Girvan’s French connection for 2012

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GIRVAN’S folk festival will have a unique French flavour next year as a group of storytellers from France are due to take part.

As Girvan is twinned with Torcy near Paris, a small number of professional storytellers and creative writers from Torcy decided that it would be an appropriate way to enhance the connection by organizing a group of mainly young people to come and compete at the festval, as well as enjoy the wider activities of the weekend.

In 2011 a group of three, including the secretary of the Torcy International Twinning Committee, visited the festival as an ‘advance party’ for the planned group in 2012.

During their visit the Torcy group were hosted by the convenor and, as well as attending concerts, a briefing on storytelling in the tradition and the competition, were invited to perform as special guests.

Their experiences have played an important part in the development of a plan for a special programme, including additional events, during their visit in 2012.

Currently the Torcy group are engaged in a programme to prepare a group of local students learning storytelling skills and working on ‘competition pieces’ mainly sourced from French and Scottish folktales.

They will be competing in English at Girvan. While it is intended that the visitors will have a separate competition it has been decided that the competition be open to other French people. These competitors will also be able to compete for the Queen’s Quaich.

Further discussion has led to a decision to offer an opportunity to ‘non-French learners’ to participate in another separate competition for traditional storytelling in French.

The festival programme will also introduce additional workshops – one in French, “The Ancient Art of Storytelling”, the second in English “The Stories of the Celtic Peoples”.

The adjudicator for the festival competitions will be the 2011 international guest storyteller, Marie Chiff’mine from Landujan near Rennes in High Brittany.

Maurice Langlois, a respected expert and writer on Breton Folklore, once described Marie as “the Best we have”. Marie has been guest at Girvan before, and was an obvious choice for the special programme in 2012. She will also lead the workshops as well as perform in concert.

The festival is currently engaged in seeking partners in the two competitions; in part to identify potential competitors, including French ‘learners’ from High Schools, FE Colleges, Leisure Education French conversation courses, and from French institutions in Scotland.

The Festival welcomes contacts with teachers and tutors, especially those who may be in a position to identify potential competitors (or audience).

Ideas and sponsors are also sought for prizes for the two additional competitions.

If you are interested and can help in any way, you are welcome to contact the festival’s ‘convenor of storytelling’ Colin McAllister on 01555 851187 or at

Said Colin: “Girvan has always been recognized for its special focus on oral tradition, and as well as traditional song and ballads the programme has developed a strong element of traditional storytelling.

It is a fact that many storytellers are also singers and musicians, some use traditional songs and ‘snatches’ in their telling, and that many traditional singers have no difficulty in turning their hand to spinning a good yarn.”

7349: Visitors from Torcy: (L to R) Claudine Sunder, Cecile Foret, and Sylvie Perlot who each performed a story for the audience

7396: The French connection: Local and regular festival story tellers with the visiting French group.