Introducing our blogger - Richard Neale

Eisteddfod

A day to go until the busiest week of my year. A day until I dive into the excitement of that celebration of all things Welsh, the National Eisteddfod.

For me, the best way to empty my head and prepare for something big is to go for a walk. And that's what I did today. Ten miles of walking in the mountains of Snowdonia. On my own, treading the heights, and nothing to intrude on my ruminations apart from for a few ravens or a lonely sheep, surprised to see me approaching the through the mist.

So, what is this challenge that requires a day's walk in the hills? Well, the National Trust has asked me to present a series of 17 talks and four musical performances throughout the Eisteddfod week this year – and share the experience with you through this blog.  

But if you’re expecting talks about beautiful countryside, grand and ornamental gardens, you will be disappointed. These talks, which will be given by some of the country's most prominent characters, have been put together to challenge and help shape what the Trust's role should be in protecting Wales's heritage.

We have this image of the charity as an organisation caring for all things beautiful – fine architecture, ornamental gardens and beautiful landscapes. But to what extent does the charity interpret the more challenging elements of our history? Many of the Trust’s places are, after all, symbols of the power of society’s elites and even oppression.

Truth be told, the timing is perfect. At the time, the National Trust is half way through its Challenging histories programme. This year, it celebrates Women and Power on the centenary of the extension of the Representation of the People Act, which brought about the vote for some women, and it is currently working on a programme to celebrate important places the charity protects where protest brought advances in people’s rights. 

I believe that this programme goes to the roots of Welsh history and culture. Protesting and taking action to bring about necessary change is a vital part of our country’s history. Just think of the influence of Methodism and non-conformism or the uprisings against the excesses of capitalism in our mines and slate quarries. 

Whatever you think about the need to keep law and order, or the people's right to take action to improve their living conditions, this is an opportunity for the Trust to re-consider how it shares the history of the treasures it looks after, and to present the history of our nation in a new context.