The annual cultural festival of the Norman language - linking Jersey, Guernsey and mainland Normandy - came back to Jersey from the 3rd to the 9th June 2002.
A weekend of poetry, songs, stories and playlets, plus dancing, traditional costumes and other exciting folklore attractions. Children from the Jèrriais classes in local schools also took part, along with groups and performers from Jersey, Guernsey and all over Normandy. The 2002 Fête in Jersey was the biggest and best yet, attracting widespread media coverage and visitors from far and near.
The main events of la Fête Nouormande 2002 took place the weekend after the Golden Jubilee weekend in June. Did you know that not only was Her Majesty the Queen celebrating fifty years on the throne of England, but that we were also marking fifty years of her reign as Duke of Normandy? And did you also know that laws in the UK are still given the Royal Assent in Norman by the phrase La Reyne le veult? And did you know that Norman words like canne (can) or mogue (mug) or faichon (fashion) were taken to England after the Norman Conquest?
A Celebration of the Jersey languageFair puts spotlight on Norman roots
Week of events to celebrate Island's cultural history ends with Grande Fête at Samarès Manor
The importance of sharing an understanding of Jersey's Norman-French roots was stressed by the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, in a speech opening Saturday's Grande Fête at Samarès Manor.
The event was the high point of the week-long Fête Nouormande, the celebration of the joint historic and cultural links shared by Jersey, Guernsey and Normandy.
Sir Philip said: 'To some it may seem strange that we want to perpetuate links that were severed 800 years ago when King John lost the Duchy of Normandy to France, but in truth, our connection with Normandy has never been broken.
'In a political sense we have gradually moved closer to England, and the English language has supplanted French and Jèrriais. But look at our domestic architecture, place names, the names of old Jersey families, and at many of our customs and traditions, and you will find an unbroken taproot that goes back to the Duchy founded by Rollo, the first Duke, in 911 AD.
'And of course, the Jersey language, Jèrriais, so closely related to Norman-French, is a vital part of these roots. Our history and our culture are the foundations of our distinct identity as Jersey people. They should be more widely understood and shared with all those who have made the Island their home.'
At the fair, organised by the umbrella group of Norman-French organisation, Le Congrès des Parlers Normands et Jèrriais, more than 1,000 paying visitors came to see Norman-French poetry, recitations, dances and songs, at the biggest celebration of Norman language and culture to have come to Jersey.
Congrès spokesman Geraint Jennings said they were delighted with the publicity given to Norman-French culture, and that both the French newspaper, Ouest-France, and the French television channel, France 2, had been at the event and would give publicity to Jersey.
The festival continued on Sunday with traditional sports - until rain stopped play - and a church service in Jèrriais. The fête was co-sponsored by Tourism.
Dancing in the street
Les beaux vieux temps have returned to Jersey - at least for this week's Fête Nouormande, the celebration of the historic culture and shared links of Jersey, Guernsey and Normandy. This reaches its highpoint today at a Grande Fête being held in the grounds of Samarès Manor, including song and dance, stories and poetry, tasty things to eat from both Jersey and France, and activities for all the family. Pictured are Norman dancers enlivening West's Centre.
A celebration of Norman culture and languageSample Norman music, dance and regional foods
The high-point of the biggest celebration of Norman language and culture in Jersey takes place today, with a day-long fête at Samarès Manor.
Celebrating the Fete Nouormande will be musicians, dancers and performers in Norman-French who will present a full programme of entertainment, and to provide additional interest, producers of French regional speciality foods will be present.
The fete is hosted in a different part of the ancient Duchy of Normandy each year and brings together various performers who show off their own brands of Norman culture.
There will be a concert by a Norman folk-rock group at St James Centre this evening at 7.30 pm, and a day of talks and discussions at the Société Jersiaise tomorrow.
And tomorrow there will be guided tours in Jèrriais for visitors, traditional sports and games at Victoria Park starting at 12.30 pm, and a service in Jèrriais at Philadelphie Chapel, St Peter, at 6.30 pm.
Talking my language
A celebration of Norman-French ends today with a Grande Fête. Congrès des Parlers Normands et Jèrriais president John Dénize spoke of the importance of the ancient culture to Alasdair Crosby
All you need is Jèrriais (and love, of course). That was the message from singers performing the Royal Jubilee Musical Beacon song on Monday in West's Centre - in Jèrriais. It was the start of a week-long series of activities celebrating the shared Norman-French culture of Jersey, Guernsey and Normandy, the 'Fête Nouormande'.
The singers gave a Jersey twist to the Beatles' song, so that it in Jèrriais, the Island's traditional French speech, it became 'Tout ch'que'i'faut est quj'aime.'
The president of the Congrès des Parlers Normands et Jérriais (the umbrella organisation in the Island for Norman-French organisations), John Dénize, said: 'The festival, which is non-competitive, plays a very important role in maintaining and promoting the Norman heritage of both Jersey and Guernsey, as well as identifying very closely their shared culture with that of Normandy.'
Throughout the past week there have been activities in town, and today there is a Grande Fête in Samarès Manor grounds, which was due to be opened by the patron of the Congrès, the Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache, this morning. It combines song and dance, poetry and storytelling, with lots of interesting Normandy things to eat and drink, stalls, activities, fresh Jersey produce, animals, old cars, Jersey Wonders and men and women wearing traditional costumes.
The festival continues tomorrow with traditional Norman sporting events starting at 12.30 pm at Victoria Park, and a Jèrriais church service at Philadelphie Methodist Church, St Peter, at 6.30 pm.
It is, in fact, the biggest celebration of Norman language and culture in Jersey, during which performers and language enthusiasts from Jersey, Guernsey, Normandy and further afield bring a festival atmosphere to the streets of town.
Mr Dénize said that the fête was hosted in a different part of the ancient Duchy of Normandy each year - 2000 in Guernsey, 2001 in Coutances, and this year in Jersey.
'Since the languages of Jersey, Guernsey and and mainland Normandy are very close,' he said, 'it is not too difficult to have conversations together and to appreciate each other's poetry, songs and stories. The mainland Normans (Normandy should be "the mainland", not England) are also keen to learn from Jersey's experience of teaching Jèrriais in schools, and the way we are using Jèrriais to promote tourism.'
The last time the fête was held in Jersey was three years ago, but it was held then on a far smaller scale than this year's event. For the past 18 months the Congrès members have been preparing for this bigger, better Fête Nouormande - not only an opportunity to promote cultural links with mainland Normandy, but a showcase for commercial links.
Asked about the function of the Congrès, Mr Dénize said that it had been founded in 1996 to promote the Norman 'parlers' of Jersey, Guernsey and Normandy, particularly the 'parler' of the Côtentin - the region facing Jersey's east coast. The objective is to increase awareness of Jèrriais and its cultural significance to all members of the community
And how has it done that? Well, for example, those welcome and departure signs in Jèrriais at the Airport are due to its persuasive influence. As Mr Dénize said, it reinforces the message that you are in a place that has its own, particular language and culture - one that is separate from England.
In addition, the articles and programmes in the local media in Jèrriais are prepared by members of the Congrès, as are also the lessons in the language given to school-children. 'In short, we act as a catalyst,' he said. 'Previously individual groups might have brilliant ideas, but it was far more difficult for them to achieve results that we, in unison, can achieve more easily'
Among those organisations which form the Congrès are the Assembliée d'Jèrriais, the Jersey-French section of the Société Jersiaise, and the educational trust, the Don Balleine. Members also include Jèrriais language teachers and speakers. Also a member is the former president of the Federal Union of European Nationalities organisation, Pierre Le Moine, who has instigated the participation of Jèrriais in 'Eblul', the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages. This, in Mr Dénize's words, gives the language something of an 'international status'.
But don't the words 'lesser used' just about sum up the degree with which the Island as a whole cares for and is familiar with this old language?
'The road is getting very hard,' he admitted, 'especially now that so much of the Island's population has comparatively recent roots. But it is not finished by any means; look at the success of Manx or Cornish in recent years, languages which were completely dead - unlike Jèrriais.
'There is no doubt that there is a renewed interest in minority languages. More people are now learning Scottish Gaelic, for example the Scottish parliament has even been addressed in it. Now, a Jèrriais address to the States - that would be something at which to aim.'
Mr Dénize fulfîls the definition of 'a man with a mission'. His own is to ensure that due recognition is taken of Jersey's ancient tongue and of Jersey's historic links with Normandy. 'It makes me so angry' he said, 'to see that we take so little interest in Jèrriais, and that we continually dissipate its use and seem to be quite prepared to throw it away.
'I have always been fascinated by its long history, its relationship with French, and by the fact that it was the language of England's kings and baronage for at least 300 years from the Conquest to the 100 Years War.'
That was the reason, he said, why in 1982, after he had retired from his career with ICI and returned to the Island of his birth, he threw himself into Jèrriais and Norman French causes, becoming a member of the Don Balleine, a founder member of the Association Jersey-Coutançais, and one of the organisers of the Festival France-Jersey.
But of course the history of his interest in Jèrriais goes back to his childhood days. 'The whole family spoke Jèrriais,'he said, and had done for the 600 years or so that the family has lived in the Island. My father once said to me: "Never forget that in Jersey we speak Jèrriais as a common parlance, French for matters cultural, and English only for matters commercial". That, to my mind, epitomised Jersey before the war.
'Why was I so interested in Jèrriais? I suppose because it was frowned upon when I spoke it. I remember visiting my aunt at Gorey, and speaking Jèrriais to her, and promptly getting my knuckles rapped. I thought at the time, blow me, this isn't right, getting into trouble for speaking my own language.'
At least that attitude of Jèrriais being a language somehow inferior has changed for the better, even if the language has continued its long decline. But is there a future for it, other than as a hobby for a relatively small group of people?
He replied: 'It is difficult to believe that it will ever be spoken so widely as it was in its halcyon days, before English became established as the everyday speech of the Island. But its decline was aIready under way before the war - and the Occupation provided the right conditions for an unexpected partial renaissance.
'It has declined even more since then, owing to the Island's progressive anglicisation and increases in population, but the interest now being shown in it and in minority languages everywhere guarantees its continued use in the foreseeable future. And the Fête Nouormande helps to galvanise an appreciation of Jersey's culture - and Jersey's autonomy (which is no bad thing at the moment).'
He added: 'Language is at the very heart and soul of any nation. If we lose our own language we lose our own soul.'
Quotes of the week:
'You don't have to be a Jèrriais speaker to appreciate the singing or the food and drink.'
Geraint Jennings, co-ordinator of La Fête Nouormande
Also on Monday the Island joined in the BBC Music Live rendition of the Beatles anthem All You Need is Love except that it was given a local twist and performed at the Arts Centre in Jèrriais to begin this weeks Fête Nouormande.
Where else could you find bachîn ringing, hurdy-gurdy playing and games of choule and doque but at La Fête Nouormande, which starts on Monday?
Strap on your bonnets, the largest festival of Norman culture is coming to Jersey. The organisers claim that this year's La Fête Nouormande will be the biggest yet with a week-long programme of activities including singing, dancing, games, costumes, a parade, a plethora of visiting performers and even free Calvados tasting.
Programme and publicity co-ordinator, Geraint Jennings said: 'We're going to try to out-do the Guernsey event two years ago which was very successful. It depends on the weather but we're definitely expecting thousands over the week. We're getting plenty of publicity already in the mainland Norman media, and France3, the regional TV station, is coming over to cover it.'
The main events will take place over the final weekend, but the fête begins with some entertainment in the streets of St Helier on Monday 'We go from the ridiculous to the sublime,' Mr Jennings said. 'Our first event is the Jèrriais Singers in costume performing for BBC Music Live at West's Centre.'
This choir, drawn from students and teachers of Jèrriais, will be performing their version of The Beatles' All You Need is Love as part of the massed performance of the song around the country. 'We've worked on a translation with the students and they're going to do that with a selection of other songs,' said Mr Jennings.
Mr Jennings will join in with an unusual musical performance of his own - bachîn ringing. 'It's a tradition which has disappeared but we're reviving it for the fête,' he explained.
'The bachîn is an old preserving pan, used for all sorts of reasons including making black butter. The custom was that you'd announce mid-summer and scare evil demons away by making this awful noise with it. By holding the reed across the rim and drawing wet fingers across it makes vibrations and you get a trumpeting sound. If that doesn't attract attention to the Fête I don't know what will!'
Street entertainment on Wednesday and Thursday will be provided by folk group La Sagesse Nouormande with songs, bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy playing. 'It's interesting because they're from England, but they have a repertoire of Channel Island and Norman songs,' said Mr Jennings. 'Their name's a bit of a joke though - it translates as Norman Wisdom.'
Another visiting group with a Channel Island repertoire is Magène, a folk-jazz group from France who will be playing a concert at St James on Saturday evening.
'We've also got the Guernsey dancers (Danseurs Dgèrnésiais) coming - they're fun,' Mr Jennings continued. 'Once they've demonstrated a dance, they tend to drag members of the public up to join in. Then there's the town parade on Friday, which is a bit of an innovation. It's always happened informally before when people have had to get across town in costume with their flags. This is the first time it's been formalised and it will be an opportunity to see everyone on their way to fire up for the big event.'
The big event will be La Grande Journée d'Fête on Saturday, a day of songs, poetry, story-telling, food, drink, traditional costumes and Jersey wonders in a marquee at Samarès Manor. 'That's the big family day out when we've got most of the groups over,' said Mr Jennings.
'We're trying to offer something for everyone, you don't have to be a Jèrriais speaker to appreciate the singing or the food and drink, and those who want a taste of the literature can drop in and out of the marquee where the serious culture is being performed.'
Almost all the texts, including lyrics to songs and the hymn for the closing service, have been printed in a brochure in their original language - Jèrriais, Dgèrnésiais or Normand - and are available for enthusiasts to buy.
One of the highlights of the final day will be traditional Norman games such as choule, a hockey-like game in which you can also use your hands and feet. An expert is coming from France to demonstrate and there are plans for an informal match against the mainland - and if enough Guernsey folk are interested, even a choule Muratti - but anyone is welcome to have a go.
'We're also going to revive the Jersey game of doque, one of those playground games which has died out and can best be described as pebble petanque,' said Mr Jennings.
'We are determined that this fête is going to be the biggest yet. We're going to set up something that will put the language on the map.'
A girl who learned Jèrriais from her grandfather won a medal for her recitation at Le Fête des Rouaisouns in Coutances last weekend. Veronica Fulton (10), a Beaulieu student, won the prize for her rendition of 'Not' Vièr Co'- Alexander Voisin (14), a pupil at De La Salle College, and Thomas Bailey (13), a pupil at Le Rocquier School, also won prizes for their performances. Next year, the Fête des Rouaisouns will be held in Jersey.
Three youngsters will represent the Island at the biggest annual Norman language festival in Coutances this weekend.
Alexander Voisin and Thomas Bailey have been sponsored by Le Don Balleine Trust to perform pieces from last year's Jersey Eisteddfod at Fête des Rouaisouns, and they will be joined by Veronica Fulton who has won a sponsorship from the Parish of St Ouen. Adult speakers from the Island will also take part in the annual festival, which includes a programme of song, dance, story-telling and poetry recital.
Next year, the festival will be held in Jersey and plans for the event are already at an advanced stage.
Forty Jèrriais speakers travelled to Guernsey at the weekend to take part in the Fête des Rouaisouns, the annual event involving speakers of Norman-French from Normandy, Guernsey and Jersey.
This was the third Fête, the first having taken place in Montebourg, Normandy, in 1998, and the second at Hamptonne Farm last year.
Groups from the three countries gathered to perform songs, folklorique dancing, poetry and prose. John Dénize, chairman of the Congrès des Parlers Normands et Jèrriais, whose organisation helps to co-ordinate Jèrriais activities, said that the event had received wide publicity on Channel TV and TV Ouest France and in the press.
He added that Jèrriais had recently been acknowledged as part of the Island's culture in the cultural strategy being commissioned by the States to guide and support cultural development in the Island.
He said: 'In defining "culture", it was recognised that while the Island's culture was rooted in its landscape, history and its people, the indigenous language was an 'extremely important component of this, and needed to be recognised as such.'
It might date back to the Vikings but Norman French is alive and well in the 21st Century.
A special folklore fete at Blanchelande Girls' College on Saturday proved that some old traditions die hard.
The event, organised by La Société Guernesiaise president Bill Gallienne and Hazel Tomlinson, was a time for enthusiasts from Normandy, Jersey and Guernsey to get together and celebrate the language.
It was also a perfect opportunity to prove that Guernsey French is by no means forgotten.
'This event is really a concerted effort by all of us to make sure that this language is preserved,' said Mrs Tomlinson.
'Not only can we enjoy ourselves but we can also show other people who don't understand the language what it is all about, and why it is so important.'
The day's events included a display of old Guernsey costumes, photographs and demonstrations of traditional crafts. There was also traditional Guernsey food, songs and dancing and recitations.
Other entertainment included performances from a group of 17 dancers from Quettehou, who performed in traditional Norman costume and sang in their dialect of Norman French, and performances from Brehal, who come from near Granville in France.
Mrs Tomlinson hoped that States members and teachers had visited. 'In Jersey there has been a political will but here there is not the same perception of how important it is. Once it is gone it is gone forever. It is our heritage. I hope the Heritage Committee will put the same effort into preserving the language as they would to preserve an important building.'
What made the event such a great success was the enthusiasm shown by Norman French speakers from France and Jersey.
Guernsey Press and Star 22/5/2000
A taste of France - Normandy to be precise - is being offered at Hamptonne Country Life Museum today, when La Fête Normande is held.
Starting at 10am, visitors will be able to enjoy songs and poems from Normandy, both live and over the PA when the performers are taking a break. Among those participating will be local Jerriais speakers Tony scott Warren, François Le Maistre and Eileen Le Sueur, and guests from Normandy and Guernsey will also be taking part.
Texts have been produced to help the audience folow the words of the songs and, no doubt, to join in with the singing if they like!
A number of stands will also be set up, with exhibits from L'Assembliée, Don Balleine and La Société Jersiaise to be browsed through, while a local basket maker will be showing off his weaving skills.
The café will be open to provide refreshments, with a full Jersey menu to include bean crock, conger soup and Jersey wonders. So don't miss out on this chance to spend a day with our French cousins during this celebration of language and culture which brings together the peoples of Jersey, Guernsey and Normandy.