Okay folks - been a busier ride than I’d expected getting back into the swing of things - not least because one of the people who helped make my NAFOW visit extremely memorable (Jesse, our Facebook guy from LA) has been here for the last week.
But this week (today and tomorrow aside!) is starting to look somewhere near normal again, so time to start trying to mull all this over.
1 - huge, HUGE diolchs to everyone involved with NAFOW - particularly @tahl, our tireless SSiW rep and NAFOW organiser - you and Katherine put on a heck of an event.
2 - folks, there is a stunning amount of passion over on the other side of the Atlantic - this is all happening on a scale I hadn’t imagined, and everyone I spoke to from Wales who was over visiting/speaking/performing at NAFOW for the first time was every bit as amazed as I was.
So that’s my first key point:
In Wales, we often wonder why the Irish and Scottish diasporas are so much noisier and more involved than the Welsh diaspora. But they’re NOT. The Welsh diaspora is on fire, and we haven’t been reaching out in return. That HAS to change.
3 - those 4 or 5 days were the first time in my life I’ve felt as if I had EXTRA social status BECAUSE I spoke Welsh. That doesn’t really happen in Wales - you’re either normal because you’re talking to friends, or an irritant because you’re trying to use your language with someone who doesn’t speak it, or normal again because you’re in the Eisteddfod - but HIGHER social status because you speak Welsh? Nope, doesn’t happen.
Except at NAFOW. More Welsh speakers need this experience - and more Welsh speakers need to hear about this experience. It’s an attitude changer.
4 - There’s talk at NAFOW about age profiles - about how they’re all getting older, and 3rd or 4th generation kids are harder to keep connected - particularly in a very brave lifetime award acceptance speech by Donna Lloyd Jones. There’s work to be done to keep the momentum going, because they’re not wrong about the age profile. BUT…
Second key point:
The age profile for people attending NAFOW because they had learnt Welsh was dramatically different - skewing much, MUCH younger. There’s new blood and energy and enthusiasm right there - and it’s the language can help bring more and more of it in. Freya, for example, must have been in her late teens, and her Welsh - learnt over the previous year or so - was outstanding. Bryan’s Welsh was excellent, and he’s definitely a youngster from where I’m standing… Our very own Delaware Jones (aka Court, but how could we bear to lose such a superb cowboy name?) was on fire, using his Welsh with everyone, full of ideas, from zero to full speed in a matter of six months or so.
The language is a KEY part of building on what NAFOW has already achieved.
Where was I? Oh, yes.
5 - bloody hell it was exhausting! Just a non-stop whirl of fascinating conversations and idea-swapping and enthusiasm and coffee and late night bars. I would like SSiW to become a regular part of NAFOW, but I’m going to need to call in reinforcements. I’m currently trying to figure out how we could take a whole bunch of SSiW people over every year. [Hey, does anyone have a spare ocean-going super yacht?]
6 - it wasn’t embarrassing at all walking out of the opening concert literally RIGHT PAST Emyr Gibson waiting to make his grand entrance with TRIO - ‘hi, er, yeah, this is definitely not me walking out of your concert right in your face, um, just got some learners to talk to and, um, really looking forward to your gig (or possibly to hearing about it from other people)’… I think he’s just about forgiven me - he was still buzzing about NAFOW in the Bar Bach the other night, at any rate…
7 - while I’m feeling embarrassed - just how LITTLE have we done to support what’s going on over there? This has to change. Lots of good ideas were bubbling up, and we need to kick some of them on into implementation. There are a LOT of ways we could and SHOULD be helping more.
8 - we MUST find a way to share these stories with people in Wales. This is real mindset shifting stuff. The next time someone tells me to ‘say it in English!’ I’m going to be thinking ‘Actually, I’ve stood in the middle of Washington D.C. and it was fine for me to be talking Welsh there so it’s bloody well fine for me to be talking Welsh here thank you.’ I know that S4C did something once about NAFOW - and Mal Pope was doing stuff for Radio Wales on an insane late night schedule this year - but it ought to get at least a couple of days of the kind of coverage that the Eisteddfod gets. It’s IMPORTANT for us to know about this, even just for the emotional pay-off.
9 - it’s embarrassing that major Welsh brands aren’t supporting NAFOW more. The Market Street is a great idea, but where the hell were Penderyn, Ty Nant, Brains, our big hitters? And more than just a visiting speaker from the government?
10 - the amount I’m yammering on here is just the palest shadow of what was going on at NAFOW (and this is without me doing any diary-ish I-did-this stuff - my first ever Cymanfa Ganu! The Robert Cray Band on tour! Random welcoming Americans taking stray Welsh blokes for midnight tours of Washington! Not too many people falling asleep in my presentations!). So we have to be realistic - this isn’t a one thread deal. The first thing we need to do is set up a comms channel for people involved over there, and for people in Wales who want to help build on this.
So that’s my third and last (for now!) key point:
American/Canadian SSiWers - and other SSiWers who want to get involved with this - what’s the best way forward for keeping those NAFOW discussions going?
Should we have a thread here?
Or would it be better to set up a dedicated channel in the SSiW company Slack?
P. S. Coming before the end of the week - a NAFOW-inspired idea about how we can help involve youngsters in America AND help hit the Million Speakers target… an idea I think has got serious legs… an idea that would NOT have happened if I hadn’t been paying attention to NAFOW…