Urdd Gobaith Cymru was established by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1922. His aim was to protect the Welsh language in a world where the English language dominated every aspect of life outside the home. In an issue of the magazine ‘Cymru’r Plant’ in 1922 Syr Ifan said, ‘These days, in many villages, and in most towns in Wales, children play and read in English. They forget that they are Welsh.’
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the future looked bleak for the Welsh language, even though there were over a million Welsh speakers in Wales. Two of the most prominent figures to challenge the crisis at this time were O.M. Edwards and his son, Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards. O.M. Edwards, Wales’ first Chief Inspector for Education, contributed on a regular basis to the monthly magazine‘Cymru’r Plant’, established by him in 1892. He published many Welsh books on Wales and Welsh politics. In his articles he encouraged awareness amongst the Welsh people of Welsh culture and traditions. He tried twice to establish a youth movement for the young people and children of Wales. ‘Urdd y Delyn’ was established in 1896, and ‘Byddin Cymru’ in 1911, but both attempts failed. O. M. Edwards died in 1920, but his life and ideas were an inspiration to his son to develop a new successful movement.
After the death of O.M.Edwrads, his son Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards became the editor for the magazine ‘Cymru’r Plant’ and in 1922, in that magazine, he appealed to the children of Wales to join a new movement which was called ‘Urdd Gobaith Cymru Fach’. This was a new beginning in the history of the Welsh language and culture. The reaction was positive from the start and he received many letters and ideas. The enthusiasm amongst the readers of ‘Cymru’r Plant’ overwhelmed Hughes and Son press in Wrexham. By the end of the year, names of 720 new members had appeared in the magazine and hundreds more were eagerly awaiting their turn. The first local Urdd branch was established in Treuddyn, Flintshire in 1922.
In the early days Sir Ifan and his wife took responsibility for all aspects of the organising and administration. All Urdd work took place at their home in Llanuwchlyn, near Bala. By the end of 1923, as a result of their enthusiasm, the number of members rose to 3,000, and by 1927 5,000 young people had become members of the Urdd. The number of Urdd branches also rose to 80 by 1927. In 1924 the first Urdd branch was established in Abercynon in South Wales. This proved how effective the Urdd was in non-Welsh speaking areas, as well as in areas where most Welsh speakers lived.
By the end of the 1920s therefore, the Urdd had grown to be an active, dynamic movement. It grew to be popular and confident, and the word ‘small’ (bach) was deleted from its name. It was now called ‘Urdd Gobaith Cymru’. By 1930, 20 ‘cylchoedd’ (areas) had been created and a dozen more were in progress. These ‘cylchoedd’ had their own unique flags and effective organisation.
1920s - 1950s
Sir Ifan’s next idea was to bring children from across Wales together in a Welsh residential centre. The aspects used to attract the first campers was enthusiasm for Wales, the sense of adventure and the opportunity to meet other young people from all over Wales. In September 1927 Sir Ifan wrote in ‘Cymru’r Plant’ that a camp would be held at Llanuwchllyn for ten days, at a cost of ten shillings. The camp would be held for about a hundred boys in August 1928. The cooking methods were primitive and they had very few facilities. They had eighteen tents and a large marquee. The campers washed in the river; very different to the luxury in the residential centres today! These first camps were extremely successful and similar camps were held for girls. During the next few years camps were held at Llangollen, and the cooking and sleeping facilities were improved.
By 1932 Sir Ifan was determined to set up a permanent camp for the Urdd, and the residential centre at Llangrannog was established. The residential centre was formed around the wooden cabin ‘Plas Penhelig’, which was named after the home of J.M.Howell to thank him for his generous sponsorship. Four weeks of camp was held during that hot summer in 1932. 150 campers attended, and the food, washing and sleeping facilities, and the leisure provision were all improved annually.
A second camp was established in 1934 at Porth Dinllaen to run alongside the residential centre at Llangrannog. Boys were sent there whilst the girls stayed at Llangrannog with the intention of swapping every other year. Welsh learners were encouraged to join fluent Welsh speakers, and many came to the camps to improve their Welsh skills. The two camps went from strength to strength and grants from the Social Services Committee and the Jubilee Trust enabled the Urdd to develop their facilities further, and more cabins were built. During that summer, accommodation was provided for 701 boys at Porth Dinllaen and 765 girls at Llangrannog.
In 1938 a mixed camp was held for adults, the camp was held at Llangrannog and the idea of a mixed camp was very popular. With a kitchen, gym and chapel being built at Llangrannog, the decision was made to end the camp at Porth Dinllaen.
A camp was held during the Second World War even though tents could not be put up, and food and other facilities were rationed. The number of camps held during the war was limited and the authorities kept a close eye on the Urdd’s activities, but, by 1944 the Urdd had managed to accommodate 1000 campers of all ages.
At the end of the 1940s another residential centre was established for older campers in Wales. The camp was different to Llanngrannog and Porth Dinllaen and was located in Snowdonia near Bala lake. This gave campers the opportunity to take part in different kinds of outdoor activities. Young people took part in climbing, physical exercise and water sports. In 1950 the first camp was held at ‘Glan-llyn’ with the motor boat ‘Y Brenin Arthur’ taking campers across the lake from the train station. In 1955 a new cabin was built on site where Eisteddfodau and Noson Lawen could be organised.
The residential centres were not the only facilities to be developed during this period. The Urdd became an important national movement and the number of Aelwydydd grew at a substantial rate. The Urdd received generous grants which ensured that staff could be employed in different areas across Wales. Grants were received from education authorities to fund buildings suitable to be used by aelwydydd and to buy equipment. By May 1941, 83 aelwydydd had been set up across Wales. Between the ‘adrannau’ and the ‘aelwydydd’ and the ‘Young Wales Club’ for Welsh learners, the movement had 817 branches with a network of local and county committees in every area from Anglesey to Swansea and to be held in all year round.
In a meeting in Corwen in 1928 it was suggested that a National Eisteddfod ( link to urdd.org/eisteddfod) was to be held and funded by the Urdd. Preparations were made for a two day event at Corwen in 1929 at the end of May. A procession was held and a prestigious ceremony took place at the Corwen Pavilion with flags and three queens were chosen to sit on the Eisteddfod thrones. The high standard of competition was praised. In the second Eisteddfod at Caernarfon in 1930, 3000 competitors gathered together and the town ground to a halt for two days. One of the most memorable Eisteddfodau during this early period was the Eisteddfod at Carmarthen in 1935. The press was full of news reports about this unique event that had taken over the whole town. Thousands flocked to the pavilion which held 12,000 people and the Urdd Eisteddfod made a great impression in Wales and beyond.
The Second World War was a great blow to the Eisteddfod, but even though there were threats from every direction, the Eisteddfod was still held in 1940 at Rhyl. Even though this Eisteddfod was only held for one day many children and young people came to compete. The opportunity to travel was very limited during this time. The Eisteddfod gave children, young people and their families the chance to see the country, and to compete against other children and young people from different backgrounds. By the mid 1950’s the nature of the festival was transformed, and it started to concentrate more and more on competing and culture instead of on the marching and celebrating elements. New aspects were developed every year with an art exhibition being introduced at Abertridwr in 1955 and a classical concert at the Eisteddfod in Mold in 1958.
As well as the Eisteddfod the Urdd decided to venture and innovate in many new areas to promote the Welsh language. In this period Sir Ifan decided to establish a Welsh cinema to promote the Welsh language and culture to a wider audience. The film ‘Y Chwarelwr’, which cost £2000 to produce, travelled around the country. The cinema was used by Sir Ifan to promote the movement’s activities.
The book campaigns between 1937 and 1965 were a crucial contribution to Welsh culture. This was a structured plan to support modern Welsh literature and adrannau and aelwydydd started selling Welsh books to the public. Hundreds of Urdd members started selling and distributing Welsh books in shops, Eisteddfodau and from door to door. The campaign went from strength to strength and as a result, what we know know as The Welsh Book Council was established in 1962. The books council shouldered the responsibility of financing and sponsoring the book trade from then on in.
Sir Ifan was responsible for establishing the first Welsh-medium school in Aberystwyth in 1939. After discussing with the education committee a school was established for seven pupils, under the able leadership of Norah Isaac. The school grew from an insecure experiment to be an attractive, effective establishment. Parents were more than willing to pay for a good education for their children through the medium of Welsh. By 1945 Ysgol Lluest had four teachers and 81 pupils and had successfully raised awareness of the need for a Welsh education system under the education authority. This had a great impact on Education Authorities and persuaded them that Welsh schools were in demand across Wales. Even though this school closed as a result of financial problems in 1951, another Welsh school was opened for 160 pupils in Aberystwyth in 1952, under the same headmaster as Ysgol Lluest, Hywel O.Roberts.
Sul yr Urdd (the Urdd Sunday) was another venture that was part of Sir Ifan’s vision during this period. The first Sul yr Urdd was held in 1931. By 1934 it had developed to be a large scale annual service.
Sir Ifan continued with the magazine ‘Cymru’r Plant’ for 30 years, the work which his father O.M.Edward had started in 1892. The magazine continued to be popular and as it grew from strength to strength and by 1954 22500 magazines a month were being distributed to schools through education authorities. The magazine ‘Cymraeg’ was established for Welsh learners and within the year its distribution had reached 26000. In 1957 Ifor Owen, the editor realised that two magazines were needed for Welsh speakers - ‘Cymru’ for the older children and ‘Cymu’r Plant’ for the younger children. The magazines went from strength to strength and continued to grow at a fast rate during the 1960s.
A prominent place was given to physical exercise within the Urdd’s activities and the founder believed that is was an integral part of a young person’s development. The first sports day was held in Llanelli in 1932. The Urdd managed to assemble 4000 to take part in this colourful event. The response was enthusiastic in South Wales and the Urdd organisers soon realised that this was a great opportunity to involve non-Welsh speakers and learners in physical exercise and to encourage them to use the Welsh language and mix with Welsh speakers. Uniforms, flags and processions with bands were characteristic of this period, and during the sports day thousands of Urdd members marched through Llanelli. Sports days were held at Bridgend, Pontypridd, Bangor, Porthmadog and Aberpennar.
The sports day was not held in 1940 due to the Second World War. In the following years, it was difficult to relaunch them however some counties managed to hold local sports days in the 1940s which spawned the desire to hold a national event again. With the advent of new sports competitions and athletic societies in the 1950s, the Urdd realised that the youth of the country no longer needed a sports day and the last one was held in 1954. After this, the Urdd went on to concentrate on different sports.
After his experience in the Great War and all the destruction and suffering that came with it, Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards decided that there was a need to build bridges between different cultures and nations. The Message of Peace and Goodwill was announced for the first time by Gwilym Davies, a Welsh representative in the League of Nations. Sir Ifan thought that the Urdd should join the campaign to broadcast the message and banish the ignorance and prejudice that existed between the nations of the world. Therefore in 1925, the message was broadcast jointly by the Urdd and the League of Nations. In 1930 it was decided that May would be the month of Goodwill and the message was promoted in ‘Cymru’r Plant’. By 1934 the BBC took part in announcing the message and even though it came to an end over the Second World War, a series of articles on peace and love between countries was published under the title, ‘Cymru a’r Byd’. (Wales and the World)
It was important to Sir Ifan that children in Wales had the opportunity to meet other children from countries across the world. In 1930 he organised a voyage for a group of boys to Geneva, the home of the League of Nations. After the success of that voyage, Sir Ifan decided to organise another similar voyage for girls. The Urdd continued to organise different voyages over a period of time. In 1933 a group of Urdd members sailed from Wales to Scandinavia and Norway, with hundreds of older members paying £15 to travel on this unique, Welsh voyage to the North of Europe. Sir Ifan decided that voyages should be organised as often as possible and organised trips to Brittany, Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa. These voyages came to an end in 1939 with the start of the Second World War. From then on shorter, cheaper voyages were organised for a smaller number of people. After the war the Urdd organised trips for young people to Europe, and opportunities were given to restore international relations. In 1948 the first international camp was organised at Aberystwyth. The camp was held every year until 1960, and drew young people to Wales from around the world to socialise, to learn and to enjoy a holiday on the Welsh course. The Urdd was one of the first organisations to welcome young Germans after the Second World War.
1960s - 1980s
The Urdd’s activities became more and more popular and the movement prospered during this period. The Urdd National Eisteddfod continued to experiment and develop at the beginning of the 1960s. 25,000 people flocked to the Eisteddfod at Dolgellau in 1960, and a Science Department was established for the first time which ensured that every subject became part of the Urdd’s activities. Non-Welsh speakers were attracted to the Eisteddfod site and a bilingual message board was displayed back stage in the Aberdare Eisteddfod in 1961 and an abbreviated version of the programme was printed in English. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of establishing the Urdd, a musical was performed called ‘Y Weledigaeth Fawr’ (The Great Vision) and an exhibition was set up on the Eisteddfod site to celebrate 50 successful years. During the 1970s the Eisteddfod grew and more and more competitors came to take part. The Urdd concentrated on gaining sponsorship as the festival was developing at a rapid pace, and the standard was also improving from year to year. The Eisteddfod in Rhyl was held for four days instead of three and into the 1970s the appeal of the Eisteddfod grew. In 1975, 65,000 people visited the Eisteddfod.
Mistar Urdd was born in September 1976 and grew to be a popular and lively character. The Urdd invested in a t-shirt printing machine and the cellar at the Urdd’s headquarters in Aberystwyth became a factory to print Mistar Urdd t-shirts and other merchandise, such as stickers, badges, posters, mugs, clothes and so on. Mistar Urdd became an industry of its own and the demand for merchandise meant that a merchandise company was established under the name ‘Copa Cymru’ in a factory on an Aberystwyth industrial estate. A Mistar Urdd shop was opened in Aberystwyt with a postal and package service provided. In 1979 Mistar Urdd travelled through Wales promoting the Urdd with the presenter Mici Plwm leading the campaign.
By the 1980s the Eisteddfod was a popular attraction with a large variety of stalls and tents. The pavilion was developed to be a concert hall and the provision for competitors was improved. By 1983 the Eisteddfod was extended to a five day event and all sorts of improvements were made to the festival with musical and theatrical entertainment, sports area and new competitions introduced. A funfair came to entertain children on the field, and all these aspects broadened the appeal of the festival further which resulted in attracting people and competitors from all cultural and social backgrounds. In 1989 with the Eisteddfod in the Gwendraeth Valley, the Eisteddfod was extended to six days with a wide variety of concerts, competitions and sports held at the Eisteddfod.
The residential centres went from strength to strength during this period. After the success of the camps held in Llanuwchlyn, Porth Dinllaen and the permanent centre at Llangrannog, Glan-llyn was established in 1950. At the end of the 1950s the Urdd looked at the possibility of extending the size of the centre and building another house, ‘Glan-llyn Isaf’. During the 1960s facilities and equipment were improved and two gymnasiams were built with a generous grant of £3,800 from the Education Administration Authority. The future looked brighter after the centre succeeded in gaining a long term lease of the site in 1980. This secured more opportunities for development. In the early 1960s a large sum of money was spent on resources and activities, with the centre offering training in climbing and canoeing. In the 1970s the centre built a sailing hut and a new landing area and by 1980 Glan-llyn also had a swimming pool. During that year a new building that included a swimming pool, gym, and bedrooms for 60 people was opened. 69 courses were held there and over the course of a year 6000 young people enjoyed the various activities at Glan-llyn. In the 1980s a new canteen and multi-purpose sports hall were built to attract more visitors, and by 1992 the centre had its own 10-pin bowling centre. With modern attractions, educational courses and training in activities such as sailing and canoeing, Glan-llyn became a prominent outdoor activity centre for children and young people in Wales by the mid 1990s.
During the same period many developments were made at Llangrannog residential centre. Officers were worried that Glan-llyn was receiving more attention than Llangrannog. The wooden cabins at Llangrannog were looking a bit worse for wear. 1968 was the year when the future of the Urdd at Llangrannog was made secure. After renting the site every year, the owners were persuaded to sell the farm Ty Cwrt to secure the future of the centre. This was the beginning of a new period in the history of the residential centre. At the beginning of the 1970s a new canteen and bedrooms were built with room to accommodate 128 people. As a result 6026 campers came to the centre in 1978 compared to 2722 in 1972. By the end of the 1970s Llangrannog had a large barn, swimming pool, hospital, shop and a new gymnasium. By the beginning of the 1980s, grants from the Welsh Office guaranteed that the centre would be able to extend and build halls, offices, stockrooms, a bike shed and a sleeping block for an extra 80 people. The centre developed effective but cheap activities such as quad bikes, BMX bike courses, an adventure course and rollerblading. The period between the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s was a crucial period in the history of the Urdd, and modern activities attracted visitors.A ski slope was built, as well as a swimming pool and a new horse riding track. By the mid 1990s Llangrannog was one of the main residential centres in Wales with resources and activities of the highest possible standard. ‘Hafod’, another sleeping block, and the a canteen were also built.
During the 1970s a residential centre was opened at Blaencwm in the Croesor Valley, and another at Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire. The buildings were refurbished to suit young people who wanted to spend their holidays in the countryside.
The Message of Goodwill was an important part of the Urdd’s activities every year and the responsibility of creating the message was given to a different branch each year. Humanitarian and international campaigns were developed and during the 1980s and 1990s, with support from volunteers and charities, the Urdd succeeded in contributing towards projects in Madagascar, Mali and Bosnia in 1993-95.
On the playing field, the Urdd continued to be prominent. In 1960 the Pantyfedwen football cup was re-established for branches and two rugby competitions were organised. From then on, physical exercise activities were numerous. By 1963 there were 203 branches taking part in competitions, including football, rugby, hockey, tennis, netball, darts and snooker. At the end of the 1960s the final rounds for all sports competitions were held on the same day in Aberystwyth. The sporting activities grew at such a rate during that by the 1970s the Urdd had to organise two festivals, one for the under 15s and another for older members.
By the 70s and 80s the magazines were becoming more and more popular. The magazine ‘Cymru’ was adapted, and the content and the name changed to ‘Hamdden’. The distribution rose to 43,850 a month. In 1966 two magazines were published for Welsh learners which were called ‘Bore Da’ for the younger children and ‘Mynd’ for older Welsh learners. With both these colourful magazines, the distribution rose to 46,000 a month. According to R. E. Griffith this was ‘the biggest miracle in the history of Welsh publishing.’ ‘Hamdden’ came to an end because of financial loss and ‘Cymru’r Plant’ and ‘Deryn’ joined together to form ‘Cip’. Three magazines continued to be published, ‘Cip’, ‘Bore Da’ and ‘Mynd’ from 1988. In the 90s ‘Mynd’ changed to ‘iaw!’ and worked with popular BBC Wales’ Education Department for pupils in secondary schools.
1990s - 2000s
The Urdd has three popular children magazines. Cip has news, posters, competitions and puzzles for Welsh speakers under 12 years of ages. Bore Da is for Welsh learners in key stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum and iaw! is for secondary Welsh learners. A teachers leaflet is produced alongside Bore Da and iaw! to promote the use of the magazines in the classroom, and ten editions of each magazines are published annually. In 1995 a designer was appointed to work on the magazines and the image and format of the magazines were modernised, making them more attractive to children today. All kinds of activities are organised in schools, two joke books were published and by 2002 the magazines had their own website.
At Glan-llyn in 1995 the ‘Plas’ opened officially by Bryn Terfel and has en-suite rooms, lounges and classrooms. The centre now offers en-suite accommodation for over 200 people. Over the following years, the roller-skating hall, the swimming pool and the sports hall were refurbished, and new staff specializing in outdoor activities such as climbing and white-water rafting came to Glan-llyn. Radio Cymru held discos with new lights and disco equipment.
The developments at the residential centre at Llangrannog are just as exciting. During the Urdd Eisteddfod week at Bro’r Preseli in 1995 families of competitors stayed at the centre, as well as the competitors of the Celtic countries’ cross country competition. From then on family holidays became popular and people of all ages come to stay at the centre to socialise and to enjoy the various activities. The activities changed and developed as well. At the end of the 1990s the rope course and toboggans were introduced and the roller-skating hall was improved.
In 1995, for example, the Urdd worked closely with Unicef to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the League of Nations. Most of the work was done in Mali, and £100,000 was raised to promote Unicef’s work there. Sul yr Urdd continues as well. A different school is responsible for announcing the Goodwill message every year.
In 1997, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Urdd a big jamboree was held in Cardiff with 10,000 Urdd members on a procession through the streets of Cardiff. 1997 was an important year for the Urdd as the movement was celebrating 75 years since Sir Ifan ab Owen Edward's vision was announced in 1922. To note the occasion a concert was organised at the Corwen Pavilion with performances by the Aelwydydd choir, and stars such as Bryn Terfel, Nerys Richards, Bethan Dudley and Daniel Evans.
A large Jamboree with 10,000 Urdd members was organised in Cardiff and as the thousands marched through the streets of Cardiff the red, white and green flags was the only thing in sight!
All sorts of developments and modern technology enabled the Eisteddfod to give children and young people and their families a memorable experience. There has been an increase in the establishments and companies represented on the eisteddfod field and the number of stalls are also increasing. The Eisteddfod has ventured to all areas of Wales to promote Welsh culture and language, and to encourage children and young people from all backgrounds to join in the competing and activities. In 1997 the Eisteddfod came for the first time to Gwent.
The Urdd’s sport provision is going from strength to strength. It includes competitions, training courses, and National Galas for all ages. In 1997 10,000 members took part in the Urdd’s Sports. Four National Sport festivals are held every year as well as two swimming galas and two athletics festivals. The Urdd started working with Sport Council Wales during the National Urdd Eisteddfod in 1999.
New ground was broken when the Eisteddfod came to Lampeter and a film was produced instead of a musical performance by the young people of the area. The number of visitors to the Eisteddfod field increased to 100,000 on many occasions and bands such as Big Leaves, Eden, Diffiniad, and the Super Furry Animals attracted the crowds.
At that time plans were being made to start developing the Sports Hall, new accommodation for 150 people and a Heritage Centre; a project costing nearly £4 million. By 2004 the centre at Llangrannog had lots of new facilities. A new car park was created, new bedrooms - 34 of them en-suite - a Leisure Centre and an all weather sports pitch. Alun Pugh AM opened the new developments. The residential centre promotes sports and a summer school was started with 170 attending the first course. The farm buildings have now been converted to a brand new Heritage Centre.
in 2001 the Eisteddfod was cancelled as a result of the Foot and Mouth disease. Gwyl yr Urdd was held and two centres were organised, one in the North and one in the South; both joining to compete and celebrate. The Urdd pioneered in web broadcasting and viewers across the world had the chance to watch the Eisteddfod live on the internet.
In 2001 five sports officers were appointed to ensure that the sports provision was of the highest standard possible. During the last few year the National Rugby Competition was held for the first time in Llanelli with 108 teams taking part from across Wales, and the final matches were played on Stradey Park. By 2003 the rugby festival had extended to two days at Llanelli, and in 2004 135 teams participated in the competition
In 2002 the Urdd Peace and Goodwill Message was read by four pupils from Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in the European Parliament to 626 members of the European Day of Goodwill. In 2006 the message was read in Parliament in front of the Prime Minister, Rhodri Morgan, along with leaders other countries and in 2005 the message came from Treorchy Comprehensive School, the first second language Welsh school to prepare the message.
We saw another great Jamboree in 2003 in Margam Park with 2,000 children in attendance. At the beginning of the new millennium Mistar Urdd went on a tour of primary schools and departments, and visited 607 schools across Wales. Hei Mistar Urdd ( Mistar Urdd’s song) continues to be as popular as ever and the song was re-recorded in 2002 by the pop group CIC as a vehicle to re-ignite the Urdd following the foot and mouth crisis.
As the numbers of people attending the centre rose, especially the number of older visitors, a new Welcome Centre was built with a new reception, offices, a lecturing theatre and bedrooms. The ten-pin bowling centre was renewed with new machines and screens, and what better way to show off these new facilities than in a fly on the wall documentary series filming everything that went on at the centre? The new Welcome Centre was opened in 2003, and a Language Officer was appointed to organise educational courses. Key skills courses were held for secondary school pupils. The latest development at the centre is the high rope course. Plans are being made to build a new bike course, and safe walking routes from Glan-llyn to Llanuwchllyn.
One of the newest and most exciting developments for the Urdd over the past few years is the residential centre located in Cardiff Bay. The new centre is located in the Wales Millennium Centre. It accommodates 150 people in en-suite bedrooms, and has a theatre, a lounge, two classrooms, a canteen and offices for staff. The centre was opened in November 2004. It offers all sorts of unique opportunities and a chance to visit the capital city’s main attractions – the Millennium Stadium, the Assembly, Techniquest, the National Welsh Folk Museum, Big Pit, Castell Coch, Cardiff Castle and much more! Whilst staying at the centre, children and young people visit the theatre, a football, rugby, ice hockey, or cricket match, the cinema and ten-pin bowling alleys.
In 2005, for the Urdd Eisteddfod came to the Wales Millennium Centre for the first time with the musical 'Les Miserables’ produced by the Urdd Youth Theatre Company. Since then the Urdd Theatre Company has been re-established and is going from strength to strength.
The Urdd is part of the Bardd Plant Cymru scheme in partnership with S4C, Welsh Books Council and the Academy. Well known poets such as Mei Mac, Ceri Wyn Jones, Tudur Dylan Jones and Mererid Hopwood have been part of the project and in 2006-2007 the youngest children’s poet ever was appointed, Gwyneth Glyn. The main aim of the project is to promote poetry amongst our young people, mainly through workshops and visits to schools.
Today and to the Future
In 2022 we will celebrate our 100th birthday!
A lot has changed since the early days! Today, the Urdd is the largest organisation for children and young people in Wales. We have 55,000 members under 25 years old every year, and 60% of all schools in Wales are involved in our work. We have 170 staff members, 10,000 volunteers, 900 branches, with 200 branches in the community.
Eisteddfod yr Urdd - Urdd National Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod yr Urdd provides amazing cultural experiences for over half a million children and young people every year. With over 400 competitions, from singing to cooking, dancing to designing websites, and writing stories to staring on stage – there’s something here for everyone!
The competing journey usually starts in February in the Eisteddfod Cylch (Local) and Rhanbarth (Regional), and the winners go on to the Urdd National Eisteddfod – one of Europe’s largest travelling festivals which attracts over 90,000 visitors, held during May half term. Competing in the Urdd Eisteddfod is also one of the Siarter Iaith’s targets, which inspires children to use the Welsh language.
The Urdd Eisteddfod in Denbighshire was postponed twice due to Covid-19, but thousands of competitors and viewers enjoyed our digital festival ‘Eisteddfod T’ in 2020 and 2021.
Our Sports department offers a range of specialist provisions to the youth of Wales and has developed into one of the main providers of sport through the medium of Welsh. The department provides opportunities across Wales for every child and young person to embrace sport, through our clubs, competitions, training, and regional and national sports festivals. Our inclusive provision is operated by a network of skilled and motivated staff, apprentices and volunteers who enable us to offer activities of the highest quality across Wales.
2019 marked the beginning of a £6.5million investment to expand and develop our residential centres into pioneering, modern centres which support learning outside the classroom, made possible with the support of the Welsh Government as part of its 21st Century Schools and Education Programme and Big Lottery Fund Wales. The project includes the opening of the self-contained accommodation Glan-llyn Isa’ in 2021; a new water sport centre with modern facilities at the Glan-llyn site; a complete modernisation of parts of the Llangrannog site, creating increased accommodation. We also look forward to the opening of our very first environmental centre, Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire, in 2022.
We work with several partners to develop a range of Welsh-medium apprenticeships and training that offer new opportunities to learn, develop and increase confidence in the workplace. From sports, outdoor activities and youth work apprenticeships to qualifications and accreditations, we offer a range of opportunities for all ages and abilities.
Community and Youth work
Our Community Department focuses on providing arts opportunities to our members across Wales, support for volunteers and arranging activities to encourage and enable children and young people to socialise through the medium of Walsh outside the classroom. We also support schools to compete in the Urdd Eisteddfod as well as developing the Urdd’s adrannau and aelwydydd (junior and youth clubs).
The work of the Urdd Theatre Company continues, and in 2014 they performed 'Cysgu’n Brysur (Sleeping Busy') in Aberystwyth to large audiences and following extremely successful performances of Les Misérables in the Millenium Centre in 2015, the cast performed at the Les Misérables 30th anniversary concert in the Queen’s Theatre West End and sand with the original cast for the 'finale'! The original show ‘Aberhenfelen’ was a joint project between the Urdd and Theatr Bara Caws, which was performed at Galeri Caernarfon and the ATRIuM in Cardiff in 2019.
To the future!
Since the beginning, our aim has always been to bring the Welsh language alive for children and young people in Wales and to increase their use of Welsh. To do this is our future priorities are:
- To develop the appeal of Eisteddfod yr Urdd to our members and our visitors.
- To extend the provision and reach of the Urdd’s national sports competitions.
- To establish a national Welsh-medium youth work model across Wales.
- To invest in the 3 residential centres to offer the best experiences.
- To extend the reach of our outdoor pursuits services across Wales.
- To provide Welsh-medium apprenticeships for young people across Wales.
- To aim for a worldwide reach for the Urdd’s Peace and Goodwill Message.
- To offer international opportunities and experiences for Urdd members.
- To establish a data system that strengthens how we communicate with our members and partners.
- To create art and cultural activities for our members within their communities.
- To celebrate the Urdd’s Centenary in 2022 by celebrating the past and innovating for the future.
- Develop Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire as the fourth Urdd Camp.