Year of the French Festival – August 18-22
August 18 – 22
Ballina Co. Mayo
Ballina 2023 is collaborating with the French Embassy, Mayo County Council (Ballina Municipal District) and In Humbert’s Footsteps to commemorate the ‘Year of the French‘, which marks 200 years since the death of General Humbert, and 225 years since his landing in Killala Bay.
A series of events is taking place throughout the year, the highlight being a weekend of festivities from August 19-22 in Ballina.
This is part of a wider programme of events between Ireland and France, our closest EU neighbours, which celebrates the long-standing friendship between the two countries,
The Year 2023 will also celebrate 30 years of Ballina’s twinning with Athis-Mons in Paris, France.
Programme of Events
EXHIBITION: ‘1798’, An exhibition featuring items from the 1798 voyage with a visual installation depicting the landing and legacy of General Humbert in Ireland.
Jackie Clarke Collection, free admission. 10am – 5pm, Friday 18 and Tuesday 22 August
Friday, August 18
6pm: French Lane renaming and Plaque Unveiling
Pearse St, beside McHale’s Solicitors. All welcome
Saturday, August 19
12pm – 6pm, Market Square Plaza, Ballina
Living History by In Humbert’s Footsteps – see the French, British and United Irishmen encampment in Ballina’s Market Square Plaza in this year’s event.
This is the largest living history event produced by In Humbert’s Footsteps this year, so be sure not to miss it! Members of the public are invited to participate by dressing up.
Killala Woolcraft | Basket maker Tom Delaney | Horse and carriage | Curragh by Declan Caulfield | Mudlarking Finds – Serena Billings | Holy Mountain Craft – Bog oak sculpture | Reel Deel Brewery (did you know that they produce a General Humbert Lager?) | Black Book Foods | Ballina Farmer’s Market
2pm, World War I Memorial, Killala Road Peace Garden
Short Remembrance Service for Pte. Stephen Kennedy and those from Ballina that died in WWI.
Pte Kennedy, from Ballina, was the the first Irish soldier to die in World War I and is buried in Athis-Mons, Ballina’s Twin Town in France.
The service will be attended by the French Deputy Embassador, Marianne Barkan-Cowdy and visiting French Dignitaries.
3pm, the Jackie Clarke Collection
Scéal Bródúil Mhaigh Eo – A Play by Tommy Cooke
A dramatic effort to tell the story of Mayo’s importance to the realisation, foundation and development of the state we now call The Republic of Ireland.
Through our music, song and narration we tell the story of ’98, the Famine and of the Land League which became the greatest and most successful rural agitation movement of the world in the 19th Century. A song called called ‘The Ballad of Patrick Walsh’ has been composed by Tommy Cooke to commemorate the man who was hanged by the British just days before the French freed the town in 1798. The Jackie Clarke Collection is a poignant and appropriate stage for this production. To include a rendition of La Marseillaise.
7.30pm, Ballina Arts Centre
8pm: Irish Premiére of short film ‘Nightfire’ by local director Topher Neville
A light-hearted short film in the style of Alfred Hitchcock
(Film was premiéred in 2021 at the Athis-Mons DiviPassion Film Festival)
8.15pm: Screening of a specially commissioned edit of all six episodes of RTÉ’s ‘The Year of the French’
Filmed in Killala in 1981 and featuring many local residents as extras. Directed by Michael Garvey, adapted from a novel by Thomas Flanagan.
‘The Year of the French’ was a television serial first broadcast in 1892. Directed by Michael Garvey and based on the novel by Thomas Flanagan, the series was based on the events of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland against British rule, when over 1,000 French troops led by General Jean Humbert sailed from La Rochelle in France to Ireland to support Irish rebels against the British forces.
A co-production by the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, the British television company Channel 4 and French broadcaster FR3, ‘The Year of the French’ was filmed in Killala in 1981. At the time, the town was transformed into a film set, with many locals participating as extras in the film. To accompany the series, music was composed and arranged by Paddy Moloney and performed by The Chieftains with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, conducted by Proinnsias O’Duinn, and with Ruairi Somers on bagpipes.
Free admission. Book tickets here
The event will also feature an exhibition of stills from the Year of the French Series and of various re-enactment events.
In memory of the late, great ‘General’ Steve Dunford, who did so much to bring the story of 1798 to life, donations to Hospice Services are most welcome.
Sunday, August 20
10am: Kilcummin Harbour
Unveiling of plaque donated by Gráinne Uaile Sub Aqua Club, by Aude Schifferling, descendant of General Humbert
Attended by representatives from the French Navy.
11am – 1pm, Market Square Plaza, Ballina
Living History by In Humbert’s Footsteps (as above)
1.30pm – 2.30pm, Pearse St
In Humbert’s Footsteps: Spectacular Napoleonic Battle Re-enactment
This battle, featuring re-enactors from Ireland and France is a recreation of the day when the blue-clad French, the British red-coats and the Irish Rebel Pikemen did battle for the town amidst the crack and smoke of muskets, the boom of cannon, and the clash of bayonet, sword and pike.
Note to attendees: Please obey stewards and An Garda Síochána at all times. There will be live ammunition on site.
A temporary road closure will be in operation on Pearse St from AIB upwards from 12pm to 3pm on Sunday, August 20. No parking will be available on Pearse St from midnight on Saturday, August 19 until the event has concluded on Sunday and the street has re-opened. Thank you for your co-operation