Iaith ar Daith is back on S4C with a brand new series as six celebrities go on a special journey – with a mentor for company and inspiration – with the aim of learning some Welsh.
“Since I was knee-high, I’ve been smitten with Wales. It has a wildness, it has a history, it has wildlife, it has incredible coastlines. Wales has been such a huge part of my life but I don’t speak a single word of the language and that’s wrong. Now is my opportunity to set that straight.” – Steve Backshall
Every week, beginning on Sunday, 7 March, one celeb and one Welsh-speaking mentor who is also a well-known face travel to different areas of Wales in order to learn a little bit more of the language.
Series two will feature adventurer Steve Backhall who has presented nature programmes including Deadly 60 and Blue Planet Live. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Wales, Bangor.
“I have been wanting to get back to learning Welsh for a long time and that’s partly because I spend a lot of time in Wales. I really want to be able to converse in the language but I also want to be able to read the language. I have got more and more interested in Welsh culture and great cultural people and a lot of them write in Welsh. So I’d like to be able to read some of the language not just from now but all the way back through to the past.” – Joanna Scanlon
Also taking part is Joanna Scanlan – a familiar face thanks to roles in a number of popular television series and films including The Thick of It, No Offence, Bridget Jones’s Baby and Notes on a Scandal, along with Welsh series, Stella and The Accident.
The line up also includes former Wales international rugby player James Hook, comedian and writer Kiri Pritchard McLean, Chris Coleman former manager of the Wales international football team and actress Rakie Ayola whose credits include Holby City and Shetland.
“I’ve been trying to learn Welsh on my own using apps over the last few years. Now that I’m back living in Wales in a predominantly Welsh-speaking area, I feel that it’s important to my identity. I went on a Welsh course about 18 months ago and for the first time ever, I was managing to converse in Welsh. I felt so overwhelmed at being able to speak my language, I found it really emotional.” – Kiri Pritchard McLean
Steve’s mentor is the naturalist and Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams; Joanna’s is the actor Mark Lewis Jones and James’ is rugby referee Nigel Owen.
Kiri will be accompanied by Welsh drag star Maggi Noggie, Chris by former Wales international footballer Owain Tudur Jones and Rakie by actor Eiry Thomas.
“In the summer I retired from playing rugby so I’ve got a little bit more time on my hands. It’s the perfect time for me to start learning the language.” – James Hook
On their journeys, the celebrities visit places that are of personal significance to them. So Kiri and Maggi spent their time together traveling around Anglesey, where Kiri spent her childhood and where she now lives.
Steve gets to know North Wales better because of his links with Bangor University and James Hook the Neath Port Talbot area where he was born and brought up.
“I feel like it’s something I should have done a long time ago. It’s always been there at the back of my mind that maybe one day I would learn and then this opportunity came about with Iaith ar Daith. I’m going to keep going until I can have a conversation in Welsh with another Welsh-speaking person.” – Chris Coleman
There will be several challenges along the way too – how good is Steve at flower-arranging? Can Kiri get to grips with playing the drums? And how does Joanne get on with giving Shani the dog a bath in Carmarthen?
“Over the years, I’ve read poems and sung songs in Welsh but I learned them parrot-fashion. I’m starting to forget what the words meant, my memory of them is fading and I don’t like it. I’d like to renew and refresh my Welsh and learn some more – there’s so much I don’t know.” – Rakie Ayola
Iaith ar Daith, every Sunday night at 8 pm from Sunday, 7 March on S4C