Talent time: Australian eisteddfods

By Elizabeth Ginis 12 March 2013
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Each year across Australia thousands of aspiring singers, dancers and entertainers take centre stage to compete in an Aussie tradition, the eisteddfod.

A WELSH FESTIVAL of music, poetry and performance that dates back to 1176, the eisteddfod is believed to have come to Australia with Welsh migrants in the late 19th century.

Today, between April and October each year, town halls, civic centres and theatres throughout Australia throw open their doors to aspiring actors, singers, dancers and musicians, all contestants in this fine Aussie tradition.

There, a host of volunteers help performers young and old take to the stage to realise their dream of a life lived large on stage

Where: Across Australia
When: The eisteddfod seasons runs from April to October
History: The first recorded Australian eisteddfod was held in Victoria by Ballarat’s Welsh community as early as 1870–71. Twenty years on, Ballarat’s Royal South Street (RSS) Society established the country’s first official eisteddfod, which is still going strong today and is held annually at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Most prestigious: RSS, which hosts 40,000 on-stage performances in 13 performing arts disciplines (and 530 different sections), including the Sun Herald Aria, a $30,000 scholarship for classical singing
Most popular: The annual Rock Eisteddfod, which was born in Australia and is now an international movement, involves 25,000 primary and secondary students from 300 schools, and culminates in nationally televised performances.
For more information: Contact the Association of Eisteddfod Societies of Australia: 08 4229 5068; 0412 923 946
Read the full story in issue 113 (Mar/Apr) of the Australian Geographic journal.