Welsh on the up
01 June 2003
The number of Welsh speakers had actually increased by two per cent since the last census in 1991.
All those concerned about the future of the Welsh language breathed a collective sigh of relief when figures from the 2001 census showed that, far from the further decline feared, the number of Welsh speakers had actually increased by two per cent (to 20.5 per cent of Wales's three million population) since the last census in 1991.
A boost for the ancient language's struggle to survive into the 21st century comes with the publication of the final volume of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru-the University of Wales Dictionary. Hailed as the Welsh equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary, it has been 80 years in preparation. Work began in 1921 (when Lloyd George was British Prime Minister), with the first volume being published in 1950. The fourth and final volume was released last December-and work is already underway to revise Volume 1.
The dictionary has 3,941 pages and contains over 7,300,000 words, dating back to 601 AD. The longest word is cyfrwngddarostyngedigaeth, which dates from the 15th century and means intercession or mediation. The entire work will soon be available on the Internet and on CD Rom.
Rising rapidly on the shores of Cardiff Bay is 'Wales' answer to the Sydney Opera House'-the Millennium Centre. It will house the Welsh National Opera as well as the Diversions Dance Company of Wales, the Hijinx Theatre in Education and several other national arts organizations. With its 1,800-seat auditorium and two studio theatres, it is already being described as an icon of Welsh culture. It is set to cost £104 million and will be clad at the front and sides in traditional Welsh slate. It is due to open in November 2004.
The newly-appointed Chief Executive is Australian Judith Isherwood, formerly Director of Performing Arts and Acting Chief Executive at, yes, the Sydney Opera House.
Some environmentalists, backed by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, dream of Wales becoming 'the green energy hub of Britain'. Mostly they have wind power in mind. But not everyone gives an unreserved welcome to giant wind turbines sprouting on Wales' most scenic hills.
Now people living in Porthcawl, one of Wales' most favoured seaside resorts, are up in arms at proposals to site massive turbines just four miles out to sea. The local authority has reportedly responded by saying it will be all right if the turbines are painted grey-'so they will only be seen with difficulty'!
A powerful people
'I feel so sanguine,' said David Lloyd George, 'that were self-government to be granted to Wales, she would be a model for the nationalities of the world.' He was speaking in a Home Rule debate in the British House of Commons in 1893.
After four years of limited home rule under its auspices, the National Assembly of Wales can't exactly claim to have been a model for others. Many now complain that it lacks the power to do a proper job. But, importantly, it has provided a democratic forum in which all areas of Wales are represented. This uniting potential is all-important in a land which, throughout its long history, has been famous for its divisions.
As the observant cleric Gerald of Wales put it bluntly back in the 12th century, 'If only the Welsh could fight in ordered ranks, instead of leaping about all over the place, if their princes could only come to an agreement and unite to defend their country, I cannot see how so powerful a people could ever be conquered.'
Wales' answer to Hollywood
Hollywood could soon be losing some of its business to 'Valleywood'. That is if the project to build a massive film studio complex on a former South Wales coalfield gets off the ground. Driving force behind the £350 million scheme is British film mogul Lord Richard Attenborough. He says the proposed Dragon International Studios at Llanilid, near Bridgend, will offer world-class film and TV studios, workshops and a film academy, together with a theme park. 'This is one of the greatest opportunities for British film-making we have ever had,' he enthuses. He is already planning to have a Welsh male voice choir at the opening.