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, 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 It is a notable feature of the liveliness and flexibility of the organisation that sections are discarded when no longer applicable [as laundry, shorthand] but other are adopted and integrated (as youth creative arts and crafts and flower arranging).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 two festivals held annually: the Festival of Creative Arts, held in March - hereafter referred to as the 'Spring Festival', and the Festival of Performing Arts held in November - hereafter referred to as the 'Autumn Festival'. Each attracts nearly 3,000 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 Spring Festival, and to operate simultaneously at two venues (the Opera House and the Arts Centre) in the Autumn.
There are currently fifteen autonomous sections in the Eisteddfod: in the Spring Festival arts and crafts as primary school, secondary school, youth and adult creative arts, photography, flower arranging, handwriting, needlework and a literary section; the Autumn Festival comprising dance (this taking place in alternate years), music, English speech and drama, Jerriais (formerly Norman-French), French and modern languages. 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.