The first Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, held in 1947, was the concept of Harold Tudor of Coedpoeth, then a member of the British Council; the concept being the creation of a festival 'to promote education, international peace and goodwill through the medium of the fine arts and in particular the art of music'.(1) After the idea for such a festival was turned down by the Welsh National Eisteddfod, Harold Tudor approached W. S. Gwynn Williams, a noted Welsh composer and music publisher, to suggest an independent festival based in Llangollen. With the help of George Northing, a teacher from Dinas Brân County School and Chairman of the local council, the idea gained the support of town residents and in 1946, organising of the festival began.
An Executive Committee was formed comprising the chairmen and secretaries of five committees: Finance, Grounds, Hospitality, Music and Publicity. The first festival was financed through a public appeal, and, with the aid of the British Council, international choirs were approached to compete. The festival was a success. Forty overseas groups arrived, including a dance group from Spain, who proved so popular that a dance competition became a feature of the subsequent Eisteddfods.
'After the second year it became necessary to expand the organisation beyond the scope of the original Committee, so a new constitution was framed. The governing body was called the General Council, to which all people living in and around Llangollen were invited to apply for membership. No subscription was required, the only qualification asked was that the member was interested in the aims and ideals of the International Eisteddfod and prepared to co-operate in the work'.(2)
The Eisteddfod since then has been operated as such: 'the General Council elects twenty-one members to form a Standing Board, each member to act for a period of three years. The Standing Board [chaired by the Eisteddfod Chairman] is to maintain continuity of the Eisteddfod from year to year and has power to prepare and deal with the affairs of future Eisteddfodau, as well as appoint officials [including the President] and nuclei of sub-committees each year.
The affairs of each current year are conducted by a small Executive Committee consisting of the officials of the Council and Chairman and Secretaries of the sub-committees.'(2) The Executive Committee is chaired by the Eisteddfod Vice-Chairman.
To the original five committees were added the Tickets and Floral committees and sub-commitees as necessary, including, between 1972 and 1988, a Philatelic Commitee. Committee members are aided by numerous volunteers.
On 2nd April 1974, the organisation became a Company limited by guarantee called The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod Limited. Thereon, if the Company went into liquidation its members were only liable to £1.
Key events in the Eisteddfod history include: Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh becoming patrons in 1948; the Eisteddfod being selected by The Festival of Britain as one of the Arts Festival Centres in 1951; UNESCO commissioning records of the Eisteddfod for circulation in all countries in 1951 (the Llangollen Eisteddfod was the only festival this was done for); royal visits, including Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1953 and 1992, Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon in 1964, Princess Anne in 1977, and Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1985; the Orbernkirchen choir singing 'Happy Wanderer' in 1953, which became the most popular song in the country; the new larger site being acquired at Penddol in 1958 (the Standing Board purchased 24 acres of land as a permanent site for the Eisteddfod); and the Pavilion development in 1992.
The Eisteddfod has also had many notable guest artists, not least Pavarotti who performed at the Eisteddfod in 1955 and 1995; and many notable Presidents, including W. Clayton Russon, Ernest Bevin, Sir Henry Morris-Jones and Sir Anthony Eden, to name the first four.
The Friends of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod was started in 1974 by Michael Fay and other members of the Publicity Committee to support the Eisteddfod. In 1988 a London branch was established by Sir Maldwyn Thomas to promote the Eisteddfod in the London area and to arrange events for FLIME members in the home counties.(3)
The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is still staged at present.
(1) - The Council of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod constitution, 1949 - DD/LE/1/1/1
(2) - 'Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod' by J. Rhys Roberts, c.1960 - DD/LE/5/1/25
(3) - 'Fifty Glorious Weeks 1947-1996' by Robert B. Attenburrow, 1996 - DD/LE/5/1/43