In 1962, Saunders Lewis prophesised that by the beginning of the Twenty First Century the Welsh language would cease to exist as a 'living language'. Over a decade into that century, and 50 years after his famous lecture 'Tynged yr Iaith' on the fate of the language, S4C will broadcast a special documentary Cymdeithas yr Iaith yn 50 on the story of the Welsh Language Society's first 50 years and its contribution to Welsh life since the early '60s.
In addition there'll be two live programmes on S4C from Gig 50 - a concert held over two nights at the Pontrhydfendigaid Pavilion in Ceredigion to mark the 50th anniversary of Cymdeithas yr Iaith which came into being in response to the lecture by the historian, poet, dramatist and political activist.
The documentary, presented by Gwion Lewis, a barrister from Llangefni specialising in public law, will look at the history of Cymdeithas yr Iaith and consider its contribution to Welsh identity and culture. Gwion is the author of 'Hawl i'r Gymraeg,' published in 2008, the first book looking at the Welsh language in the context of international and European laws.
"It's quite a task to encompass the Society's history in its entirety. Today, there are several generations in Wales, including my own, who were not alive when the Society was at its most active in the '60s and '70s. This fiftieth anniversary gives us an opportunity as a nation to remind ourselves of this troubled chapter in our history," said Gwion.
"As well as looking back at the impassioned protests, we'll also be assessing what the Society has achieved, including its substantial contribution to developments such as bilingual road signs, the setting up of S4C, and the establishment of the Welsh Government. At the root of all of these developments was the Society's belief that the Welsh identity needed to be paid more respect."
"But the existence of a stronger Welsh government in Cardiff Bay poses a new challenge for the Society in its second half century," said Gwion. "Now, we have a Senate of politicians discussing the fate of the Welsh language quite frequently; we have a Commissioner charged with promoting the language. What role is there for the Society in this new world? That is one of the questions we'll be asking in the programme," said Gwion.
Among those contributing to the programme will be the historian Dr John Davies, Dafydd Iwan, Angharad Tomos, former chair of the Society and Language Commissioner and another former chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Meri Huws.
Fifty bands will perform in the big 50th anniversary party over two nights in Pontrhydfendigaid. The organisers have described the concert as 'the biggest Welsh gig for decades.' Among those performing will be Gruff Rhys, Gai Toms, Neil Rosser, Meic Stevens, Geraint Lovgreen a'r Enw Da, Yr Ods and Cowbois Rhos Bottwnog.