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The History of the Eisteddfod in Jersey

The Jersey Eisteddfod was founded in 1908 by a former Dean of Jersey who saw its competitive classes as a means by which the speech, presentation and musical standards of his fellow islanders might be improved. With the exception of the years of the two world wars and now the pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken place annually ever since.

After its inception it expanded rapidly to encompass other disciplines and crafts, with dance, art, needlework, photography being early additions, which still thrive.  It is a notable feature of the liveliness and flexibility of the organisation that Sections are suspended when no longer applicable [as laundry, shorthand] but others are adopted and integrated (as youth creative arts and crafts and flower arranging). The advent of television in the sixties had a depressing effect on entries, but this trend was reversed by the middle of the eighties.  From that time there has been a steady increase in interest.

There are currently three festivals held annually.  The Festival of Creative Arts, held in March and two Festivals of Performing Arts held in November and January.  In total they attract over 5,000 entries, and, via teachers, relations and supporters, it is estimated that the Jersey Eisteddfod reaches a minimum of 10% of the population at any one time.

With its continuing growth, it has been necessary to move to larger premises (the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society Headquarters at Trinity) for the Creative Arts Festival, and to operate simultaneously in at least two venues (chiefly the Opera House and the Jersey Arts Centre) for the Performing Arts Festivals.

There are currently thirteen autonomous Sections in the Eisteddfod.  The Creative Arts Festival being made up of Arts and Crafts as primary school, secondary school, youth and adult creative arts, Photography, Floral Art, Handwriting and Needlework and Textile Art.  The November Performing Arts Festival comprises Dance (this taking place in alternate years), Music (Vocal and Instrumental) and English Speech and Drama.  Jèrriais (formerly Jersey Norman-French), French and Modern Languages make up the January Performing Arts Festival.  Each Section sets its own syllabus, engages one or more adjudicators and supervises the entries and the management of the competitions and is responsible for communications with the competitors.

The management of the Jersey Eisteddfod is accomplished by volunteers who either hold office, or who are enrolled to assist (as in stewarding) on an occasional basis.  There are currently over 100 persons recorded as having official status.

The Jersey Eisteddfod in 1912