There’s still over a fortnight to go until Le Weekend – but already the Altrincham French Festival looks set to break all spectator records.
Now in its third year, the event on July 11th and 12th promises to be bigger than ever.
Festival director Zainul Sachak is promising “something for everyone” as Bowdon Rugby Club and Stamford Park are transformed into Bordeaux or Biarritz and the Champs-Elysees for 48 hours.
From boules to baguettes, crepes to croque-monsieurs, rugby to Roquefort, Citroens 2CVs to Champagne – and much more – it’s all available at the 2015 edition of the UK’s only French cultural festival of its kind.
The centrepiece of the weekend will be Saturday night’s ‘Bastille’ dinner, a three-course “gastronomical treat”, including live music from a French style jazz band and a spectacular fireworks display.
With a 200-person limit and tickets priced at just £30, potential diners are advised to book early.
Below: A selection of gastronomical delights from last year’s festival
“When you enjoy something, you put more into it,” says Zainul, a project manager by profession, inspired by all things French after family members settled in the country.
“I always intended it would be something I would do in my spare time. Now it has taken over my life.
“But I have always had a passion for community and corporate responsibility. And because Altrincham is trying to revive its town centre, I decided I would do something about it.
“Equally there are many volunteers, both native French origin or passionate Francophiles, offering their time to help with the planning and organizing of the event.”
Below: Some of the large crowds that attended last year’s Stamford Park event
In 2013, the Festival attracted 700 curious visitors. Last year’s one-day event saw numbers increase to 3,000 and by mid-afternoon most food stalls had run out of food.
Inspired by local support, Zainul has returned to a two-day event with Saturday’s Bastille dinner followed by a free, daytime outdoor festival on Sunday with numerous food stalls offering an array of French foods.
“Every year you have to raise the bar and hopefully this year will be no exception. If it comes off and all the elements come together, I will be delighted.”
So, what can visitors expect? After the success of last year’s football event, this time an Under-10s tag rugby tournament, in celebration of the 2015 World Cup, supported by Altrincham Kersal rugby union club.
Below: Dancing in Stamford Park last year
For the grown-ups, there’s a drinks marquee, French cookery demonstrations by the Vegetarian Society and Trafford College plus an exhibition of vintage Citroen 2CV cars by Manchester Ducks.
There’s a live demo of Graffiti art by Manchester-based Russ Meehan, magic by illusionist Guillaume Vallee, jazz music from the Swing Commanders, plus performances from Absolute Belters, a 50 strong women’s choir, the ABCD School of Dance and Drama dance troupe and French singer, Laura Esther.
Numerous other activities include face painting, a French puppet show, French storytelling, art exhibition, treasure hunt and the results of a Schools’ art competition.
In addition and with £4,000 raised in the last two years, Marie Curie Cancer Care will be holding a raffle draw throughout Sunday’s celebrations.
Altrincham and West MP, Graham Brady, will officially open the Festival on July 12. “The French Festival has quickly become a favourite Altrincham tradition,” said Brady.
Below: Local MP Graham Brady (second left) at last year’s event. Organiser Zainul Sachak is on the left
“Zainul and his team have again worked wonders and brought a slice of France to the middle of Altrincham. I wish them bonne chance for another successful occasion.”
The event is sponsored by grants and donations from THRIVE (Trafford Housing Trust), Alliance Francaise de Manchester, Decathlon, Raring2Go Magazine and Monin Syrups plus the generosity of many local businesses.
A full programme and timings for the Altrincham French Festival on July 11th and 12th can be found here.
Watch a video of last year’s festival: