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St David's Day parade marches on without Cardiff council funding

A shapeshifting character from Arthurian legend, Morgan le Fay.

A shapeshifting character from Arthurian legend, Morgan le Fay.

CARDIFF’S annual St David’s Day Parade went ahead today despite the council’s decision to withdraw all funds from the event.

The £35,000 cut in funding meant a different route for the 2016 parade as organisers could not afford road closures to include Cardiff Castle as in the past.

Instead this year’s parade began at City Hall and led through the city centre’s pedestrianised streets before ending with a rendition of the national anthem in The Hayes.

Participants commented on a noticeable drop in those attending compared to previous years. The funding cuts had prevented many groups making their annual trip to Cardiff for the St David’s Day event.

Crowds gathered for the parade at the Hayes.

Crowds gathered at The Hayes for the parade.

David Petersen, sculptor and TV presenter, led the parade and gave a rousing speech to those gathered by St David’s Hall towards the end of the event.

The crowd cheered as Mr Petersen spoke out about this year’s rebound following the financial threats: “This is the parade that was never going to happen, but it did because of you.”

Mr Petersen continued: “We’ve been going for 17 years and this St David’s Day could have had more people but has been the best atmosphere I have ever experienced.

“Wherever you are in Wales, remember this: this is our day. Don’t forget that Saint David was a person.

“But, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, Saint George never existed.”

Poet and actor Mike Petersen dressed as Saint David.

Poet and actor Mike Petersen dressed as Saint David.

After the parade Mr Petersen told The Cardiffian the council cuts had affected the event massively. He said: “So many groups wanted to come but could not afford it.

“Just one example is the Cefn Hengoed jazz band, who love this parade and practise all year for it. They asked me for money to come by coach, but there wasn’t any for them.

“Even economists such as Professor Dylan Jones-Evans say this iconic day should be a bank holiday which could bring in hundreds of millions of pounds for Wales, if done properly.

“But of course Westminster say ‘no’. And now they’re kicking off about the EU telling them what to do. Well, now they know how we feel in Wales.”

Geraint Rhys Whittaker, a final-year PhD student at Cardiff University, expressed disappointment at the turnout for 2016: “I’ve been coming for years and this is by far the least number of people at the parade.

“In past years we’ve had a variety of groups joining – Nepalese communities, Filipino communities, dancers, civil groups.

“Obviously a lot of these must have always depended on council funding, but none was given this year.”

Remigijus Šiaučiūnas and a Cardiff University 'Welsh for All' tutor, Gwennan Elin Higham.

Remigijus Šiaučiūnas and a Cardiff University “Welsh for All” tutor, Gwennan Elin Higham.

Remigijus Šiaučiūnas, a Latvian immigrant who moved to Cardiff in October 2015, said he had enjoyed his first experience of the St David’s Day parade.

Mr Šiaučiūnas said: “I loved it. It’s important for immigrants to learn about where they come to live.

“It helps them to integrate and love the place, and then that is better for the place too.”

Abi Thomas travelled from Carmarthenshire for the parade and wore the traditional Welshwoman’s outfit. She said: “This is a day to celebrate our culture, identity and diversity. We must embrace our difference.

“Our heritage is rich with folk dancing and music, as well as Welsh history.”

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