The notion of holding a Festival of Ideas in St Davids came about through its being a place where people congregate, to share and exchange experience.
St Davids may seem in a marginal position, set as it is on a far-flung peninsula at the edge of a country that itself is often regarded as a peripheral nation.
But these feelings of peripherality do not reflect St Davids’ true position in the world. It was once a mid-point for important trading and pilgrimage routes. In the Bronze Age, it was a on a pathway that linked Salisbury Plain to Ireland. In the fifth and sixth centuries, St David’s was the focus for a seaborne Celtic culture that connected Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, and Brittany. We sent Patrick to Ireland, and many of their saints came to us.
So in part the Festival of Ideas was prompted by an aspiration to return our smallest Welsh city to a central point in the thinking world. And couldn’t we turn peripherality to our advantage? At the western edge of Wales, St Davids is sufficiently remote to ensure that the people who attend will be with each other for the Festival’s duration, breaking bread and sharing a cup as well as talking. We envisage the Festival will take over the city in a way that simply couldn’t happen if it were held in a large urban setting such as Swansea or Cardiff
In October 2019, we held an event in Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi to launch the Festival
We had great discussion on stimulating speakers, including St Davids native Dr Sarah Beynon who runs an environmental consultancy and The Bug Farm at Lower Harglodd, the Rev Canon Dr Sarah Jones, Dean at the Cathedral who left the Foreign Office to follow her vocation, and Andy Middleton, founder director of TYF, the St Davids adventure tourism organisation, and Adam Price MS, the leader of Plaid Cymru.
Following the success of this event, we moved ahead and organised the first St Davids Festival of Ideas in April 2020. This was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but was rescheduled for March 2021. The Festival went ahead as an online Festival on March 12th and 13th, 2021.