, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, based at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The eisteddfod moves around Wales each year and thousands of young people come together to compete during the early summer and is one of Europe's largest youth festivals. The festival attracts around 15,000 competitors, 100,000 visitors and a million television viewers.
The Llangollen International Eisteddfod
The Llangollen International Eisteddfod has been held annually in the town of Llangollen in Denbighshire in July since 1947. It takes the eisteddfod into an international dimension and attracts choirs, singing groups, folk dancers and musicians from all over the world.
Smaller-scale local eisteddfodau are held throughout Wales at both local and regional levels. Most schools hold their own annual eisteddfod, usually taking place around Saint David's Day, on 1 March.