Celebrity chef Bryn Williams praises the Urdd as Eisteddfod continues

The Urdd was described as a key feature of keeping the Welsh people together by a celebrity chef as the Eisteddfod continued in Denbighshire. Bryn Williams, who hails from Denbigh, said Wales’ largest youth organisation is “one of the best things we have in Wales”.

Bryn was the Day President at the Urdd National Eisteddfod, which is being staged this week on farmland on the outskirts of his home town. He said folk dancing at the Urdd had given him the confidence to take part in live cookery programmes like Saturday Kitchen.

As the Urdd celebrates its centenary in 2022, Bryn said: “The Urdd has provided unforgettable experiences for children for 100 years, not many organisations can say that. On to the next 100 years!

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“The best part of the Urdd is that it brings everyone together. I’ve lived in London for over 20 years and I’m so lucky to have been invited to come here today and you realise how important the Urdd is.

Chef Bryn Williams judging the food on the Maes

“It gave me the confidence to do some folk dancing, only to realise years later it also allowed me to take part in live television programmes on a Saturday morning.

“Doing live sessions and live TV are now part of my everyday work life, and that confidence was given to me in the Welsh language. That is so important.

“I went away to London and people come in and speak Welsh (in the restaurant). It’s fair to say I speak more Welsh in London than I did back home in Denbigh. That’s a good thing – it shows the language is keeping us all together and in my opinion that’s down to the Urdd. The Urdd keeps us all together. It is one of the best things we have in Wales.”

Recalling his experiences with the Urdd as a child, Bryn added he was not a regular on the Eisteddfod stage.

“I remember the folk dancing, and wearing blue for competing at the Eisteddfod in Rhyl, but I can’t remember the year,” he said.

“I love the fact that a cooking competition is now part of the Eisteddfod. It is so important to teach children these skills and competing is a good experience.

“With the Urdd I enjoyed all the other activities like going to Glan-llyn and Swansea to take part in the swimming competitions.”

Bryn has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in London and is now the chef patron of Odette’s in London’s Primrose Hill. It is close to where Iolo Morgannwg formed the first Gorsedd of Bards in the late nineteenth century. Bryn was invested into the Gorsedd of Bards when it was staged on the same Kilford Farm site in August 2013.

Bryn is also at Porth Eirias, the beachfront restaurant at Colwyn Bay – a spot, said Urdd Eisteddfod director Sian Eirian,

“So you see there is an Eisteddfodic connection wherever Bryn goes,” she said.

Chair winner Ciaran Eynon from Penrhyn Bay

Poems on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, grappling with parents’ divorce and sexuality were the themes of the top three poems in the chair competition at the Urdd Eisteddfod this year.

Competitors were tasked with composing a poem in strict metre or vers libre poems, of no more than 100 lines on the theme of ‘Diolch’ (Thank you).

The adjudicators were unanimous in their decision that Ciarán Eynon, originally from Rhos-on-Sea, and now living in London, was “without any doubt, the best poet in the competition”.

Rhodri Owen from Ysbyty Ifan near Pentrefolas and donated by Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph.

Asked about the competition’s theme after the ceremony Ciarán said:”Diolch is an important word even though it is often over used to denote happy events. I could have written about thanking the NHS or the centenary of the Urdd but I wanted to do something different which is why I chose to explore this subject.”

He said some of the winning lines were written last year but needed to be linked together to the theme and the five poems submitted took him a few days.

Ciarán is no stranger to competing at Eisteddfodau. He came second in the main Poetry Prize and third in the main Prose Prize at the 2021 Eisteddfod T. He also won individual recitation competition at the Anglesey National Eisteddfod in 2017 and AmGen Eisteddfod last year..

In their adjudication, Eurig Salisbury and Peredur Lynch said: “The main feature of the competition this year was the amazing variety of poetic voices, and this was obvious in terms of measures, style and view of the world.

“Their [Ciarán’s] talent was evident from beginning to end. They have a firm grasp on the language and a strong awareness of the rhythmic foundation of vers libre. In the opening lines we are introduced in the third person to a poet and the poet grapples with two things, their sexuality and, in their opinion, the inability of the Welsh language to express that sexuality.

“This is a poet who feels the Welsh language doesn’t speak the language of Ru Paul. By the end of the poem, however, with the poet now openly acknowledging their sexuality, it is suggested they no longer need to seek an alternative path or reject the Welsh language as a creative medium. And in this realisation, we arrive at the ‘thank you’ theme set by the competition.”

In second place was Gruff Gwyn, originally from Dolgellau but now living in Caerphilly, and third was Tegwen Bruce-Deans from Llandrindod.

The top three will be invited to take part in a course at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in memory of Olwen Dafydd.

Helen Williams and Lona Phillips, who recived the John and Ceridwen Hughes medal at this

Two friends who set up an Urdd Adran in their home town to help children take part in the Eisteddfod have been honoured with a top community award.

Helen Medi Williams and Lona Phillips, founders and leaders of Adran Aberystwyth, received the John and Ceridwen Hughes Memorial Award. This is awarded annually at the Urdd Eisteddfod and recognises significant contributions to the lives of young people in Wales.

Helen is a teacher at Ysgol Rhydypennau, Bow Street while Lona is a nurse at Ysbyty Bronglais, Aberystwyth. Both played prominent roles in founding the Aelwyd in 2009 to ensure that the children and young people of Aberystwyth and the surrounding area were given the opportunity to compete at the 2010 Urdd Eisteddfod in Ceredigion and to socialise in Welsh.

Originally aimed at primary school children, they went from strength to strength and since 2013 they also welcome those of secondary school age.

Around 40 youngsters now attend the Aelwyd weekly with another 20 older people. Both said they were “shocked and surprised” to have received the award.

Helen said: “The weekly meetings have become a part of our lives by now.”

A parent at Aelwyd Aberystwyth said: “Helen and Lona’s dedication and their enthusiasm while giving their time on an entirely voluntary basis to the development and experiences of the young people of Aberystwyth and the vicinity make them more than worthy recipients of the John and Ceridwen Hughes Award.”

Urdd Eisteddfod director Siân Eirian added: “The Urdd relies on the support of hard working and conscientious people such as them who promote the organisation and show how valuable, and how much fun, it is to be a member of the Urdd.”

The John and Ceridwen Hughes Award is given by Dewi and Gerallt Hughes, in memory of their parents, John and Ceridwen Hughes, Uwch Aled who were very involved in youth work within their community.

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