Small Welsh town’s video captures Hungarian hearts

A heartfelt video message from the people of Montgomery (Trefaldwyn) has become a hit in Hungary, landing the Powys town on TV screens across the nation.

The historic town has always been proud of its literary links with Hungary, which stem from Hungarian poet János Arany’s 160-year-old ballad ‘The Bards of Wales’ – an allegorical poem set in Montgomery Castle which most Hungarian children must learn at school.

The video, produced by members of Montgomery Town Council – including the Mayor himself – has attracted over 50,000 views across social media within weeks, and has been the subject of national television and radio programmes in Hungary.

Alongside leading national outlets Index, Mandiner and Startlap spreading the word, millions could hear about and watch Montgomery’s touching gesture on national television channel M5, as well as on leading national radio Kossuth Rádió.

The short film comes in response to a video by Welsh-Hungarian cultural initiative Magyar Cymru, in which over 30 Hungarians from all walks of life came together to send a powerful ‘love letter’ to Wales with a simple message at its core: “Let’s build bridges!”

Jill Kibble, member of Montgomery Town Council, said:

“We’re overwhelmed by the response to our short film and are touched by all the messages we have received from Hungarians. Montgomery has an intriguing connection with Hungary, and it’s wonderful to know that many generations of Hungarians have learnt the name of our little town at school.

“When we found out about Magyar Cymru’s delightful video message to Wales over the summer, we knew we had to respond. So, despite the challenging times, our video project was conceived, to share our beautiful little town of Montgomery with the people of Hungary.”

Magyar Cymru founder Balint Brunner, who coordinated the original video message from Hungarians which inspired Montgomery to respond, added:

“Thanks to this famous ballad, Montgomery is perhaps better known in Hungary than Cardiff or any other Welsh city. However, we were very surprised and delighted to learn just how much locals value their links to far-away Hungary.”

“Montgomery’s video has become a hit in Budapest and beyond, as mainstream media reported on the beautiful gesture. We’ve also received enquiries from various folklore festivals and enthusiasts of the Welsh culture who wanted to help us build further ‘bridges’ between the town and Hungary.”

Among those expressing their gratitude was Aberystwyth’s Hungarian gourmet restaurant Paprika, which offered to treat Montgomery’s residents to a generous “feast of gratitude” with Hungarian specialities for around fifty people set to be delivered to the Powys town.

Other plans to bring Hungarian culture to Montgomery, once COVID-19 restrictions ease, include a “Hungarian Day” with young musicians from the Kodály Violin School in Carmarthenshire, and the unveiling of a permanent plaque to honour the poet János Arany – who was posthumously recognised as a “Freeman of Montgomery” in 2017.

The video from Montgomery has been particularly well-received in the village of Kunágota in southeast Hungary – branded the country’s “Welshest” village due to their tradition of hosting Welsh-Hungarian concerts.

In a bid to connect with the village in the run-up to Christmas, Haydn Andrew, Mayor of Montgomery, sent his seasonal greetings and a copy of the town’s seminal ‘Story of Montgomery’ book by Ann and John Welton to Kunágota.

Montgomery’s town crier, Sue Blower, welcomes Hungarians in Hungarian, alongside Mayor Haydn Andrew (left), Jill Kibble (centre) and members of Montgomery Town Council.

 

Mayor Andrew’s letter to Kunágota Mayor Zoltán Pápai comes shortly after Magyar Cymru published a video from the village, in which members of the local council wished a merry Christmas to their Welsh friends in Welsh, English and Hungarian.

Meanwhile, Kunágota-born classical singer Elizabeth Sillo, organiser of the annual Welsh-Hungarian Concert in Cardiff, has extended her invitation to performers and council members from Montgomery to visit the village in the future – which, despite its status, is nearly twice the size of the Welsh town.

Montgomery’s 10-minute-long video response, which continues to attract Hungarian viewers online, featured pupils from the local Montgomery Church in Wales Primary School, current and previous mayors, and local business owners who all greeted the nation – some with song, while others learned some Hungarian for the occasion.

They were inspired to record the clips during the pandemic after watching Magyar Cymru’s trilingual ‘love letter’ to Wales, which featured children from Kunágota, opera and folk singers, educators, as well as Hungarians from Cardiff to Caernarfon who embrace the Welsh language and culture with pride.
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