2018 is the 35th anniversary of Falmouth town twinning with Douarnenez in Brittany. To celebrate the occasion 12 members of the Falmouth Twinning Association rose very early on Thursday 29th August to travel to Plymouth in time to catch the 7.30 ferry to France and enjoy a four day visit arranged by the Douarnenez twinning committee. Accompanying the group on the coach were the mayor, Councillor Grenville Chappel, his wife June and the female sea shanty group ‘Femmes de la Mer’.
The programme for the visit was full but extremely interesting. The two twinning associations exchanged gifts at an informal dinner in a local hotel on the Friday evening while the town mayors exchanged anniversary gifts at an official reception in their town hall on the Monday morning.
The programme had many highlights. One was sailing on a restored Breton sardine fishing boat, the ‘Telenn-Mor’, that has been cared for by a local sail training club for the last 30 years and used to train youngsters in the art of sailing. Another was a classical concert of rising young French musicians in the Douarnenez Maritime Museum. Other activities were; a trip to the medieval fortified town of Concarneau, visits to a water-driven flour mill, a sardine canning factory, Isle de Tristan and several lovely scenic picnics.
While the Bretons had a little difficulty understanding the concept of female shanty singers, the ‘Femmes de la Mer’ proved to be enormously popular. They performed at each of our functions and everywhere else possible! The French committee arranged for them to give an open air performance in the town square with two other local female groups. After spending the morning busking from Treboul Saturday market to the square, they, along with the other two groups treated us and the locals to a lovely concert in the warm sunshine.
Twinning is not just friends visiting friends. It was instigated to establish cultural, educational and sporting links between the twinned towns. Douarnenez is very keen for this to happen. On the Saturday morning, the Mayor, Grenville Chapel, the Falmouth twinning Chairman and Secretary, Peter Downie and Helene Parr met with representatives of organisations that wish to strengthen their ties with Falmouth. These included rugby at all ages, sailing, contact between primary and secondary schools, Breton dancing, choirs and a sea-shanty group wishing to perform at our festival.
During the visit, the mayor and others visited the local library to see the display of books on loan from Falmouth. The two town libraries exchange a selection of native language books every few months and make them available for loan. The books in Falmouth library at present range from children’s books to novels and are a great language resource.
On the final evening we were treated to a fabulous meal of crepes and cider. Some of us even had a, not very successful, go at making one. Then the next morning, Tuesday, we said our sad farewells to our hosts and started the long journey home. It was the first twinning visit for more than half of the group and every one of them was astonished at how good it was and how welcomed they were by their French hosts. The mayor has invited Douarnenez twinning to a return visit to Falmouth next year.
The Femmes de la Mer