Street theatre marks Trefechan bridge Welsh protest 50 years on

Arwel Gruffydd, artistic director of the theatre group, explained what the drama was about, and those joining in gave their reaction

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An audience found themselves at the heart of a theatre production marking the 50th anniversary of a historical Welsh language protest in Aberystwyth.

Actors mingled in the crowds as they re-enacted the events that took place around the town leading up to language campaigners' first protest in 1963.

On Saturday, members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) re-enacted the blockade on Trefechan bridge.

Start Quote

Meic Stephens

They are re-enacting exactly what we did on the bridge 50 years ago”

End Quote Meic Stephens Language campaigner

Sunday's event was hailed a success.

Language campaigner Meic Stephens, who attended the first event 50 years ago, said the theatrical production was a celebration of the actual protest.

"They are re-enacting exactly what we did on the bridge 50 years ago," he said as the audience visited a cafe in the town centre where the students gathered to discuss their protest.

'Celebration'

"I don't think many people who were on the bridge today were on the bridge at the time but, nevertheless, the whole atmosphere of the place is a kind of celebration.

"It does indeed remind me of what went on then," he said.

Actors on bridge at Aberystwyth surrounded by the audience Actors on bridge at Aberystwyth surrounded by the audience

The bridge protest was the first of dozens to be staged by Cymdeithas over the following decades.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru staged Y Bont (The Bridge), a theatrical representation of the events in Aberystwyth.

The mobile performance started at Aberystwyth Arts Centre before moving around Aberystwyth's streets and cafes.

The sell-out performance combined various media so the audiences could experience live performance, watch video clips at various venues and get a sense of the "thrill and tension" of the original protest.

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Arwel Gruffudd

I wanted Aber to be the main character in this play”

End Quote Arwel Gruffydd Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

More than 60 students from Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (National Welsh-medium College), Glamorgan University, Aberystwyth University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David's were involved.

After the event, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru artistic director Arwel Gruffydd explained he wanted to give the audience an experience as close to reality as possible

"I wanted Aber to be the main character in this play in a way so that the audience would walk the streets and go to the post office and the bridge and café just as the protesters did 50 years ago.

"I am glad that we were able to do that event justice in a way and celebrate it in a theatrical fashion," he said.

The Trefechan bridge protest in 1963 The Trefechan bridge protest in 1963

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