11 – 13 September 2015 • Conway Centre, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey

Wales’ all-age family-friendly ‘folk school’ – a wonderful way to spend an autumn weekend in a beautiful location, cram-packed with music, dance and song. Over the weekend there’ll be nearly 30 hours of tuition and activities including mixed-instrument groups, songs, clogging, taster workshops, masterclasses, concerts, performances and sessions. It’s a fantastic environment to learn a wealth of new repertoire, improve your technique, experiment with unfamiliar (and unusual) instruments, songs and dance styles, and make new friends at the same time. There’s a tutors’ concert, a twmpath (like a ceilidh) and a chance to perform in the Noson Lawen. The evening events and afternoon workshops are open to the public.

Our team of tutors for 2015 is led by violin ace Oli Wilson-Dickson (Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Alaw), with Sioned Webb bringing her wealth of experience to the instrumental side this time, and Dan Lawrence (Olion Byw) back by popular request. Multi-instrumentalist Neil Browning will be coaxing great things from the Foundation group. Arfon Gwilym is back to lead the singing strand with an exciting programme focussing on ballads and harmonies. Huw Williams will be teaching clogging at intermediate to advanced level, with a separate clog class for beginners and refreshers led by Sammie Bond.

The format:

Mornings: mixed instrument groups, split by ability level from Foundation to Advanced, with separate strands for Welsh folk song and for clogging from absolute beginner to advanced level, plus a primary age group for the little ones.

Afternoons: taster workshops, masterclasses, instrument-specific workshops, dance and song activities and lots of time for informal singing, playing, dancing and socialising.

Evenings: our famous Tutors’ Concert, twmpath, and sessions each night. Gary Northeast will lead the less experienced players in their own dedicated session room, and of course there’ll be late-night fireside music and songs in the Tipi.

Welsh-speaking or not, you’re equally welcome. Our resident simultaneous translator, Martin, helps learners and non-Welsh-speakers access all areas.

There are family rooms available with a discount for young people in full-time education and a full programme of supervised activities for primary-school age children throughout the event.

The Big Experiment begins on Friday night with a concert and session, and finishes on Sunday afternoon.

Morning course: playing, singing or dancing

Morning classes are a course of four lessons, two on Saturday, two on Sunday.

There are four ensemble classes for instruments, based on levels of ability.

Singers have their own strand for folk song with respected tradition bearer Arfon Gwilym. This will be taught in Welsh, with simultaneous translation available. (Evenings and afternooons will include informal singing and workshops for those who’d like to learn or practise some Welsh songs.)

Dancers can clog with the legendary Huw Williams (intermediate to advanced level) or with Sammie Bond (foundation level – for absolute beginners or ‘refreshers’ – less confident cloggers who’d like to brush up their steps).

Numbers in each group will be limited to ensure you have the best tuition experience. When you book, please choose one morning course only, though you can swap groups after the first lesson if your first choice wasn’t right for you.

For primary-school age children, there will be activities including dance, song and instruments with our experienced children’s tutor Jenn Williams.

Meet the tutors and find out more about their morning classes: more information here

Afternoon workshops

These workshops are free to participants already booked on The Big Experiment, but if that’s not you, then don’t miss out.
You’re welcome to join us between 2.00 and 4.15 for a choice of workshops ranging from tasters to masterclasses.

The programme for this will include workshops such as:

• Spicy accompaniments! with Dan Lawrence
• Flute and Whistle with Jordan Williams
• Songs in harmony: Plygain, Cerdd Dant and more
• Fiddle special – bowing and ornamentation with Oli Wilson-Dickson
• Big Sing
• Tales from the Mabinogi
• Chordal accompaniments (for any instrument which plays chords!) with Neil Browning
• Sharing folk songs – what do we need? (discussion)
• Clogging for all with Huw Williams and Sammie Bond
• Fiddle special with Huw Roberts
• Have a go at Welsh Folk Dance
• Storytelling trip to Bryn Celli Ddu neolithic burial chamber
• Cadi Ha – the song, the dance, the tradition – another chance to catch Bryn Davies’ workshop
• Have a go at storytelling with Fiona Collins
• Finding harmonies – ways to enliven your tune-playing, with Matt Rowlands
• Tunes of Anglesey, with Huw Roberts
• Learn some Welsh songs




Friday 11 September



• Oli Wilson-Dickson (Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Alaw)
• Dan Lawrence (Olion Byw, Sibrydion)
• Arfon Gwilym & Sioned Webb
• Neil Browning (Never Mind The Bocs, Cajuns Denbo)
• Jenn Williams

and more

A great combination of folk talent on stage to kick off this year’s Big Experiment Arbrawf Mawr, followed by a session for instruments and voices until late. Real ale bar.

Concert 8.00 – 10.00, then session till late
Free to course members
Open to the public: full price £10, concessions £5


Saturday 12 September

Twmpath with Pentennyn

Hit the floor with Pentennyn and caller Bryn Davies at this year’s Big Experiment Arbrawf Mawr twmpath. With a guest spot by the BEAM Big Band and guest callers this will be a bilingual twmpath to remember. Followed by a session until late – bring your instruments and voices. Real ale bar.

Twmpath 8.00 – 10.00, then session till late
Free to course members
Open to the public: full price £10, concessions £5


Venue & prices

Again this year we’re aiming to keep prices low. The venue is the Conway Centre, in the grounds of the National Trust’s Plas Newydd mansion on Anglesey, overlooking the Menai Strait. There are single or (a few) twin study bedrooms at £170 per person or for the best-value residential option there are shared dorms (with single beds) at £95. If you’re in full-time education, the cost is only £50 for a shared room. The Centre’s accommodation is basic and if you’d like a little more luxury, there are plenty of B&Bs, guest houses and hotels nearby. If you’re local, staying off-site or bringing your own caravan or campervan, it costs just £80 for a non-resident place. Caravans and campervans are welcome at the nearby park, five minutes’ drive from the venue – contact us for details.

Prices include your tuition, accommodation and all meals. The Centre’s food is plain but plentiful.

“Superb weekend, full on. Wonderful tutors, great planning, friendliness, welcome to non-Welsh-speakers”

“The evening sessions were fantastic. I learnt so much in classes but the big highlight was the lovely friendly atmosphere and the helpfulness of everyone”

“The sheer quality of the music and the chance to meet so many wonderful fellow musicians”


To book your place at the Big Experiment, click here