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Ballads @ Cardiff

25 July 2008

People would once pay a penny or half-penny to listen to one in taverns, homes or fairs. Nowadays people pay thousands just to hear their favourite band perform one.

Traditional, literary, modern, popular or power - whichever your prefer - ballads, or poems set to music, have been around for centuries and are set to be the focus of a major international conference taking place in the heart of Cardiff.

Attracting leading academics, performers and enthusiastic ‘laypersons’ from all over the world to study the ballad and traditional song, the 38th International Ballad Conference of the Kommission für Volksdichtung (the ‘International Ballad Commission’) is being hosted by Cardiff University’s School of Welsh, during the year in which the School and the University alike celebrate their 125th anniversaries.

It will be opened by the First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Professor Sabine Wienker-Piepho, President of the Kommision für Volksdichtung. The opening plenary session will be given by Professor Prys Morgan, President of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion - and brother of the First Minister.

During the Conference (Monday 28 July - Saturday 2 August) in the region of 60 papers will be delivered by experts from across the globe - from Sweden to Turkey, Belarus to Brittany, Canada to South Africa, dealing with themes of identity; ecology; the role of women; occupational songs; and the relationship between the written ballad and oral performances.

The ballad tradition in Wales will receive special attention in a series of papers delivered on the Thursday of the Conference.

Dr E Wyn James of the School of Welsh, the organiser of this year’s Conference and a leading authority on Welsh ballads and folk-songs, said: "In recent years the Conference has been held in Belgium, Latvia, Texas, Germany and the Ukraine and this year is the turn of Wales to play host.

"It is highly appropriate that Cardiff University’s School of Welsh is responsible for organising the Conference this year not only due to the School’s significant contribution to the world of folklore and ethnological studies over the years."

The First Minister said: "Wales is famous as the Land of Song - we often think first of hymns and great choral music as what comes naturally to us. But we do have plenty of singers who are masters of the traditional and modern ballad in both the Welsh and English languages. I commend Cardiff University’s School of Welsh for organising this conference and congratulate them for bringing together so many experts from every corner of the world."

As well as listening to a variety of papers, a further aim of the Conference is to introduce the delegates to the culture of the country which they are visiting.

Included in the programme for this year’s Conference is a talk on the history of Cardiff by former Assembly Member Owen John Thomas, an excursion to the South Wales Valleys, visits to the National Eisteddfod and to St Fagans: National History Museum. The week will also include a folk concert sponsored by the Welsh Folk-Song Society, folk-dancing by Dawnswyr Nantgarw, and an evening concert by Dafydd Iwan and Gwennan Gibbard sponsored by Sain Records.

Day visitors are welcome at a fee of £15 per day. Visit for more details or contact Conference Organiser, Dr E. Wyn James, on T: 029-2087-4843 or by emailing:

The Salisbury Library - Cardiff University’s renowned Welsh and Celtic library - holds one of the most important collections of Welsh broadside ballads. In 2006, Cardiff University Library created the ‘Welsh Ballads Website’ under the editorship of Dr E. Wyn James of the School of Welsh, which includes digital versions of a cross-section of the ballads in the Salisbury Library collection.

During the 2008 National Eisteddfod in Cardiff, Dr E Wyn James will be admitted to the highest order of the Gorsedd of Bards, in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the cultural and academic life of Wales.


Further Information:

For more information contact:

Dr E. Wyn James

School of Welsh

Cardiff University

T: 02920 875 394


Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES). 2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

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