Lorient in Brittany: ‘Accents of Celtitude’

Every year in August, a large Inter-Celtic Festival is held in Lorient. It brings together musicians from all the Celtic countries and ends with a pipe band competition. An Academy of Traditional Breton Music, Songs, Dances and Sports opened in December 1981 near Ploemeur.Universities have departments dedicated to Celtic studies.
Sheltered at the end of the harbour into which flow the rivers Scorff and Blavet, Lorient was not originally really part of Brittany. It was in 1666 that a Royal Decree created the town of Lorient. Shipbuilding yards were opened and the town soon became the headquarters of the French East India Company. From 1719 onwards Lorient became totally involved in overseas trade. Some remnants of old administrative buildings remain.
Little is left of the original town of Lorient. The town was rebuilt after the terrible air raids that razed it to the ground between 1941 and the surrender of the German garrison on 8 May 1945. The centre was redesigned on a rather austere geometric pattern but in line with tradition the house fronts are still sparkling white. The town has many examples of modern architecture including the imposing catholic church of St. Louis.
‘Accents of Celtitude’
Into its forty-first year in 2011, the Inter-Celtic Festival at Lorient in Brittany has become a long established inter-cultural crossroad recognised as a window and laboratory of creation based on contemporary ideas and open to the cultures and traditions of the flourishing Celtic nations and regions into the twenty-first century. Each year Lorient specially honours one of the Celtic nations who participate in the Festival.
In 201l a new feature was the pavilion Dome of the Diasporas reflecting ‘Accents of Celtitude’. In the form of a huge hemisphere it evoked the Celtic planet and the migrations of Europeans to distant lands while protecting their diversity and maintaining their cultural heritage. The imposing structure hosted international radio and television broadcasts, material and video exhibitions, films and documentaries and children’s events.
The Celtic regions in Europe are Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Asturia and Galicia. North America was a major destination for Irish and Scottish emigrants while Latin America became home to successive migrations of Galicians and Asturians. Emigrants from Wales settled in Patagonia and those from Cornwall in Mexico. Emigrants from Brittany followed the famous Spice routes at the time of the French East India Company established in Lorient. In Australia and New Zealand, a significant number of Europeans were of Celtic origin. It explains why many generations later, Argentineans remain proud of their Galician origins, Mexicans play the gaita and consider themselves Asturian, Canadians from Cape Brittany and Prince Edward Island rival with Scots in playing the fiddle or the Scottish bagpipes. In the United Sates, millions of Americans participate in St. Patrick’s Day parades with cities and towns that turn green.
‘Accents of Celtitude’ was the theme for a successful Festival in 2011 where Celtic cultures and traditions in music, song, dance and literature were alive. Acadia in New Brunswick, Canada, will be honoured at the Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient in 2012.
Ita Marguet
Note: This text follows a visit to the Inter-Celtic Festival, Lorient (5-14 August 2011). Acknowledgement is given to the programme and other sources used in its preparation. It is linked to a separate text on Irish in Mexico: Battalion of Saint Patrick, by Ita Marguet, September 2011.