Lorient Celtic festival at the British Embassy

Jean Yves Elaudais, a piper from Brittany, played Scottish songs in the gardens of the embassy

Lord Llewellyn, British ambassador to France, seemed very happy during the reception he gave at his residence of Faubourg Saint Honoré, to celebrate Scotland as the official guest of Festival Interceltique de Lorient, the largest Celt celebration in the world, which takes place every year at the beginnning of August, in Brittany.

Cabinet secretary for culture and tourism of Scotland, Fiona Hyslop with the President of the Festival Guy Gestin and the Director Lisardo Lombardia (left)

In his speech mentioning his own Welch origins, the ambassador praised the celtic ties which unify Northern Scotland to Northern Spain in Galicia and Asturia, via Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Every year, 450 artists come to the festival from celtic countries and their diasporas, including Australia and Acadia.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Cabinet secretary for culture and tourism, emphasized the long term friendship between Scotland and Brittany, their shared 4 000 year old Celtic history and heritage « from the Lochs of Scotland to the rugged coast of Galicia ».

De Gaulle‘s great great grandmother Frances Ann Fleming was Scottish, I learned,  and Fiona Hyslop added that “culture has a key role in building strong International relationships”, a sentence that sounded especially right in times of Brexit and of Macron’s presidency. The festival was created in 1970 and has promoted a common spirit ever since.

The impeccable British residence used to belong to Pauline Borghese

“I brought good weather from Edinburg”, she said and the gardens of the embassy were at their best with perfect lawns, multicolor rose bushes and delicious Pimms with salmon bites. It was very sweet to notice the tiny bicycles abandoned by the Ambassador’s very young children. His three year old son did take a bagpipe lesson in front of Pauline Borghese’s bed,  from one of the brilliant young Glasgow musicians,  Ross and Ali, who delighted the audience with a mini concert. A sort of hors d’oeuvre of what the festival will be like on August 4-13. During ten days and ten nights, the whole city of Lorient is transformed into a giant stage, with films, readings and mostly, concerts.

Ross and Ali were joined by Steven for a fabulous bagpipe and long whistle concert

The director Lisardo Lombardia is a Spaniard from Asturia and has been successfully at the helm for ten years. The president Guy Gestin comes from Northern Finistère and was the principal sponsor of the festival when he was running Laïta, a milk cooperative from Brest. He is now the ambassador in charge of finding sponsors and seems to be loving his position.

The ambassador’s young children give a very relaxed feel to the very official palace bought by Duke of Wellington

With 800 000 spectators in ten days, the festival is one of the major events of the summer in Brittany, and Scotland is the official 2017 guest. In 2020, for its fifthieth anniversary, Britanny will be celebrated.

Once again with this very elegant but relaxed cultural event, Scotland and France shared their common love for food, music and fun. And the British Embassy was the perfect frame for this Celtic feast.

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