Among all the surprises the Eisteddfod 2015 has brought us, the guided audio tour in its app “Ar y Maes” is definitely one of the highlights to try out.
According to the Eisteddfod website, the app is particularly intended for newcomers to get a pre taste of the festival and get familiar with the Maes. Users can select either English or Welsh.
In order to test how effective it is , I gave it a go myself, walking around with the app installed on the iPad. The interface looks friendly with the theme colour of the famous Eisteddfod pink. On the left column, there are categories such as events, competitions, map, visitor’s centre and so on.
Everything seems fine, for only 10 seconds. Once I’m out at the Maes without the wifi, everything wonderful turns still. No more pictures loading, no information about events showing, not to mention the promised new feature of the audio tour.
Just after I’ve been trying to find a wifi spot, I bump into Sion at the main entrance, who is waiting for people to get ready for his guided tour-a real one and also in both English and Welsh.
Sometimes a bit of misfortune may lead to something else equally beautiful, if not better. So I end up on board with five other typical tourists for an hour long tour at the Maes. So I get the best of both worlds, my original plan of an app review turns into reviewing the “human guide” Sion’s tour.
So here’s my review of Sion’s tour..
Sion’s tour starts from the entrance at 11:30 everyday during the festival week. What’s different is it’s a tour for Welsh beginners as well as English speakers, which means he has to conduct the tour bilingually. For someone born in Wales and a Welsh teacher with a background in public relations , Sion has excellent communication skills, and he’s only been a guide at the Eisteddfod for three days.
Sion’s pace of walking is medium slow. Everyone finds it easy to follow. His pace of speaking is comfortable with attention to both Welsh learners and non Welsh speakers. We stop when we listen to him talk and then move on enjoying the views without being distracted by his words.
The first place we are led to is the Stonehenge-like area, with blue stones called Gorsedd. By inviting us to touch the fake stones, Sion starts the history behind them. He’d always stop and talk about stories far beyond our imagination and knowledge. Once in a while, he also makes you feel like you’re having a taster in the language as well.
Next to the Arts Council of Wales, we travel into a dark cave-like space, sitting down and listening to the music. It’s a welcome break!
We are introduced to over 10 pavilions or tents before we reach the last stop, Maes D for the Welsh learners. With the bit of language encouragement from Sion, some of us try to buy coffee in Welsh.
Only at the very end that Sion remembers to ask whether we have any questions for him. But other than that, he keeps good eye contact, pitch, body languages and so on that everyone feels welcomed.
5. User’s comment 🔸🔸🔸🔸
It’s been a really helpful and informative tour, Sion has covered a lot. I really enjoy it. Patricia form Canada, who’s also on the tour, says she would have like to know more about the medieval history of the area and where the toilets are!!
Sion is a nice tour guide and a pleasant company. The last stop is a welcome cuppa in Maes D which I would say is a great place to start your journey of the Maes. I thought it was a great way to spend an hour and know a lot more now about the Eisteddfod and the maes than I did just a few days ago.