Llangollen Eisteddfod ethos resonated with new musical director Vicky Yannoula - in pictures
When Vicky Yannoula saw an advert for the post of music director of the Llangollen Eisteddfod it struck a chord deep inside.
She had first heard of the international music festival as a teenager when a choir from her home, Corfu, travelled to Wales to take part. And through her music career as a pianist and choral director in London she has encountered many musicians who spoke fondly of the event.
“It was its ethos that excited me, an ethos I very much believe in, one of friendship, unity and peace. It resonated within me.”
Her passion for music and her own ethos of unity through art led to her being offered the role.
“I was honoured, moved and thrilled, to be offered this wonderful role.” she said.
Vicky divides her time between London, where she has lived for more than 20 years and Llangollen where planning for the 2018 event from July 3 - 8 has been underway for months.
“Llangollen reminds me of my home in Corfu, from the green hills and the clean air to the people themselves. The temperament of the Welsh is very similar to the Corfiots.”
It was also the diversity of both music and musicians and dancers that attracted Vicky.
“We celebrate people’s differences and diversities. The Eisteddfod bring those differences together in harmony and in unity. It includes so many people from different backgrounds and different music genres, sharing and celebrating their diversity.
“I am very proud of our inclusivity programme that recently received a £25,000 grant from Scottish Power."
The programme give people who would not otherwise have an opportunity to perform on a stage the change to appear at the Eisteddfod.
“We do a lot to bridge the gap through the magic of performing. The experience those in the project have lives with them forever.”
The musician says that the growth of the Eisteddfod and the introduction of professional evening concerts was natural progression.
“This Eisteddfod could only have started as a competition and over the years it was natural to then ask the competitors to take part in performances on the stage.
“The competitors were showcasing the very best of international talent and so bringing the very best professional performers to inspire them was inevitable. I know that in turn those performers are deeply inspired by the competitors that come here from around the world.”
Part of the success of the Eisteddfod is, Vicky says, due to the volunteers who work with the officers leading up to and during the festival.
“When I read that there were 800 volunteers I was overwhelmed. There is such a passion here in Llangollen for the institution of the Eisteddfod. It is fantastic. I don’t think there is anywhere else like it.”
The pianist said it was clear that the Eisteddfod gave a huge economic boost not just to the town but to the surrounding area.
“Competitors and visitors stay in Llangollen and in other nearby places. The stay and eat in the area and many extend their stay to do some sightseeing. Importantly, many fall in love with Llangollen and come back again and again.”
“They tell everyone about Llangollen and, of course, with social media, the news travels quickly.”
Musical genres at the event are vast, from classical to folk, choirs to jazz and world music.
One of the most recent additions has been rock and the Sunday Llanfest which this year has the Kaiser Chiefs headlining, along with the Hoosiers and Toploader.
Until recently the afternoon of Llanfest had field entry only tickets for those wanting to watch the local bands before the evening concert got underway. There was criticism last year when that was scrapped.
Vicky said: “We are now attracting bigger headliners and they in turn are attracting bigger names for the afternoon, outdoor stages. We have given a new festival within a festival to Llangollen and because it has grown into its own entity the pricing has had to change.”