Examination of Witnesses (Questions 163
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
163. Good morning, Maureen and colleagues. Welcome
to the Committee. I cannot welcome you to the Pavilion since you
run the place! One of the things I have done since I have been
Chairman is to have as many evidence sessions outside London in
Wales and in places such as this to promote interest in the assets
that we have within Wales. For those of you who are not my constituents,
welcome to my constituency, the most beautiful constituency in
Wales. Welcome, as I said, Maureen. Could you begin by introducing
yourselfobviously I know youand say a little bit
about the Eisteddfod for the benefit of the record.
(Mrs Jones) Good morning. My name is
Maureen Jones and I am the Marketing Director of the Llangollen
International Musical Eisteddfod and I have been the Marketing
Director since 1990. I have with me my colleagues Selwyn Evans,
our Treasurer, and Keith Hall, our Competitors' Liaison Officer.
I should say that of the three of us I am the one who is shop-soiled
because I am salaried. The other two are volunteers who come in
every morning and work very diligently throughout the year. The
Llangollen Eisteddfod was born out of the ashes of World War II.
It was the dream of two men, W S Gwyn Williams and Harold Tudor.
Their vision was to provide a platform for people of all nations
to meet and communicate through the international language of
music, thus promoting peace, harmony and greater understanding.
The first Eisteddfod was held in 1947 and 14 nations attended.
The 54th Eisteddfod was last year and some 48 nations attended.
This is a unique festival. It is run by 900 volunteers who come
from all walks of life who give up a week of their annual holidays
either to come and work on the site or to host our overseas competitors.
Each year we host over 2,000 overseas competitors, anything from
three to six nights with local families within a 15-mile radius
164. That costs them nothing?
(Mrs Jones) Yes. They are the guests of the Festival.
Once a group makes its way to Llangollen then we provide the transport
to and from their billets and provide their meals. Basically we
do what you would do for a guest in your own home. For many Eastern
Europeans this has been a wonderful experience living in the homes
of local people, being part of their family, experiencing democracy
first-hand. Going back to the volunteerssorry to grasshopmany
of these volunteers have given their service for over 30 years
because the International Eisteddfod is here in the same place
year after year whereas the National moves around. It easy to
be enthusiastic for four or five years but for people like Selwyn
who have done it for many years it is a tremendous commitment
which I know I am very proud of. If you have never been to the
Eisteddfod then I do suggest you come just once to experience
the joy and goodwill that permeates on this site throughout the
week to either the competitors, the visitors or the people who
165. Thank you very much, Maureen. As the MP
for the area I have a very soft spot for the Eisteddfod, as you
know. It is also the same age as me since I was born in 1947 and
so was Eisteddfod.
(Mrs Jones) You are a very loyal supporter and we
must say John Marek is too. He can be seen constantly attending
166. It is because of its nature that it is
so well-supported and it is nice to hear that volunteers are supporting
it, but you say in your letter that you receive no funding from
the Arts Council for Wales or the Assembly and very little now
from Welsh local government. I know it used to be different before.
Can you explain why this is the case? Do you know why?
(Mrs Jones) Could I ask my colleague Selwyn, the Treasurer,
to explain it because he is the person who really deals with it.
(Mr Evans) Good morning. We used to get funding from
the Arts Council up until about 1995 of round about £30,000
to £35,000 per annum which went up in accordance with inflation
I guess. Then for reasons best known to themselves they decided
to cut it by a third in 1996, a further third in 1997 and as there
are only three-thirds in a whole the last third went in 1998,
and we have not had any funding since then. That is coupled with
the effect of the reorganisation of the local authorities. Before
the reorganisation we probably received something between £30,000
and £35,000 from the council and district authorities in
Wales, some of it under the Welsh Church Act and some of it seemed
to come from other funds. Each authority seemed to use a different
fund to provide that cash. That was not our concern obviously;
our concern was to get the funding. When the reorganisation came
about, I think we anticipated that there would be a drop, but
in fact it has now dropped to £10,000 from the unitary authorities
last year. When you think that Denbighshire provided £6,000
and Wrexham £1,000, the other 19 or 20 provided £3,000
between them, and many of them nothing at all. I think we understand
the reasons because of the funding problems that local authorities
have. When choices have to be made between funding the Eisteddfod
and providing the necessary things that local authorities have
to provide, then one understands the reasoning, but it does not
make life any easier for us. So there are two things. We have
effectively lost something like £70,000 that we used to have
on a fairly regular basis down now to just the £10,000 from
the unitary authorities.
167. What is the overall budget for the International
(Mr Evans) At the moment it runs at round about £800,000.
168. You were referring to the tithe fund earlier.
Has anything worsened since the reorganisation of local government?
Before you had two councils, Gwynedd and Clwyd, with tithe funds.
Has that made an awful lot of difference to you financially?
(Mr Evans) Yes, it has. What surprised one is that
recently somebody in the office asked about the tithe fund and
it is obvious that not every council uses it and the money that
they have got in that fund is different between one council and
another council. It varies tremendously so we have been advised
now not to put pressure on the tithe fund that much because a
large number of councils get their money from another fund and
not from the tithe fund. That has amazed me really because the
letter which comes out from the chair every year to the councils
emphasises the fact that the tithe fund was there, that is what
it was for, and yet very often the money did not come from the
169. I am very much a supporter of the Eisteddfod
and I do not want you to take this as a criticism, but perhaps
one of the disincentives for government bodies, be they local
or national, from contributing to it is that they would see there
is a lack of control on their behalf over the funding of the Eisteddfod.
For example, as I understand it, one competition alone last year
cost about £100,000. I may be wrong but that is what I have
been told. I just wondered if that was the case, whether you think
that government bodies might be a little bit loath to put money
in when there are potential problems of funding?
(Mr Evans) That information is not correct, Martyn.
The competition you are referring to is probably the new competition
which is the international singer competition for which there
was a commitment. Because it was a new competition, like any other
new competition, in the first year or two it might have cost us
money, but in fact it did not cost us £100,000, it cost us
something just over £40,000 which had been budgeted for.
We usually get funding on a regular basis from the Arts Council
but we have also applied for funding for specific projects. For
instance, we did apply two years ago for that competition when
we launched it and we were given the right vibes at the local
level of the Arts Council that we would probably be funded, but
when it came down to it they turned us down. One of the reasons
that appeared to be in the background is the amount of reserves
that we had, which was about half a million or just over. Probably
50 or 60 per cent of that was earmarked for development of part
of the site and things like that, but they seem to be using the
argument: "Why do you want funds when you have got half a
million in the bank?" And we did not appear to be able to
convince them that it was there for that use and for a rainy day.
The rainy day unfortunately happened last yearliterally.
It was wet anyway but it did have an effect on us.
170. In a sense the Arts Council let you down
really with regard to the funding of the new competition?
(Mr Evans) Yes.
171. Following on from that, what has been the
impact of the loss of the whole of that £70,000 in public
funding? Has it meant that you have had to go into your reserves
or have you found the resources elsewhere?
(Mr Evans) Up to two years ago (1999) we managed to
keep on a reasonably even keel. The losses or the deficits each
year were such that they were covered by some of funds from the
local authorities and outside funds, but in the last two years
that has not happened and therefore we have had to use our reserve
funds. Our reserve funds have halved in two years.
172. What do they stand at now?
(Mr Evans) About £300,000.
173. Are they allocated for specific improvement
projects within the site? You are going to get this attitude from
various funding agencies if you are sat on £100,000. If you
can prove it is going to be used for this or that and you have
got a long term improvement strategy
(Mr Evans) We do have plans for it. There has been
here now in the last 18 months or so a feasibility study for the
whole site. That was not instigated by us, but we were part of
that and contributed towards the cost of the feasibility study.
At this moment in time we are not quite sure what the developments
are going to be from that, but obviously we would need to be chipping
into that development if that came off because it is to our benefit
as much as anybody else's, probably more to our benefit than anybody
else's. Outside of that we are earmarking it for developing the
174. Can you give us an idea of how much money
comes into Llangollen and North Wales generally from overseas
(Mr Evans) Could I ask Maureen to reply to that as
she can give a more elaborate answer.
(Mrs Jones) As far as I am aware, neither the Wales
Tourist Board nor the County Council have ever undertaken an economic
study on the impact of the Eisteddfod. However, using Wales Tourist
Board visitor calculation figures we estimate that the Eisteddfod
brings in £6.1 million.
175. Is that for North Wales generally?
(Mrs Jones) No, the local community.
176. £6.1 million to the local community?
(Mrs Jones) Yes. There has been over the years a huge
spin-off for North Wales in the number of overseas visitors that
we have coming here. I know from my own experience within the
Wales Tourist Board that people would come to Llangollen and they
would have their family with them and they would be saying, "When
I was at Yale University this is where we competed in 1960-something."
It brings people back. It also brings people into North Wales
because people have got very preconceived ideas of what Wales
is like. It brings them in and they realise it is not all coal
tips and that there is beautiful scenery. You have got to remember
we are only 20 miles from Chester and once we get people over
the border and in here they go further into Wales, and I think
the Eisteddfod has contributed a lot to that. It has also contributed
to the cultural life of Wales if you consider that many of our
male voice choirs and different choirs have extended their repertoire
of music tremendously. If you get a male choir from Froncysyllte
they sing in 11 languages and if they had not had these foreign
choirs appearing that would never have happened. I think the Eisteddfod
did that as well as contributing financially. I think that this
(Mr Evans) I would add that within that £6.1
million, of the £800,000 it costs to run the Eisteddfod,
I think two-thirds of that is spent in the local community in
the local area. We put up all the local competitors and people
have got to buy food and do the laundry, etcetera, that sort of
spend. There is a fair amount of what we spend in the local community.
Chairman: We heard this morning that accommodation
in Llangollen is full that week. Mrs Williams?
177. A number of witnesses have suggested to
us that it does not get the highest profile abroad that we would
wish it to have and that the picture that people have of Wales
is a little bit mixed, a little bit unclear, stereotyped if you
like, and not does not really correspond to how we live here in
Wales, and is not very up-to-date. Do you agree with that and
what role do you think the Llangollen Eisteddfod has in raising
the profile of Wales abroad?
(Mrs Jones) Yes, unfortunately, I have to say I do
agree with that, but I think that the Eisteddfod opens people's
eyes. You have got to remember that Llangollen provides a window
on the world and for the rest of the world it provides a unique
image of Wales so I do think that we have expanded tremendously
what people see and feel about the country.
178. Do you think therefore that the Eisteddfod
has a stronger role to play because of the answer you have just
given us? Does it have a stronger role to promote Wales abroad
in order to get the more accurate picture that Wales should have?
(Mrs Jones) I think we are promoting Wales abroad.
When you think that we have 2,000 overseas competitors staying
with local families and they have a wonderful week here, all those
people have got families there and they must go back and talk
about itthere is nothing like first-hand experienceso
I think the Eisteddfod is doing a wonderful job for Wales. The
other thing is that many of the competing countries' ambassadors
attend the Eisteddfod so we have a high level of ambassadors coming
in. I am very pleased this year that the Welsh Assembly has decided
to utilise the contact we have with ambassadors and will have
a presence for the first time here in the Eisteddfod.
(Mr Evans) If I can just add to that really. The problem
is that we are trying our best to promote the Eisteddfod outside
of the United Kingdom, but the welcome is possibly not spread
widely enough. The Wales Tourist Board do not seem to be doing
enough and they are quite frustrated to some extent, from what
the Welsh Tourist Board have said, in that they cannot do what
they want to do. I do not know whether it is because they are
short of funds but I think they are quite frustrated in doing
what they would like to do because of lack of resources. The biggest
problem that we have, which is quite a surprise, is not so much
that the wider world does not know about us, it is the people
over Offa's Dyke who do not know about us. That is more the problem
for us than the rest of the world really.
179. You touched upon the attitude of the Wales
Tourist Board towards the International Eisteddfod. What kind
of support do bodies like the WDA and WTB give and what type of
support could they give?
(Mrs Jones) The WDA is very supportive. It actually
sponsors an evening here and brings leading industrialists to
the Eisteddfod. I think the WDA appreciates the uniqueness of
the festival throughout the world, its feelgood factor and its
friendliness and its record for quality and excellence. They feel
it is an asset that can attract inward investment. You have got
to remember that Wales is a great place to live and work in as
well as to holiday in.