I live in a small village in the south west of France where in the summer there are several local festivals. Our main one is run by the comité de l’association de Salignac d’ Eyvigues called the C.A.S.E. Set up in 1972, there is a different theme each year, this year it was the black bottomed pig, within the farms of yesteryear and the old methods of work. I go there as a volunteer and it is always fun to meet tourists, who I usually translate for, and see all the activities.
This year it was much more animal orientated and geared for children with play areas of straw bales and stilts to fall about on. A horse drawn cart took groups of children around the vast site and I saw many happy children being hoisted onto the backs of donkeys, horses and even a large bull! A lot of the older generation have been there for many years and can still show their trades, like the last of the lauze roofers and the intricate stonemason’s work which is highly specialized. They do demonstrations for the visitors and these are always crowded as a presenter walks around the whole area with a microphone going to all the different stands to find out how they perform their skills. From wood carvings and a clog maker, glass blowing, blacksmith’s and copperplate there is a magnificent choice. Throughout the day, a folk group of dancers and musicians weave their way through the site. Dressed in traditional Perigourdian clothes, they are a very attractive sight as they show the local folk dances.
The Arbre de Vie is another popular area within the festival. Rising majestically upwards, the Tree of Life contains a spiral interior staircase and weighs 40 tons including its concrete base. It was transported from another area not far from here, and the artist designed it to commemorate the number of villagers at that time in Salignac and the 250 steps mark it’s history. With around 1500 visitors each Monday in August the fête is a valuable attraction and boosts our local community as well.
I was watching a programme on TV recently about the InterCeltique Parade in Lorient, which is in Brittany, and first started 45 years ago. Every year they have a massive music festival with musicians and dancers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales,Galicia, Asturias, the North American region known as Acadia, and of course Brittany. This year they were inviting as guests of honour, bands from Cornwall and the Isle of Man , both fellow Celts.It is an impressive and often moving sight to see the finest pipe bands and dancers of these countries make their way down the long boulevards of Lorient in a very long procession..Dressed in traditional costume, I appreciated a group from northern Spain , the women with long braids of hair down their backs, dancing with castanets and the men too were particularly agile.
The West of Scotland Pipe Band and the Isle of Cumbria Pipe Band were great too, and I was nostalgic to hear them, as they strode purposefully to make a circle, they played with great passion. A lone Scottish piper finished the parade playing Amazing Grace and it brought the crowds up cheering and clapping .The festival lasts for 10 days and there are music events, exhibitions and a final concert at the end of the 10 days ,welcoming International stars such as Joan Baez, The Dubliners, Alan Stivell and this year’s headliners Simple Minds. www.festivalinterceltique.bzh
Tucked away in the heart of the countryside, not far from us in Salignac is an old inn converted into an Irish themed restaurant and bar, called the Black Duck. We were there recently to celebrate my 60th birthday and I always like the warm atmosphere and enjoy their hospitality. Owned by a French family, the son has taken over the running of it in recent years but his background is interesting to relate.He went to study at the university in Cork in Ireland and met Irish bands whilst living there who he then invited over here. For several years Salignac hosted a beer festival and Mathieu booked several Irish pipe bands. It was great to hear them!
The restaurant and bar is a hub of enthusiastic rugby supporters too and when the 6 nations tournament is televised you can hardly get to the bar. From all angles it has been well decorated , from rugby shirts on the walls, posters advertising Guinness and both Irish and Scottish malts and all the Celtic flags decorate the ceiling.
They do good food too , from substantial pies to fish and chips and the old faithful here, foie gras!
PS I dedicate this month’s blog to some very nice English people I met in Salignac over the summer and gave some very hilarious French lessons to. They certainly could made me laugh!
Fifi’s story from rural France. August 2015.
Dance and film courses in the Dordogne.