|The Eisteddfod Maes|
There is something a little bit manufactured about the row over the Gorsedd of the Bard’s refusal to honour the Welsh football team.
Has anyone asked Gareth Bale and Co if they actually want to be druids? I’m a member of the Gorsedd, and being included was the greatest honour of my life. But it’s certainly not for everyone.
Although the yearly inductions are presented in the media as a kind of national reward for service, on par with the New Year’s honours, the Gorsedd is actually a community of Welsh-speakers.
This is because the primary aim of the Gorsedd is to promote the Welsh language and culture. It mostly rewards bards, novelists and singers.
The Welsh FA have done a cracking job of promoting the Welsh language. But I don’t expect inclusion in the Wales match-day squad just because I can speak Welsh. That's not the criteria.
The problem here is that the National Eisteddfod is frequently caught up in the inevitable conflict between Welsh identity and a language that 20% of the population of Wales can speak.
The Eisteddfod has to be allowed to be a Welsh-language festival first, and a national festival second.
This is because there are plenty of festivals in Wales, but only one large Welsh-language festival.
The Eisteddfod’s job is to promote the Welsh-language and its culture, not to promote Welshness as a whole, which is a much larger thing.
It’s true that, if the Welsh language did not exist, then the Welsh would probably never have been recognised as a people separate from their neighbours in the first place.
But a national identity doesn’t sit still, and today the Welsh language is just one facet of Welsh identity. It’s impossible to say today that Welshness and an ability to speak the Welsh language are the same thing.
Welshness can include both pride in the Welsh-language and Gareth Bale, but that doesn’t mean Gareth Bale has to be a Welsh-speaker, or indeed be a member of the Gorsedd.
A festival for promoting the Welsh language can’t be involved in every facet of Welsh life, because a lot of people in Wales can’t and in many cases don’t want to be able to speak the language.
The Welsh language can’t really win here. It’s called exclusive because people choose not to speak it. If it tries to encourage people to speak it, it’s accused of forcing itself down their throats.
But if the nation doesn’t want to be Welsh-speakers, then we can’t expect the Welsh language to always represent the nation.
Sometimes we need to be able to undo the bond between the Welsh language and the multi-faceted thing called Welsh identity, and let them do their own thing.