Alex Jones is aware that what she’s trying to describe sounds, in her own words, “a bit mad”. “For someone who hasn’t been brought up with it, I appreciate that it sounds totally bizarre,” she laughs. “It” being the National Eisteddfod, the celebration of Welsh language and culture that takes place each August, and more specifically her induction into the Gorsedd of the Bards in a ceremony performed by the Archdruid.
Even if it does sound bizarre, Jones, 38, couldn’t be more thrilled. “It’s a huge thing for me. Huge,” she smiles. “It’s an enormous honour and my family are beside themselves with excitement.”
Dating back to 1792 and made up of poets, writers, musicians and artists who have made a distinguished contribution to Welsh culture, the Gorsedd features among its number opera singer Bryn Terfel and ex-Welsh rugby star Gareth Edwards.
For a woman who is a fluent Welsh speaker you have to be to join the Bards – and fiercely proud of her Carmarthenshire upbringing, join- ing such esteemed company is “the cherry on the cake” of her career. As presenter of The One Show, Jones may now call London home but Wales is where her heart is: “Although I moved from Wales five years ago, it’s still a massive part of my life.
My heritage is very important to me.” Jones recalls, as a girl, how she, sister Jennie and parents Mary and Alun would all pile into the family’s orange caravanette to attend the Eisteddfod whenever they could. For an otherwise painfully shy girl the festival also offered the chance to try her hand at performance.
“Each school would have to produce a short musical. You’d compete in the county and if you won, you’d compete nationally to perform at the festival itself. If you won overall and got to take part – well, it was joyous.” Her school won plenty of times, which gave her parents many sightings of their otherwise apparently reserved daughter on stage. “It really bought me out of my shell,” she adds. “Really, the Eisteddfod set me on the path that led me to where I am today.”
After she is honoured by the Archdruid before the main druid stone, and touched on each shoulder by a sword, Jones can call herself by her Bard name, Alex o’r Amman, or “Alex from the Amman”. The ceremony will be a family affair, attended by her parents, sister and fiancé Charlie Thomson, an insurance broker. “It’ll be an eye-opener for him although I’m sure he will love it,” says Jones.
As for more pressing concerns, like what to wear under her induction cape, she says, ‘‘I honestly have no idea.”
The One Show is on Monday-Friday at 7.00pm on BBC1
Alex Jones will be at the Radio Times Festival on September 27th. You can buy tickets here.
LIFE AFTER STRICTLY 2pm, 27th September
Alex Jones joins Russell Grant, Deborah Meaden and Strictly pro Robin Windsor to reflect on their time on the dance floor.