Keeping Your Ear to the Ground in Rural France

 

Pentecost fête at Caylus

Pentecost fête at Caylus

A reader recently bemoaned the fact that they had not heard in advance about an event on which I reported. I sympathise. Keeping up with what’s going on is not easy and, dare I say it, the French aren’t always very good at publicising things. Sixteen years ago, we were constantly finding out about fêtes or concerts we had missed. Things have improved but hearing about forthcoming events is still a lottery.

In summer, you can’t avoid the flyers embellishing your car windscreen or the posters affixed to every possible hoarding. Winter is different: you could be forgiven for thinking that the cultural life of southwest France is somewhere on a par with Outer Mongolia. Less goes on because the population is no longer swelled by holidaymakers and second homers. But culture and entertainment are still to be had. You just have to find out about them.

When we first moved here, few people had email and websites were in their infancy. Bouche à oreille (lit. mouth to ear) or word of mouth was one of the principal means of publicising events. Communications are now more sophisticated, so here are eight ways of keeping yourself informed. I’ll be pleased to hear of additions to the list.

I should add I am not endorsing any of the content published in media mentioned below.

1.    Local library/Médiathèque

Many communes have one, even if they are under financial pressure. Some run cultural events in English and French, so get onto their email mailing list. As they are focal points in a community, they are also good places to pick up flyers or leaflets.

2.    Tourist Offices

Like libraries, they are short of cash and, out of season, have restricted opening hours. But they usually know what’s going on; some publish weekly bulletins of local events; and the bigger ones have websites with what’s on sections, normally under the tab ‘agenda’. Just Google the name of the town or village.

3.    Newspapers and magazines

French regional newspapers, such as La Dépêche du Midi, usually have local supplements with news from the communes and a what’s on section. Le Villefranchois, published in our nearest sizeable town, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, covers mid to west Aveyron. It even tells you what’s going on ‘over the border’ in neighbouring départements, which is unusual.

In English, there’s national monthly, The Connexion. You can sign up for their free weekly email newsletter. As a national publication it’s less likely to carry info about local events. But it has interesting news items.

Locally, The Quercy Local, is published five times a year and covers a fairly wide area. It’s available in shops and libraries free or delivered for a subscription. Back issues are available online.

4.    Websites

I’ve already mentioned tourist office websites. Expat websites are legion. Sometimes, they have sub-sites that cover a region and include local information. They normally have forums or specialist groups. Here’s a very small selection – but just Google ‘expat’ and see what comes up.

Anglo-Info
Survive France
French Entrée

Some enterprising souls run their own ‘news and views’ websites. Around here, not much gets past the notice of Val Johnstone, who runs Taglines. People increasingly publicise their events on her site, which covers parts of Tarn-et-Garonne, Tarn, Lot and Aveyron.

5.    Twitter

Got a Twitter account? I know it can be irritating to read what someone just ate for breakfast or that they have watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey. But these less-than-helpful tweets are fewer than they used to be. Search for and follow people in your area who provide useful information. You can always unfollow if they’re not useful.

6.    Newcomers’/expats’ organisations

These were thin on the ground in 1997 but, with the influx of Brits in the 2000s, they are more numerous. In our area, FiFi (Friends in France International) is aimed mainly at women but they run a variety of events and have a broad network, so are a good way of staying informed. Similar organisations exist in other areas, some with the primary purpose of helping newcomers to settle in.

7.    Cultural Associations

Cross-cultural organisations bring together expats and French people. The Association France-Grande-Bretagne has 34 branches in France that organise various events and outings. You have to be a member to take part.

Some communes have cultural associations that run events such as cookery workshops, historical talks, themed walks, films and theatre evenings. You don’t always have to be a member to join in. Locally, Parisot’s ‘Rencontre et Partage’ runs a programme of events throughout the year.

8.    Personal contacts

Since I am involved in various local events, I email all my contacts with information about them. Some might get thoroughly cheesed off with this but no one has said so yet. And they can tell me to remove their name or just delete the email. Similarly, I am on several ‘unofficial’ mailing lists. Ask friends and contacts to email you regularly if they find out about events you might be interested in.

Following up all this, of course, involves a time element but you quickly identify the best sources of information. And there are bound to be things that fall through the net. A key message is that if you get involved in things you’ll find out what’s going on.

Copyright © 2014 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

 

 

 

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About Vanessa Couchman

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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8 Responses to Keeping Your Ear to the Ground in Rural France

  1. Hi there – I read your peace with interest, as some of the best kept secrets in our area are also the local events!
    Things have improved a lot with the use of Facebook, as there are a multitide of social groups, very often linking people together by way of geography, common interest and even gender.
    I run a FB group called North Deux Sevres Network/ NDSN, and our criteria is that to join you shouldn’t need an overnight bag to take part in one of the organised events.
    I look forward to keeping up with you via your blog, and many thanks for following me as well.
    Regards, Helen.

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Helen, thanks for commenting and also for following (and LinkedIn-ing!). Things have certainly improved with the development of social media. I have to say I’ve never been a Facebook fan and only have 2 friends, whereas in real life I have more than that (well, 3, anyway). Your NDSN group sounds good and I like the criteria. More and more groups like that are springing up so one now has a greater chance of hearing about things before they occur rather than after. Cordialement, Vanessa

  2. Posters are the best way of finding out what’s going on round here – outside Mairies, in shop windows, on random walls! There’s a big thing of having roadside signs too, but they’re usually too small to read or placed distractingly near dangerous junctions!

    • nessafrance says:

      There are various tried and tested places around here where people put up posters. The roadside signs, numerous though they are, are useless, since they’re usually too detailed and the font is too small. And you’re going too fast to read them in time. A favoured medium is an opened-out bin liner or a piece of black tarpaulin daubed with white paint. That, at least, has the virtue of being reasonably legible.

  3. Val from TAG online blogspot says “knowing what is happening in the winter is much more difficult, but I try with TAG to find out what is going on and with readership now of 700 to 1,000 each day I must be achieving something. This afternoon I am meeting with a French lady who has offered to write a section in French for French friends in the area. Malc and I are always being asked by French people, why cannot we have TAG? well after today they will need ask no more.”
    Thanks for all the interesting ideas of places to look for information Vanessa and I always enjoy your posts.
    Val
    Ps There is a free piano concert at Arnac, near Varen each Sunday evening at 6 pm

    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Val. TAG has become indispensable around here and I’m sure the addition of a French section will be greatly welcomed. Thanks also for your kind words about my blog – and for the heads-up about the Arnac concerts.

  4. Evelyn says:

    My non-French friends and I have had this conversation SO often. It’s really difficult to find out about things going on. Somehow the French seem to know intuitively about activities…they must have a better grapevine that English-speakers do. So, I guess I’d add one thing to your list: make a French friend who will keep you in the know! I’ll put a good word in for TAGlines as well. Val’s information is invaluable. (PS…and never hesitate to include me in your emails!)

    • nessafrance says:

      Good point about the French friends. I should also have added shopkeepers – the lady who runs la presse in our village sees a lot of people every day and tends to know what’s going on. You are certainly on my mailing list!

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