Press Releases

From Wales to Washington - flying the flag for Wales

First Minister Rhodri Morgan visits National Slate Museum Llanberis as they prepare to fly the flag for Wales in Washington

First Minister Rhodri Morgan today [1 May 2009] visited the National Slate Museum in Llanberis to meet staff from the museum who will be representing Wales at a major international cultural event in the United States in June.

Wales will be the featured nation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which takes place on the National Mall in the city. Representatives from the National Slate Museum will be among around 100 participants from Wales taking part in the festival, where they will be showcasing the craft of slate cutting to the many thousands of visitors to the festival.

During his visit to the museum, the First Minister met Quarryman Dafydd Davies who will be demonstrating the craft of splitting and dressing slate and Dafydd Roberts, the museum's Keeper. The museum has been given two tonnes of slate by Rigcycle Ltd who own Penrhyn Quarry, in Bethesda and the Ffestiniog Slate Quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog, to take over to the festival.

They will be working alongside another North Wales participant, artist Howard Bowcott from Penrhyndeudraeth, who has a substantial reputation in the field of public art, both as a designer and hands-on sculptor, who will be creating a pyramid sculpture at the festival from the waste created by the slate splitting. Howard has also been given slate from Greaves Welsh Slate Company Ltd to use at the festival.

Dafydd Davies will also be fashioning slates that will be hung on a metal frame made by Howard to create a xylophone type sound piece that will recognise the different slate sizes and their wonderful names such as Wide Ladies and Duchesses. It is anticipated that this will be played by another participant, Gai Toms, while David Ambrose tells the Slate Cutter story.

Slate will also be a key theme in the work of the site designer Angharad Pearce Jones' installation of fencing and walling throughout the Wales area of the festival and by the letter cutter John Neilson, who will be carving a poem by the Wales' National Poet, Gillian Clark in slate.

The First Minister said: "Welsh slate has a huge reputation as a building material all around the world and is an iconic part of the industrial heritage of North Wales. That is why it will feature at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where we will be showcasing Wales and its many contemporary cultures and traditions to more than one million visitors from across the USA and further afield. I wanted to meet some of the team who will be demonstrating their skills in the US capital next month. If my experience here at the slate museum is anything to go by, those visiting the festival will have a wonderful experience."

Dafydd Roberts said: "The slate industry and its people in North West Wales and in North America have been connected for over a century and a half and it's very appropriate that we as staff here at the National Slate Museum and staff from our other museums in the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales family will be helping to commemorate and celebrate this link.

"We're taking Welsh slate with us for our splitting demonstrations at the Smithsonian, not only because we know how to work with Welsh slate but also because we know that Welsh slate is the best in the world and felt it was important that this was shown to all the visitors at the festival. However, we do expect to be using a supply of slate blocks from the Slate Valley in Granville, New York State sourced by our twinned museum in that area, the Slate Valley Museum."

For more information, please contact Non Jones, Press Officer National Assembly Wales on 029 2089 8683 or Julie Williams, Marketing Officer, National Slate Museum Llanberis

Notes to editors • To find out more about Wales Smithsonian Cymru and Wales Washington Cymru, go to Wales Smithsonian Cymru is the Welsh activity taking place on the festival site on the Washington Mall and Wales Washington Cymru is the wide ranging ancillary programme of activity taking place off the mall around the city.

• The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an annual, cultural festival run by the Smithsonian Centre for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution. This year it takes place on June24-28 and July 1-5 2009. To find out more go to

• Wales presence at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will feature food, herbs and medicine, language in action, literature and book arts, animation, traditional music performances, workshops and instrument making, dance, crafts, coastal and river cultures, boats and ports; sport and outdoor pursuits, national parks, sheep and wool, coal heritage and alternative energy, working in stone, wood, slate and iron, migration from and immigration to Wales, and; Welsh genealogy.