In 1975 the Warrnambool Rotary Club held the first City of Warrnambool Eisteddfod as a special project. The event was organised by Bruce Rogers, Beryl Beardsley and Laurel Langdon and attracted 150 competitors. Cr. Bill O’Sullivan, then Mayor of Warrnambool, called a public meeting to discuss the establishment of an annual Eisteddfod for the city.
The City of Warrnambool Eisteddfod Society Committee Inc. now regularly provides the opportunity for more than a thousand young people to perform in the disciplines of speech and drama, music, dance, debating and calisthenics. Special features of the Eisteddfod are the opportunities to compete offered to senior vocalists in the City of Warrnambool Aria Competition and the 6 days of competition for dancers of various genres.
While the Eisteddfod has been a festival of performance and competition since its inception, it is equally a festival of community. The competitors are celebrated on the day of their performance but working to support these young people and to provide them with the opportunity for professional adjudication in their chosen performing arts discipline are the Committee, the convenors, the adjudicators, teachers, parents, volunteers and friends. It is the cooperation and work of these people that enable the annual staging of up to 40 days of competition across the seven disciplines.
The Gwen & Edna Jones Foundation, the R & J Uebergang Foundation and the Alan Lane Foundation with Creative Victoria are the primary sponsors of the Eisteddfod. In addition to these sponsors, the Eisteddfod is supported by the Rotary Clubs of Warrnambool and by an enormous number of local individuals, businesses and schools. Without the financial support of these sponsors, the Eisteddfod could not take place.
The special project envisioned by the Rotary Club of Warrnambool has grown to be an important event on the cultural calendar of the City of Warrnambool.
History was made in the 2019 Warrnambool Aria. Warrnambool's Louise Keast and Bundoora's Jia Yoa Sun were announced as joint winners of the competition. Louise was also the first local winner since 1995. Adjudicator Margaret Dalglish said that choosing the winner was the most difficult decision she has made in her close to 50 Eisteddfods she had adjudicated.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and like many community activities, it also hit the Warrnambool Eisteddfod. Due to lockdowns and many COVID cases in our community, the Committee decided to cancel all sections of the Eisteddfod.
Although COVID continued to affect the community, in 2021a limited program was run and 2022 saw the return of the Eisteddfod as it was with 2 notable exceptions - Calisthenics and Highland Dance have both fallen beside the way.
2022 also saw the cancellation of the City of Warrnambool Aria for the third year in a row, due to an extremely low number of competitors. We go into 2023 with high hopes of good numbers of competitors and a high standard of competition.