The Bard Of Bath Competition, aka The Changing of the Bard is held every year and organized by the current Bard. Entrants are required to make a 5-15 minute piece on a theme chosen by the Bard. It may involve poetry, music, dance or theatre, and is judged by a board of former Bards, Ovates and Druids.
This year's competition to be Bard for 2011-2012 will be held at 8pm on the 13th December in the Porter Cellar Bar, Bath. To take part send the attached application form to jack.dean@bathspa,org. Rules are also on the form.
The Changing of the Bard this year went down on the 20th of December 09 at Back to Mine: Check this extract from Kevan Manwaring's Blog:
Changing of the Bards
Jack Dean, the 14th Bard of Bath
On Sunday night I went along to the annual contest for the Bardic Chair, this year held at ‘Back to Mine’, a nightclub – another first! Each bard gets to stamp their identity on it. Master Duncan, 13thBard of Bath, being our youngest to date (until tonight!) has appealed to a younger demographic with his hiphop style and topical lyrics. Tonight he pulled out all the stops to create an entertaining night blending poetry, music and dance.
The dancefloor ‘well’ was transformed into a grove with Christmas trees from the farm of one of Duncan’s contacts. Birdsong was piped through the PA, creating an effect very similar to my Garden of Awen, started two months before… Ah, well – a sign of flattery I suppose. The first half consisted of a cabaret of various acts: a powerful singer-guitarist; a rapper; a flamenco guitarist; and a rather raunchy dance troupe called Nice-as-Pie.
swansong - Master Duncan, 13th Bard of Bath. Final performance as Bard
After the break, MC Duncan performed a couple of his poems as his final performance as Bard of Bath, before the contestants were called up. A coin was tossed and called. ‘Tails never fails’, said Jack Dean, and sure enough it was, though Duncan thought it was ‘heads’! Perhaps he had a suspicion that it would have been easier on Dave Selby, the other act, because Jack’s blistering tour-de-force was a hard act to follow. Not wanting in ambition, he interpreted the theme, ‘The Last B—-’, in a Biblical sense, telling us he was going to do a version of the Bible! Although this wasn’t strictly the case, he did cover the history of the universe up until 2012, ending in a kind of armageddon – the finale being an ‘8 Mile’ rap battle between Jesus and Jack! Funny and technically impressive, as he performed over his backing track in perfect time.
The other contestant, Dave Selby, had a tough job following that, but soldiered on like a trooper. Although hampered by a Withnailian weakness, he entertained the crowd with a grim fairy tale delivered in a louche Dave Allen style. Quite distinctive! He made people laugh, and it help make it a contest – and should be applauded for his contribution.
Throughout the performances, Richard Carder, chief druid, held his hands over his ears, sitting next to the other two judges, like one of the three wise monkeys (hear no evil). The effect was unintentionally hilarious.
While the judges deliberated the dancers came on – like a pared down Pan’s People – doing very well in such a small space!
Then finally the judges returned and Master Duncan announced the winner – milking it for dramatic effect, X-Factor style – no surprise to hear it was Jack! He was called up, stumbling over a stool (life is full of unintentionally comic moments, don’t you find?) Duncan handed over the robes and Jack performed a poem, receiving a warm round of applause. He was clearly a popular choice.
Then the Bards of Bath present were called up – which I wasn’t keen to do, being ‘off duty’ and because the ceremony is so naff. We stood in a circle, held hands and Richard half-heartedly took us through the Druid Vow (x2) and an awen (x1). It seemed ludicrous in that setting, but has become ‘tradition’. Lords know what the crowd there thought of it all! The day after we perform a proper inauguration ceremony at the Circus – noon on the solstice: this is the time for ritual, not a night-club. It was a very poor attempt to create sacred space, and I suggested to Richard the next day that we skip this element.
Miranda, who embroidered the Bardic robes and Chair backing, said to me it had lost its spirit – no mention of the solstice, or what it all means. A fair point. Tim, its much-missed founder, had a knack of relating to widely different audiences. Richard, who took over as Chief Druid, should have gone up at the start and introduced things, put it into context, but he was late arriving. I wonder how many people who came along that night realised what it was all about…? In hindsight I could have done some leaflets to place on the tables – a little background about the Bardic Chair, or had my Book of the Bardic Chair on sale… (if I hadn’t been stupidly busy over the last few days). Still, it was a ’successful’ night – a good atmosphere, some great performances, and a promising new bard. Whether we like it or not, the Bardic Chair has a life of its own now – and looks like it will continue, in one form or another – with new blood revitalising it every year. And since the next generation are our future, garnering their interest is essential for the Bardic Tradition’s vitality and longevity.
If Dr Who can have a young actor fill the role (Matt Smith hailing from my old home town, Northampton) then perhaps we can too! As with the super-annuated Timelord, the subsequent inheritor’s of the title, have become increasingly younger (like Merlin, or Benjamin Button, living in reverse). Our annual ‘changing of the bards’ has become as much a part of the modern Yuletide celebrations (in Bath) as RTD’s rebooted Who has on Christmas Day telly – but of course, our entertainment is live, grassroots and community-focused. Long may it continue.
As I left it started to snow.
Jack Dean, the new bard, and Master Duncan, outgoing bard
The following day – the ‘official’ solstice – a small group of us gathered in the Circus in the centre of Bath to hold our traditional winter solstice ceremony and inauguration of the new bard. It was freezing and icy underfoot as I made my way (carefully) to the Circus, through the crowds of Christmas shoppers. I got there at noon to find Richard the druid and the two bards, outgoing and new. That was it. We were joined by Thommie Gillow, the 12thBard, her wee bab and a couple of her friends from Cardiff. So, our small and merry band set to work. Richard led the ceremony of ‘Alban Arthuan’, as modern druids like to call it, and kept it mercifully brief. We used scripts, which isn’t my preference, but they helped since most of the participants had little experience in such things, but they all joined in in good spirits. We called the quarters: I had to call the east, my usual (Richard didn’t even ask, knowing that’s my preference – although on such a chilly day, calling the fire in the south would have been a better option!). We recited the Gorsedd Prayer and did an awen. Jack was welcomed to the Gorsedd and asked to perform a poem. Master Duncan also shared one. Halfway through the ceremony, Thommie suddenly dashed off, as though filled too full of awen – a traffic warden had spotted her car! She caught him just in time, but had to move it. All the while, her little toddler never made a sound but just stood there, with enormous gloves on, looking astonished (the default look of toddlers). Richard brought the ceremony to a brisk end … I suggested three cheers for the new bard (although in the cold, it came out as ‘three chairs’!). I took a couple of photographs for the press release and archives and then we separated, leaving only Richard and I to decamp to the Chequers for some much-needed refuelling… It’s been a Bard Day’s Night!
Sulyen Caradon, Druid of Caer Badon
Judges for the Battle of the Bards will be;
This year the theme for the competition is SUPERSTITION.
Poems/Stories/Songs must all be original work and must be no longer than 10 minutes.
Candidates will also be expected to present a Bardic Manifesto outlining what they would do if they were awarded the title.
All entries must be in no later than December 4th and can be emailed to email@example.com, with four paper copies of both the work and manifesto sent to
17 Windsor Castle
Upper Bristol Road
The final will be held on 13th December at the Mission Theatre, Bath. Doors open at 7.30, entry £3/£4
Conditions of entry;
1. This competition is open to all residents of Bath and North East Somerset aged 18 or over.
2. The winner will be the holder of the Bardic Chair of Caer Badon (BCCB) for 2008-9, a title which will revoked after a year and day. The ceremonial robe and Bardic Chair must be returned in good condition at the end of this period also.
3. The entry may be an original poem, song, story or monologue (or combination thereof, providing it is a single coherent piece, not a ‘showcase’) that can be performed in under 15 minutes on the night of the competition (although it can be in a printed form, i.e. booklet, also).
4. The entrant must be willing and able to perform on the night of the contest:
Saturday 13th December, 2008. 7:30pm.
The Mission Theatre Bath.
Non-appearance will result in being disqualified. Guests may be invited but will be expected to pay £4-£3 each.
5. A brief statement of intent about what you would do in your year as bard must be included, to be read out on the night of the contest, consisting of 200 words or less, typed in a standard black font, double-spaced on white A4 paper. The judges will be looking at vision, commitment, imaginative endeavours, community spirit, environmental and humanitarian concerns, practicality and previous experience. Include title of piece, name, address, telephone, email and date of birth.
6. Four copies of the entry & statement must be sent to;
17 Windsor Castle, Upper Bristol Road, Bath, BA1 3DN
Do not send the original – the entry will not be returned. The entry must be typed, double-spaced, on a single-sided sheet of A4, in black standard font (e.g. Goudy Old Style, 12 point). On the performance piece include title only, not name, as this will be sent anonymously to the judges.
7. The winner will retain copyright but hereby allow future publication of their poem in any form, and their name/image used in any publicity without further
8. The entry must be based upon the chosen theme. The judges will be looking for originality of interpretation.
9. Any relationship or connection (e.g. friendship) with any of the judges must be declared. Failure to do so may lead to disqualification.
10. The judges withhold the right not to select a Chaired Bard if they feel none of the candidates are of sufficient quality or ability to fulfil the role.
11. The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.
12. By entering the competition you hereby agree to these conditions. On winning the Chair you must agree to further conditions stipulated in The Role and Responsibilities of the Chaired Bard, viewable on our Yahoo Group, Gorsedd of Bath (basically, returning chair & robe after a year; setting theme for following year; promoting the Bardic Tradition).
13. The judging process will be transparent: the criteria for assessment will be announced at the beginning of the Eisteddfod, the judges will be introduced and the event will be conducted fairly and openly.
14. The Chaired Bard must honour their statement of intent as much as humanly possible (failing serious illness, accident, bereavement, war or Act of God).
15. The Chaired Bard must continue to reside in Bath & North East Somerset for the coming year with no foreseeable plans to move before they have fulfilled their obligations.
16. The competition will be judged upon the following criteria:
i) relevance to chosen theme,
ii) poetry/storytelling/singing/songwriting skill,
iii) stage presence,
iv) audience awareness and response,
v) overall performance, or ‘awen’ (energy/inspiration).
17. As this is a bardic competition, the entrant is encouraged to perform from memory unassisted. However, if the piece is to be read out, then some considerable effort must be made in the performance of it (i.e. a rehearsed reading). The judges will be looking at the clarity and emphasis of delivery as well as the quality of the writing/message/closeness to theme.
18. The Chaired Bard will agree to attend any sister events (i.e. Bardic Awards, showcase, meetings of the Gorsedd arranged with sufficient notice (nominally one month), or to otherwise send apologies.
19. The Gorsedd retain the right to change these rules as necessary by committee meeting.