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What the Eisteddfod means to me Beti George (BA 1960) – For Alumni, By Alumni

26 July 2023
Beti George (BA 1960)

Beti George (BA 1960) studied Welsh at Cardiff University and is a renowned Welsh broadcaster of television and radio. Beti is best known for presenting the nightly Welsh-language news programme, Newyddion as well as the weekly BBC Radio Cymru show, Beti a’i Phobol and is an ambassador for the Welsh language. Here Beti shares her childhood memories of the Eisteddfod and talks about what it, and the Welsh language, means to her.

If you’re heading to the 2023 National Eisteddfod, come and connect with your fellow alumni at the Cardiff University Alumni Reception on Thursday 10 August.

I grew up in the countryside in the west – in the village of Coedybryn where the poet and writer T. Llew Jones was the headmaster of the small village school. The Eisteddfod was in my blood and we children were expected to compete in the eisteddfodau which would be held somewhere in the area almost every Saturday night. Singing was the sport in our house and father taught us – me and my brother. Although I hated competing, it seemed to be a matter of duty. More over, I was so nervous, but when we both sang a duet, the nerves disappeared. We used to win everywhere. You can imagine those two little children, brother and sister, and the voices blending perfectly. My brother the soprano, me as the alto! Today, there’s no doubt, we’d be starring in X factor, or Britain’s Got Talent!

We didn’t go to compete in the National Eisteddfod – we didn’t have a car to go anyway!

But we regarded winning at the National as the equivalent of winning a gold medal at the Olympic games. I remember, as a small child, when we were on a bus going over to Llangrannog beach, my mother talking to a man who had just won the chair in the National Eisteddfod. I looked at him like he was the most important man in the world, and wanted to know where the chair was!
I can count on one hand how many National Eisteddfodau I attended before 1981! Then, the opportunity came for me to present Tocyn Wythnos for Radio Cymru from the Eisteddfod and did so until 2019. What a privilege!

I can’t say I’m completely comfortable with the competition element. That’s because I hate seeing people lose! (Maybe it’s me who hates losing!) It’s easy enough to say “be good losers”! I doubt that is possible! I could never be a judge because who am I to say who deserves to win and who DESERVES to lose.

And I wasn’t brave enough to be a judge. A judge needs the skin of a crocodile according to stories I’ve heard about the aggressive attitude of some parents, after their offspring have been wronged!
‘No doubt, the competitive streak is alive and well!

Again, you hear about stars like Sir Bryn Terfel singing the praises of competing in Eisteddfodau because that laid a strong foundation for his career, which is of course so competitive.
Some fear that the changes taking place at the moment are going to lead to turning the Eisteddfod into a Festival with less emphasis on the competition. Although my attitude towards competing is lukewarm, I don’t see the point of holding an Eisteddfod without that element being central to it. That’s what attracts the thousands in my opinion because basically I think seeing people win AND lose is part of human nature unfortunately!

Recently there has been a heated discussion regarding the monolingualism of the Eisteddfod. The only thing I can say is that for one week a year, I appreciate the opportunity to recharge the Welsh-language batteries that are fundamental to who I am.

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