The President Michael D Higgins will travel to Galway in September to launch a weekend of celebratory events to mark the 40th anniversary of Galway's twinning with Lorient. The French Ambassador to Ireland Jean-Pierre Thébault will also be in attendance on Friday September 18.
Lorient, which is located in Brittany in north-western France, is the first place which Galway twinned with back in 1978 and there has always been a special relationship between the two cities. Indeed there is a significant relationship between Ireland and this region of France. Of the 150 cities which are twinned between Ireland and France, 96 of those twinnings are with areas within Brittany.
Over the years, many Galwegians have spent their summer holidays enjoying all that Lorient has to offer. Similar to Galway, it is a city which is renowned for its athmosphere, beaches, people, music, and culture. And while Galway is home to a large swathe of Gaeltacht and a large population of native Irish speakers, Brittany also boasts its own unique Breton language.
A committee has been set up to spearhead the organisation of the celebrations in September, members include Galway based French honorary consul Catherine Gagneux, Galway City Council's arts officer James Harrold, and the council's senior executive officer for arts, culture and communications, Gary McMahon. A delegation will be travelling from France to Galway which will be led by the Mayor of Lorient.
The weekend coincides with Culture Night in Galway on Friday September 18. On the night, the Claddagh Badurí will sail around Galway Bay to celebrate the maritime connection between Galway and Lorient.
As part of the festivities, an exhibition will be launched in the city with memorabilia showcasing 40 years of friendship between the two cities. Event organisers are appealing to anybody who may have something to add to the display to get in contact with them or drop their items into the Galway City Museum. James Harrold says all memorabilia will be carefully looked after by museum staff and will be scanned and reprinted to be returned immediately or after the exhibition. ''There is genuine friendship and respect between these two cities. We are asking Galway people to create the exhibition with us and share their memories. A lot of Galway people have visited Brittany down through the years while many student exchanges have also taken place. We would love if people got in touch - we are looking for anything that was brought back from Lorient. Items such as pictures, programmes, catelogues, videos, films, etc, will make up the exhibition. There us a possibility it will include filmed interviews of people sharing their memories, or funny stories from Lorient."
Other events which will take place during the weekend include poetry readings and dance workshops, while there are also plans for a small food market. A musical festival 'Ceilí Festnoz' will be held on the Saturday night. This will be similar to a Breton music festival and will encompass French and Irish traditional music. There will also be some well known musicians travelling over with the French delegation.
Representatives of various other cultural organisations in Lorient will be travelling to Galway to discuss ways in which the relationship between the two cities can be further strengthened in areas like sport, music, culture, and education.
++Anybody with memorabilia from Lorient which could be used as part of the September exhibition is asked to email [email protected] or drop the item into Galway City Museum.