HMP & YOI Parc hosts first Eisteddfod
Over 50 prisoners took part in the day, which began with rugby tournaments and a strong-man competition. A series of recitals, literature, spoken word, drama and music performances then followed in the chapel, where arts and craft submissions - which included hand-carved Welsh love-spoons and clay dragons - were also on display.
The event, which was held on St David’s Day, was organised by HMP Parc’s Welsh Language Advisor Beth Chamberlain. She says: “I grew up competing in Eisteddfod events and I loved everything about them, the build up and the experience of performing in front of people. They were my happy place and I just want the prisoners at Parc to have a taste of that experience and the sense of belonging that stems from them.”
“I am so proud of the prisoners who really have put on the performance of their lives, particularly those who have never had the confidence to perform in public,” Beth adds.
The majority of those who took part in the day are studying for their level 2 Welsh, a skill that improves their employability particularly among public-facing employers in Wales.
Maesteg Gleeman Male Voice Choir (Côr Gleeman Maesteg)
Two-time winners of the National Eisteddfod, Maesteg Gleeman Male Voice Choir (Côr Gleeman Maesteg), performed and gave spine-tingling renditions of Land of my Father and other Welsh musical greats, before closing the day with the Welsh national anthem. Speaking afterwards, Choir Director, John Summers, said: “This event has completely changed our perception of prison and prisoners - it was the best gig we have ever done in terms of audience and we were honoured to be invited to take part."
The various competitions were adjudicated by Sian Eirian, the Urdd’s (Wales’ largest youth organisation) Director of the Eisteddfod and the Arts. She says: “This was a very special and emotional event for me: to see and experience offenders from all backgrounds taking part in the various competitions was truly inspirational and I was very pleased with the quality of the submissions - some were outstanding.”
“Some were fluent Welsh speakers whilst others were in various stages of learning the language - but all shared a passion and love for the language and the culture. I believe that learning the language and getting involved in the Eisteddfod has been a very positive experience for all who took part.”
The poem below received a special mention as the prisoner who wrote it was previously very unwell, spending a period of time in Safer Custody.
Aberfan Disaster 1966
This poem that you read today is one of severe devastation
A mistake of such proportion, it tore Wales apart as a nation
Let me take you back to 21st October 1966
A momental tragedy and one we cannot fix
The day and this disaster, took the lives of 144
The culprit sludgy coal waste, the rain had helped to pour
Down the mountain of Aberfan, heading to Pantglas Junior School
Killing 116 Students, however survivors, wished it killed them all
The tragedy that I mention, could’ve been stopped in 1963
When an engineer had wrote a letter, quoting the tip was unsteady
He then went on to mention, it would not hold, if the weather got too bad
but yet the tragedy 3 years later, leaving the residents so sad
With many looking who to blame, but not, one rose
As the national coal board said ‘make a fuss and the mine will close’
If we think back to 1966, mining was the way to make a pound
So despite the pain and all the loss, no one made a sound
Instead parents had the awful task, to search the bodies laid in view
A makeshift morgue at Bethania Chapel for the child they once knew
Now you have read this poem, take a second to think this over
And appreciate the heartache, Aberfan in 66, the 21st of October