An international dancer who specialises in tap, ballet and Irish dancing was proud to call himself a Welsh speaker in the recent census, a year after deciding to learn Welsh as an adult.
Peter Harding, who comes from Cardiff, first learnt Welsh as a second language in school during the 1980s, but left Wales at the age of 17 to join Riverdance with his Irish dance partner, Suzanne Cleary. The duo made a name for themselves as ‘Up & Over it!, and performed at dance festivals and theatres around the world for many years before Covid-19 struck.
At the start of Covid-19, Peter was working in Las Vegas, and slowly but surely, every theatre closed its doors. Peter flew home and was determined to make valuable use of his spare time during lockdown. After starting to learn Welsh with SaySomethingInWelsh, Peter is now following an Intermediate level course with Learn Welsh Swansea Bay Region, which is run by Swansea University on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
Learning Welsh online has been a positive experience for Peter, as he explains;
‘‘During lockdown, I’ve loved meeting other Welsh learners online. I’ve spent so many years living away from home, learning Welsh has enabled me to learn more about the Wales that exists beyond Cardiff, all from the comfort of my own home!’’
Music played a big part in Peter’s decision to learn Welsh. Peter adores Welsh music and collects vinyl records. He often listens to music by singer songwriters Gwenno Saunders and Meic Stevens and over the years, collecting and listening to Welsh music while abroad has made Peter feel closer to home.
Peter now calls himself a Welsh speaker, and would like to encourage others to learn Welsh;
‘‘I was thrilled to be able to call myself a Welsh speaker in the recent census. I feel like a proper Welsh speaker and I couldn’t be happier. I would encourage anyone to give learning Welsh a go. Remember to keep at it and be patient! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, it shows that you’re keen to try, and that’s the most important thing.’’
Peter’s tutor, Catherine Davies-Woodrow said;
‘‘Peter is so enthusiastic and eager to learn, he is an absolute joy to teach. I’m glad he’s made such valuable use of his time during lockdown, as it’s been tough on artists since theatres closed their doors. I’m delighted that Peter is enjoying his new Welsh skills, and I look forward to seeing his Welsh language skills develop further over the coming months.’’
Image: Peter Harding and his Irish dance partner, Suzanne Cleary.