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Eisteddfod turns back time 60 years to bring 160 Railway Children to the festival

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod teamed up with the town’s heritage railway to turn back time by more than 60 years for scores of eager schoolchildren.  

On Tuesday July 2, the first day of this year’s Eisteddfod, 160 pupils from three schools in the Dee Valley boarded a train to transport them in style between Corwen and Llangollen railway stations to enjoy Children’s Day which is traditionally held on the first day of the core festival.

And that’s something that’s not happened since the summer of 1963 when the last ‘Eisteddfod special’ left Corwen before the line was closed as part of the infamous Beeching rail cuts the following year. 

Since then dedicated railway volunteers have gradually re-opened the whole of the 10-mile-long line, with the final link being completed last summer when the new £1.25 million Corwen station was officially opened by Lord Hendy, chairman of Network Rail.      

This enabled a party of youngsters plus their teachers to travel into Llangollen station on Tuesday July 2 to enjoy a fun-packed day at the Eisteddfod along with their counterparts from schools across north Wales.  

The three lucky Dee Valley schools involved in the time-shifting travel experience were Ysgol Bro Dyfyrdwy in Cynwyd, Ysgol Caer Drewyn in Corwen and Ysgol Carrog.

They were welcomed on Llangollen station by town crier Austin “Chem” Cheminais.

Ian Lebbon, chairman of the Eisteddfod’s marketing committee who organised the special excursion, said: “Llangollen and Corwen Railway agreed to run the special service for pupils to attend our children day instead of travelling by coach. Not only was this good for our environment but added to the children’s excitement.  

“The last children to use this exact route would have been pupils from Llangollen’s Ysgol Dinas Bran travelling from Corwen in 1963, which means it has taken over 60 years to return such a service.  

“We did do our best to recreate the Eisteddfod special pre-pandemic in 2019 but that was before Corwen opened and we had to board the children at Carrog, the station further along the line.

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“The first train direct from Corwen to Llangollen was a great success and we had five carriages filled with very happy children who just couldn’t wait to be taken up to the Eisteddfod field.

“I’d like to thank everyone who made this very special event so successful.”   

Once on the Eisteddfod field the happy train travellers were treated to a special performance in the Pavilion featuring an interactive bilingual performance by an orchestra and storyteller plus the highlight of the annual Peace Message written by Elen Mair Robert and delivered by pupils from schools in Garth, Pentre and Froncysyllte.    

One of the Railway Children was 10year-old Tomos from Ysgol Bro Dyfyrdwy in Cynwyd. He said: “I really enjoyed the train journey and am looking forward to seeing the Eisteddfod where I’ve never been before. I want to see all the things on the field and hear the Peace Message.” 

And 11-year-old Jayla from Ysgol Caer Drewyn in Corwen said: “This is my first time visiting the Eisteddfod and it was great to come in on the train. I’m looking for forward to seeing everything and I’ll be coming back on July 12 to see the concert by Jess Glynne at the Pavilion.”

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has teamed up with Live Nation promoters Cuffe and Taylor for this year’s festival. Bryan Adams, Simple Minds and Paloma Faith are just some of the names who have already performed on the iconic stage at Llangollen Pavilion. 

A spokesperson for Llangollen and Corwen Railway said: “The railway is very proud to have been involved in the International Eisteddfod again after a long absence of running trains to bring schoolchildren and other guests to this historic and prestigious event.  

“Our beautiful station at Llangollen has welcomed many visitors to the town since it first opened, some 162 years ago.  We hope all those who travel with us over the next few weeks thoroughly enjoy their time at the Eisteddfod and take away extra special memories of travelling to the event by train.”

The Core Eisteddfod started on Tuesday, July 2 – as thousands enjoyed a Children’s Day Concert in the Pavilion and a variety of performances throughout the day, on the vibrant outside stages.  

Tom Jones made his Llangollen debut on Tuesday evening as the Eisteddfod embarked on its biggest and most ambitious festival yet.

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