BLOG Amy Aed

NWR Issue r36

The Porthcawl Celtic Festival

The Porthcawl Celtic Festival (also known as Cwlwm Celtaidd 'Celtic Knot’), is a small, community-run festival in south Wales that occurs once a year. Upon my arrival, I quickly found that the festival receives very little publicity - even many of the locals didn’t know that it was happening - which is a shame, as it was a very fun, quirky, and exciting experience.

All Celtic nations were honoured as people from across the island (and even further afield, from regions such as Galicia) came together to celebrate their heritage. As the heart of Wales comprises its poetry, music, art, and community spirit, this festival, with its focus on the arts, encompasses the very core of what it means to be Welsh. Surrounded by Welsh speakers and given a warm welcome by the locals who had created the festival several years ago, I instantly felt as though I were a part of it all.

The festival was a three-day event, filled with spoon-playing workshops, Cornish music sessions, performances by the Welsh Fiddle Orchestra, Manx dances and pipe bands – along with my personal highlight, the opportunity to learn clog dancing.

The clog dancing instructor, Ceri Evans, ushered me into the ballroom to meet the rest of the team. I had never tried clog dancing prior to this event, and let me tell you, it is a lot harder than it looks. The clogs themselves aren’t the most comfortable things in the world, and the choreography is complicated if you’ve never tried any sort of foot-focused dance routine before. Looking around me, I noticed that I was easily the least experienced person in the room – even the four-year-old present could do a pitter-patter with zero difficulties.

In an hour, we were taught the basics, including the best ways to ‘travel,’ and ultimately attempted a very short and uncomplicated routine which I messed up one out of every three steps.

‘I can just imagine you all trying to do these routines later in your kitchens at home,’ Ceri said, drawing the session to a close. The rest of the group all laughed nervously, because what sort of oddball would do that? As it happens, four hours later I was back in my kitchen in Aberystwyth, doing just that.

As the events of the day drew to a close, the sun came out and swathed Porthcawl in a warm, orange light. A group of men playing the bagpipes stood at the pier and played traditional songs, and the whole community gathered around to watch them, smiling and dancing with their children. The ocean glistened in the background, and I felt a little more in touch with my own Welsh heritage. I left the festival glowing with pride for my people and my country, happy to have witnessed the very tiny, and yet very important, Celtic Festival.

Amy Aed is one of this season’s Digital Cultural Correspondent in a new partnership with Aberystwyth University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


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