Gorsedh Ynys Witrin is a Bardic College based in Glastonbury. Our primary focus is to support, promote and honour Pan-Celtic culture, spirituality and creativity within the local community. To this end, we hold a yearly competition to decide the next Bard of Glastonbury and an annual Open Gorsedh ceremony at which the new Bards are publicly invested. We also facilitate irregular Bardic Circle meetings and poetry / music / storytelling evenings where members and guests can share their creativity and offer workshops and performances at various local festivals and events.
In the Celtic Tradition, the term Bard describes a wordsmith or linguist with particular skill in poetry, songwriting or storytelling. The original bards were Iron Age poet-mystics who kept the lore and history of their tribes, held high status and fulfilled an important cultural role. Glastonbury is one of a number of towns in England, which, according to tradition, can elect their own Bard to represent the local arts scene. The use of the word has continued through to modern times, Robert Burns, for example, is referred to as
The Bard of Scotland, William Shakespeare, who dramatised the lives of King Lear and Cymbeline is known as
The Bard of Avon, Robin Williamson has been honoured as the Chief Bard of OBOD and Billy Bragg is sometimes called
The Bard of Barking. More on the history of Bardism …
The Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin
Each chaired Bard holds the post for one year and a day, before setting up a competition to elect a successor. The Chair refers to the position but, in some cases, as in Glastonbury and Bath, there is a physical ceremonial chair which is passed down from bard to bard. We also have a blue ceremonial robe and the ceremonial Silver Branch of Ynys Witrin, which are passed on with the title. Each Bardic Chair has its own Celticised name and is frequently associated with a specific location which is often, but not always, a natural or man-made mound or stone circle. Of course in Glastonbury the natural focus is the Tor.
The contest is open to Poets, Storytellers and Songwriters who compose on a given theme each year. We meet up over the third week in May to celebrate local arts & culture and share in creativity, performances & ceremony. The new Bard is Chaired at the Finals, which are held on St Dunstan’s Day (May 19th) every year.
The Institution of the Bardic Chair of Glastonbury is independent and belongs first and foremost to the people of Glastonbury, regardless of faith, background or politics. The position of Bard of Glastonbury is open to anyone who lives within walking distance of the Tor. We trust that anyone wishing to join us will be sympathetic to the Celtic Tradition from which it claims its heritage. See Rules of the Bardic Trials
Some previous years’ entries can be read in our Poetry archive.
Performers who wish to enter the contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin this year must fill in an Official Entry Form, which is usually available from the Library of Avalon, Glastonbury High Street, Somerset. This year’s Open Gorsedh is being organised by the Gorsedh Committee of the Bardic Council of Ynys Witrin. Contact us here for further information.
|2006||Gwyn ap Nudd: King of the Faeries||Tim Hawthorn|
|2007||The Nine Maidens||Dearbhaile Bradley||Merlin of the Woods||Steve Potier|
|2008||The Spirit of Trees||Ash||David Reakes||Theo Simon|
|2009||All that Glisters is not Gold||David Reakes||Tony Atkinson||Jo Waterworth|
|2010||Flight||Tony Atkinson||Phil Stretch||Kat Brown|
|2011||Twelve Giants: The Glastonbury Zodiac||Kali Roberts||Tim Hawthorn||Oshia Drury|
|2012||The Initiation||Gerry Barnett||Harmony Davies|
|2013||The legend of Prometheus||Lisa Goodwin||Hugh le Provost and Harmony Davies||Graham Coles|
|2014||The Waters of Avalon||Therèse Liddy||Stephen Cole||Tim Hall|
|2015||The Twilight of the Gods||Wes White||Lisa Ceneri||Steve Leighton|
|2016||Tarot theme (The Magician)||Sarah Mooney||Bruce Garrard|
|2017||Silence||Billy the Celt||Silver Pen||Michelle Diaz|
|2018||The Virtues of Humility||Beki Nagle||Michelle Diaz||Jon Cousins|
|2019 (to 2021)||Change||Pok||Nathan Lewis Williams||Dora Darling|
|2022||Mirror of Avalon||Michelle Diaz||“Wordspinner”||Janetta Morton|
The Bardic Crown was retired in 2016 as the function of Deputy could satisfactorily be covered by other Elders or prizewinners. A prize for written contributions, The Silver Pen, was subsequently proposed by Tony Atkinson and first awarded to Michelle Diaz at the 2018 Open Gorsedh.
The Silver Oak Leaf for Excellence was first awarded to Wes White and the second was awarded to Lisa Goodwin in 2022.