More than 130 participants occupied an area the size of four rugby pitches at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this summer.
Visitors to the event were invited to participate in a variety of activities including:
- calculating carbon footprints
- using genealogy to research Welsh family connections
- learning Welsh songs and phrases
- trying on coal miners’ equipment
- contributing to an artist’s quilt
- Welsh food and drink demonstrations
- playing a recycled drum kit made from junk
- learning how to build a dry stone wall
- making baskets from locally sourced and recycled materials
- cheese making
Visitors got a feel for different aspects of life in Wales through meeting and talking to real Welsh people with real Welsh jobs - a farmer from the Brecon Beacons, an ex coal-miner, a boat-builder and a slate-splitter from Llanberis. Welsh crafts people demonstrated skills such as book restoring, pottery or iron work – and answered questions about their work. Dishes inspired by recipes from Wales at the on-site concessions included cawl and Glamorgan sausages.
Poets, storytellers, choirs and musicians performed every day at the Welsh Dragon stage, rugby club, story circle and square mile.
This site was split into themed areas, each telling a story of:
Language, Literature & Animation
Featuring “poetry stomps” and modern day heroes of poetry in Wales including our national poet and Children’s Poet Laureate. Our Welsh tutor offered daily Welsh lessons where visitors learnt Welsh vocabulary and the animation tent allowed people to have a go at creating stories through animation.
Industry, Heritage & Innovation
A former miner was on hand to talk about our coal heritage while renewable energy experts from the Centre for Alternative Technology demonstrated the future of energy in Wales, including solar, wind and hydroelectric power. There were also demonstrations from skilled craftsmen representing the slate and iron industries of Wales.
Building & landscapes
A small timber framed house was the staging ground for the demonstration of lime mortars, sheep’s wool insulation and slate roofing. Coed Cymru's contemporary and sustainable pre-fab house - the Ty Unnos was also on display, named after an old Welsh tradition that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, or “un nos” in Welsh, then it belonged to them.
Ecotourism & Pastimes
Outdoor's experts demonstrated the equipment and skills of adventure activities including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing and coasteering (a sport that combines rock climbing, cliff jumping and swimming). Children got to play rugby and other sports played in Wales.
Homes & Community
Award-winning chefs promoted the use of fresh and local ingredients in our food demonstrations while Welsh home traditions such as baking and basket making were shown around our large kitchen table.
Medicinal plant experts talked about new research into the healing powers of plants such as our national flower, the daffodil, which is being used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Along the Water
Experts in salmon and mussel fishing as well as boat restoration and recreational sailing were based in the Along the Water tent. Coracle maker Karl Chattington shared with visitors the traditional craft of making these small walnut-shaped boats which can be carried on fisherman’s shoulders.
Music & Dance
The Welsh National Opera, folk choir Parti Cut Lloi, fiddlers, harpists, folk groups and singer-songwriters all performed throughout the festival. The Welsh National Opera’s outreach group led singing workships in week one, and the popular men’s choir group, Only Men Aloud!, performed to standing ovations during week two of the Festival.
Wales & the World
The National Library of Wales was overwhelmed with people looking for help tracing their Welsh roots and connections while visitors to the Wales & the World tent found out about Wales' influence on the world and some unexpected connections.