It’s impossible to imagine an Eisteddfod without programmes. They’re more than a temporary guide for visitors and competitors, providing essential information about what’s on, when and where, and a map of the field showing entrances to the tent and the location of first aid and the toilets.

They also tell their readers about things like the organisation of the festival (e.g. stage presenters, officers, committee members), who’s donated money in the last year, who are the adjudicators, messages from the Chairman and other “higher-ups”. Sponsors had their say. There were advertisements about local businesses and Welsh government services. Photographs of this year’s concert artistes vied with pictures of recent competitors; there were also photographs of Llangollen. The veritable souvenirs were kept for many years by visitors and their families: we know this not least from the large number which turn up on e-bay.

The competition pages provided spaces for filling in scores, frequently used, and in the 1950s there also blank pages to be filled with notes and autographs.

It’s almost unthinkable today, but in early years rather young children were used as programme sellers, on the field and around the town. Dressed in Welsh costume, they got one (old) penny for each programme they sold. Programmes were also sold in venues in Llangollen for 2-3 weeks before the festival.

In 1947 the first print run for the programmes was an ambitious 20000; they sold out quickly, and the Eisteddfod had to get an emergency supply of paper (then rationed) to produce 5000 short programmes giving just basic information. The 1947 programme cost one shilling, about £2.00 in today’s money. More recently the print run has been much smaller, just a few thousand, and the price is about double.

While the content and structure of the programme has been pretty much the same over the years, the changes in graphic style and content details provide fascinating glimpses of how the Eisteddfod has evolved, and also how it has responded to changes in life outside.

We offer you here a chance to read seven programmes, one every 10 years in the Eisteddfod’s history. Our aim in the future is to provide a searchable collection of all the programmes on-line.