We've just got back from a wonderful three-day event in Saint Clémentin, Deux Sévres, France: a biligual literary festival, the first of its kind to be held in the region. Dónall was invited to read there by his old friend Wendy Wright, also a poet and writer.
There was of course an excellent restaurant, Chez Didier, which became our base when we weren't reading or attending a reading or a workshop. Here we are, right to left in the picture, Wendy, Katherine Gallagher, Bernard (Katherine's husband), Dónall and Janice. We thoroughly enjoyed Katherine's seminar on poetry translation and her readings from her books.
Other poets there included the amazingly dynamic John Hudson, whose new book, "Earth" was launched at the festival; Roger Elkin; French writers Michel Cordeboeuf and Isabelle Soulard; David Cooke; Duncan Falconer and as guest of honour Helen Dunmore. Roisín McAuley the TV presenter skilfully interviewed Helen Dunmore in a taxing bilingual conversation and Helen gave readings from her books in both English and French. The organisers of all of this were the poets Glyn Pope and Gordon Simms and his wife Jocelyn, who is also a writer, to whom we owe a big debt of personal thanks for their support and hospitality, as also to Wendy Wright and her husband, Jim.
Dónall read from his pilot version of "Sifting Sound into Shape", which he has now edited to create the longer 6"x9" edition that's shown on our home page.
We met so many charming people, both English and French. Jon and Cathy Welch, for example, who live a few kilometres away, were so welcomimg and friendly, very happy to be in the peace and quiet of rural France after moving there permanently from Surrey.
Saint Clémentin is a delightful place. The village street is furnished with picturesque towers like these, which inspired Jan to do some ink sketches. There's also a lovely little chapel (La Chappelle des Rosiers) on the outskirts of St Clémentin, where an art exhibition and a concert by the village brass band were held on the first evening we were there. This was a tremendous experience, especially as the chapel is decorated with recently-uncovered Norman frescoes.
The interior of the Chappelle des Rosiers was lined with mediaeval frescoes, recently rediscovered after having been hidden under whitewash for centuries. The village brass band played huge curly instruments which clearly took a lot of blowing!
You can see Dónall in his panama hat to the right of the bandleader. It was a wonderful family occasion in which all the local community took part.
This was Jan's second attempt at a drawing of La Chappelle des Rosiers - the first had to be aborted when a large bull started to take an interest in her presence - she had stupidly climbed into his field without seeing he was there)
In Saint Ouen, an even smaller chapel nearby, John Hudson mounted a very interesting installation, "13 Characters in Search of a Light Switch". The locked chapel housed thirteen intermittently flashing lights in its dark interior, which could be seen through a tiny window in the wall, while a loop of readings of John's poems could be heard outside the chapel, in the voices of thirteen different seekers after truth from history and fiction. The readings were recorded by members of the Saint Clémentin community.
Jan drew this ink sketch while she leaned against the wall of Saint Ouen, while the Thirteen Characters spoke at her back about their Search for a Light Bulb, insistently and movingly.