What's the Welsh for 'I love hunny'?

Winnie-the-Pooh goes native in Disney's Cardiff spectacular
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The Independent Culture

Reflecting the bilingual culture of a nation in popular culture has always been a challenge. Often, the minority language and its associated cultural outputs remain separate from the mainstream. Since the mid-Fifties, finding a way to incorporate minority language in popular culture and media has been at the forefront of language movements, and known to be a key factor in supporting and stimulating regeneration and growth in such indigenous languages.

Reflecting the bilingual culture of a nation in popular culture has always been a challenge. Often, the minority language and its associated cultural outputs remain separate from the mainstream. Since the mid-Fifties, finding a way to incorporate minority language in popular culture and media has been at the forefront of language movements, and known to be a key factor in supporting and stimulating regeneration and growth in such indigenous languages.

This is especially the case among young people - where the language used by their heroes and role-models is a major motivation in language development and usage. In the past few years, the survival of many languages in Britain in particular - Irish Gaelic and Welsh - can be directly related to the development of dedicated TV channels and other media.

Today, Feld Entertainment, producers of Disney Live, will announce that its popular musical show for children based on the classic tales of Winnie-the-Pooh at the Wales Millennium Centre, on Cardiff Bay, will include an additional Welsh-language element. The decision takes the support of minority languages a step further and opens the door for other theatrical producers wishing to promote successfully to bilingual audiences.

This is the first time that Disney Live - or any big commercial show-producer, for that matter - has incorporated a Welsh element into its productions. It is a direct response to the growing importance of the Welsh language in Wales and the demands of that audience: today, almost 40 per cent of children in Wales of 3-14 years old speak Welsh, as opposed to less than 25 per cent in 1991.

Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh is a new live stage production featuring some of A A Milne's best-loved characters - Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the whole gang from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Judith Isherwood, chief executive of Wales Millennium Centre, says: "Reflecting and presenting local, national and international culture is at the core of WMC's values and aspirations, and this is one of many ways that we will be supporting and promoting the bilingual culture of Wales over the coming years.

"The significance of Disney's undertaking to include the Welsh language in its shows at the centre is not to be underestimated. The Welsh language is once again flourishing in Wales - particularly among young people - and so it is only right that we strive to deliver certain cultural products bilingually to support and aid this growth. This is an important move, not just for Wales but for other bilingual cultures across the globe."

Gary Kane of Feld adds: "As soon as we realised how important the Welsh language is in Wales, we started to look for ways to embrace it."

'Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh', Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (0870 040 2000; www.wmc.org.uk) 15 to 20 March (four shows with Welsh elements); Hammersmith Apollo, London W6 (0870 606 3400) 23 March to 3 April

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