What’s happening to all the Welsh societies in America??  After attending a number of Celtic festivals, all within 100 mi of Washington D.C.  A small group of us (with Welsh backgrounds) noticed an almost lack of Welsh supporters.  So we decided it might be worth wile to form a local (to Frederick MD) Welsh Society.  We started doing some research to identify what was out there, and what we found was that a lot of the web links for groups near us were dead and the groups were gone.  So with the thought of, why not, we chartered our group state wide, and became the Maryland Welsh Society.  The second thing we noticed in our research was that most of the Welsh groups seemed to be tied to a church, and there activities were focused on Choir singing. Yes, we know that seems to be a big thing is Welsh culture. Not that we had anything against that, but it just wasn’t out thing.  We were more interested in the other things of Welsh culture, Food, drink, dancing (Morris), and pre Christian history. 

My question is since this seems to be a radical departure from the typical Welsh Society in America, are we going to be receiving grief from the rest of the Welsh society (here in America and in Wales itself).

Were still developing our web site, and planning next year’s activities, we plan to be at all the Celtic Festivals in the DC/MD, VA and PA area next year.

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  • Thought you might like to see how one Society responded between the 1950s and 1980s:

     

    The (Newcastle and Tyneside) Cymmrodorion has had to respond to changing attitudes and at given times sought to rejuvenate what had become an increasingly moribund institution. In 1950 the committee redrew the Cymmrodorion’s constitution and emphasised the preservation of the national culture, language and traditions, and particularly the promoting of functions which will stimulate the appreciation of Welsh music, literature and drama.

     

    Yet by 1957 the secretary observed that there was ‘a certain amount of apathy among members’. Concern was expressed that the time was coming when the only function to be held would be the annual dinner because ‘the support for the monthly functions was progressively diminishing’, while ‘the talent available for attractive functions was limited’. However, the Society continued, and nearly a quarter of a century later in 1981 the Secretary reported that the previous year had been a great success, particularly as eleven new members had been recruited which ‘made a tremendous difference to the variety of the meetings’. The acceptance that change was essential for the survival of the Cymmrodorion had been embraced and there had been several innovations, including a summer outing meeting, picnics, a ‘Welsh night’ at Sunderland, and the President’s ‘various gastronomic adventures… helped create a greater sense of fellowship within the Society’ which now had closer links with other Celtic groups in the region, especially the Caledonian Society.

    This comes from a chapter I wrote several years back - with Dr Joan Allen, Newcastle University), '"Competing identities": Irish and Welsh migration and the North-East of England’, in A. J. Pollard and A. G. Green (eds), Regional Identities in North-East England 1300–2000 (Woodford: Boydell and Brewer, 2007), pp. 133–160.

    So the discussion here is not new, the challenge is how you make the Societies appeal to all. I am discussing this tomorrow at Edinburgh University and this forum is part of my preamble - I just hope it doesn't rain as I have never been there when it has been completely dry! Thank you all for such interesting comments which has made my task so much easier.

  • Wow - I'm not sure why I hadn't stumble across this discussion before, but I'm glad I have.  I'm not sure how one defines "younger" in this context, but at 46, I feel "younger".  In my church, I tend to be grouped (both by myself, and by others) as more of a young adult than my age will technically support - mostly from the fact that I share a lot of cultural identity with the current 20- and 30-somethings.  I have searched extensively for local Welsh societies as well, and have also been discouraged.  I think there is an interest, although I think there is currently a more progressive atmosphere (not necessarily a bad thing in itself) which tends to minimize interest in traditional cultures, heritage and history.  As has already been mentioned, these things ebb and flow.

    At this point, AmeriCymru IS my link to Welsh culture (or pre-Welsh, or pan-Welsh), and through it I am really trying to understand what the Cymru perceive to actually BE their culture and heritage.  I have been encourage by my recent discovery of a fairly local group that I hope to become involved with, but for the most part, I expect my time on this site, along with my own research, to define for me what it means to be Welsh.  Let me repeat that - I am looking to this site to DEFINE what it means to be Welsh.  And that is coming from someone who has had an interest in mythology, genealogy and history since boyhood.  I know it's already been said, but let me confirm that there is NO well-defined image of what it means to be Welsh in America.  What I'm finding, I'm loving, but as of yet, I simply don't have my arms around it.  Again, paraphrasing earlier comments - The Irish have Saint Patrick and Leprechauns, the Scotts Kilts and Bagpipes.  Welsh have - ?  I'll be perfectly honest - and please don't hate on me for it, because I have found so much more now than I knew previously.  But in honesty, a few years ago I would have said that the only image or concept that would have been associated with Wales would maybe have been COAL.  NOT exactly stuff to stir the imagination.

    And I think even here (and I may be wrong, but I'll go with my intuition, and just throw this out there), there seems to be an underlying dark thread, possibly coming from political oppression or cultural marginalization or I don't know what else, which I don't see as much of in other Celtic contexts, although there has been oppression and marginalization there as well.  Please understand - I'm not criticizing - just observing.  I think as long as that element is there (provided of course that I'm not the only one sensing it), it will hinder interest and participation.

    There.  Now you have the ramblings of a "young" American who IS interested, and would truly like to see a flowering of Cymraeg-ery!  Take it for what it's worth! 

    • The Chicago Tafia is a group made up of younger Welsh people. I like their approach.

      My daughter has always identified herself among friends, classmates and associates as Welsh. The tradition continues in my granddaughter. My sister, on the other hand, who was reared in the same home as I takes little interest in her Welsh heritage. Go figure...

      • I agree about Chicago Tafia. Dave Parry does work hard to promote all things Welsh and makes it fun too. I follow CT on Twitter.

        • Yes - just checked them out, and am following on Facebook and Twitter!  Thanks!

      • Progressive and conservative, branches or roots, potential or heritage, quick to change or quick to resist change - I think all people are just naturally more one than the other, and it takes both to balance the world.  You need to know where you came from, and you need to look where you're going.  Neither are wrong or right - they complement one another.  That balance takes time.

        • Good insight. Balance indeed.

  •                 Good morning

     I hope this is the right place to send my opinion. I was with a Welsh Group in Santa Barbara for nearly ten

    years. It was started by a lady from North Wales whose first language was Welsh. It seemed to those North

    Walians that was all that was important. When this lady left the group and I took over the program planning,

    one of my ideas was to present all of the areas where Welsh people have excelled. For an example, those

    North people never talked about the Welsh National Opera  and it's productions. They wanted nothing to do with dance, gave no hint as to how to pronounce Welsh words, they were happy to talk among themselves  and to add how "pure" was N. Wales because they spoke Welsh. In other words no warm welcome was given to newcomers. We cannot be that this in this multiculture country. I would appreciate

    some reply from you  and your opinion....................................Shanne Cano

  • I am so glad that you asked this question. During the time I was working, in LA, I would get up at  4a.m. to go to work in a hospital in West LA. Then

    about 6 time a year I would drive 2.5 hours to get to Santa Barbara with my prepared programme for the Welsh Society . I wrote a few songs for them, we started some very basic language songs, I prepared some history and explanations of the Mabinogion AND I wrote a nrewletter

     4 times a year. I refused to take care of the tea or milk.  When I became ill and had to give up, I could find no-one to take care of the tea pots  and of course no one took over the club.

      One thing I will tell you is that no one brought their daughters to join the club. With this kind of apathy, what can you expect???    Shanne Cano

  • Hi Doug,

    Sad to hear of the demise of some of the Welsh Societies over there. I happen to play in a Welsh Folk band called Jac y Do (name taken from Jackdaw) and we are quite busy here in  South  Wales. We have released 4 CDs of traditional and original music. Not Choir music but up tempo folk/rock! Two fiddlers, two guitars, banjo,bass,keys and drums We also specialise in holding a "Twmpath" which is a Welsh folk dancing evening. We perform at Weddings and Birthday parties and have performed on numerous ocassions in the National Eisteddfod. We have performed in Mineapolis in the shopping mall there a few years ago with the Welsh Tourist Board where Wales was "put on show" so to speak. We have also performed in Toronto in the Welsh caravan festival where we won the Band of the Festival award. We've also played in Spain, Hungary, France, Brittany, Ireland and Belgium in major festivals.

    Good luck with your work over there Doug. Hope you can get those Welsh Societies moving again. All the very best.

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