05 décembre 2012

De Nouveau à Art Déco

Off to the Dark Horse Coffee Shop this evening to hear Sean Nolan give his much anticipated talk on Art Déco to the Cercle Français. This talk along with next month's Bal Musette, was among the first to be included in this year's programme. That's because it follows up on his theme of last year, Art Nouveau.

Sean has subtitled this evening's talk: A significant art movement. Certainly the designs that featured when it first appeared are still with us.

Have you any designs to be with us tonight? We look forward to seeing you from 7.30pm!


30 novembre 2012

L'Empire de la Mort: The Paris Catacombs

We numbered 60 people at our last réunion. Early comers were treated to a selection of French songs performed by Ruari Gallagher. Ruari hails from Belfast and has spent the past few years in the south of France. His vocals and guitar accompaniment went down well and we hope to invite him back soon for one of our Extra! events.

The Dark Horse Coffee Shop was soon packed and Philip McGrory got the technology going for his talk on the Paris Catacombs. He began by taking us through the early history of the site as one of Paris's main limestone quarries. He explained that in 1780, the main cemetery of the city, the Cimetière des Saints-Innocents near Les Halles was forced to close due to its dire threat to public health. The decision was taken to remove remains of those buried there to the disused quarry site and to establish an Ossuary. Remains from other cemeteries were added with the result that skulls and longbones of around 6,000,000 people are preserved there.

Using pictures and web sources, Philip escorted us on a virtual tour. We visited the Workshop and saw how quarrymen cut through the stone to leave pillars of rock standing to support the ceiling. We stopped at the Quarrymen's footbath, a spring where workers drew water for mixing cement; We moved into the Ossuary, marked by a sign over the doorway instructing, " Arrête c'est ici l'empire de la mort". We stopped at the Sepulchral Lamp one of the oldest structures in the catacombs. Quarrymen lit fires in the lamp to create draughts and currents of air. He brought us to Gilbert's Tomb, a piece of reinforcement work designed to look like a stone sarcophagus. And of course we viewed those skulls and longbones. Philip had sourced the biblical origins of the text on the picture above and, thinking about it, we spared thoughts for people now long gone. Finally, we exited to a quiet Parisian street which showed little awareness of what lay beneath.

A show of hands revealed others had also been and all commented on the respectful silence of the place, several metres below the metro and the nearby Place Denfert Rochereau.

Our evening came to a close with several people saying they had not known that the catacombs existed. They mentioned that they would be paying their own visit the next time they were in Paris.

Thanks Philip for a thoroughly researched, fascinating and respectful tour.



13 novembre 2012

The Paris Catacombs

On Wednesday evening, 14 November, Philip McGRORY will be taking us "underground" to explore the history of and escort us "through" the Paris Catacombs.  The time: 19h 30  Venue: The Dark Horse

French influences on 18th century Ireland

Fifty people, one of our largest attendances in recent years, listened attentively as Dr Eamon PHOENIX provided an illustrated talk on French Influences on Ireland in the 18th century.  Eamon had previously addressed the cercle at our annual dinner a few years ago, so in a way it was like resuming an old conversation.
This time though, his historical anecdotes recalling stories and events that took place in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter over two centuries ago seemed to many of us in the Dark Horse Coffee Shop, perhaps a prison in those days, very close indeed.
Eamon's already extensive talk was supplemented by a range of responses to questions from his audience. He spoke of more recent examples of French influences particularly in relation to Northern Ireland and although members could have listened all night, reluctantly we had to bring the evening to a close.
Were you there? What do you think? Did you ask a question? Please share your views on the blog.

11 octobre 2012

The next meeting of the Cercle Français de Belfast will be on …

Mercredi  17 octobre 2012
à 19.30 heures,
in Dark Horse Coffee House,
30-34, Hill Street Belfast BT1 2LB
Topic: French influences on Ireland in the 18th century                                    
Speaker:   Éamon Phoenix

Following up on his much appreciated talk a few years ago at our Annual Dinner, we are delighted that historian and broadcaster Éamon Phoenix has agreed to give a talk on this year's programme.

Fest Diez
The monthly session of Breton Dancing in Belfast takes place
on Saturday 13th October 2012
in Madden’s Bar, 74 Berry Street, Belfast
from 5pm to 8pm
As always the music will be provided by French and Irish musicians and Amélie will be there to guide you through the steps.
For more information see the  BreizhEire website 

French films showing at QFT this month.

(Not screening on Thurs 11 Oct)


Dir: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano
France • 2011 • 1 hr 52 mins
Cast: François Clu Zet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny
 English subtitles
A box office smash in its native France, Untouchable has shades of The King’s Speech and Driving Miss Daisy in its story of a quadriplegic white millionaire given a new lease of life by his unconventional black carer.
As always it is worth checking out the full details of QFT’s October programme at …http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com/

29 septembre 2012

Stephane Wrembel comes to Belfast!

Who? I hear you say. Well, if you saw Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, there's a good chance you'll recognize Stephane Wrembel's sound, if not his name.


The oh-so-French guitar heard throughout the movie is the work of this Parisian-born musician. Wrembel says he gleaned his style of playing from the musicians at a Gypsy camp in the French countryside, which he would visit several times a week growing up.


As part of his Ireland/UK tour this wonderful guitarist is visiting Belfast for one night only. You can see ..


Stephane Wrembel Live

At Pavilion Boutique Bar, 296 Ormeau Road, Belfast
On Friday
5th October 2012
20:00 hrs (Doors Open)
Price: £13.00

Appearing with Stephane will be a full line-up of bass, rhythm guitar and percussion and he will be performing the music from his new album which includes songs from ‘Midnight in Paris’ as well as many other original compositions.

Stephane is also playing in Dublin at the National Concert Hall on Thursday 4th October.

18 septembre 2012

Cercle programme launched

The opening event to launch this year's programme for the Cercle Français de Belfast took place this evening in the Dark Horse Coffee House in the Cathedral Quarter. Nearly 50 people turned up and several took out membership on the spot. The programme published on a separate page on this site is a varied one and many of the speakers were present to explain what their talk would cover.

After the programme was announced some of the participants took to the floor to provide commentaries on photos they had taken on a recent trip to France. Amélie had submitted a photo of a château in her native Franche-Comte and urged us to go visit; Hélène, an inhabitant of Paris showed her photos of the Basque Country and a beautiful coastal chateau close to Biarritz.  Helene's contribution was closely followed by Michael who this and every year heads to Provence in search of Azur blue skies. That colour was much in evidence in his photos of Avignon and Uzes, in the Languedoc.  Claudine shared some fascinating photos of another chateau, concentrating this time on its use as a prison for some well-to-do offenders. Claudine's husband, Seamus followed up by showing pictures of his gardening efforts around the family home near Blois. Finally, Jim shared a photo montage of French country windows set to music with accompanying captions which he translated.

There is something about  evenings such as this when members share their experiences and enthusiasms. Many of those attending complimented the night and the programme. Relaxed and informal, the atmosphere of the Dark Horse could have matched a grand café in Paris and certainly there was a buzz of conversation in both English and French.  We need to do more of this.

Were you there? Do you agree? See you next time!

À la prochaine!

15 juillet 2012

La Fête à Wallace Park, Lisburn

photo: Rym Akhonzada
The bandstand in Wallace Park, Lisburn was the focal point for 14 July Bastille Day celebrations. Organised as part of the City's Park Life programme to encourage use of public spaces, it was pleasing to see the many "citizens" who gathered to occupy the bandstand area. The idea was to create a café style atmosphere by creating a round of patio tables covered in red checked cloths. A large public address system squeezed out French accordion music while people organised themselves with refreshments.

A coffee truck was stationed nearby and seemed to be doing quite a trade in not only coffee but ice cream. Local restaurant Periwig had prepared a French themed menu of treats including a liver pâté parfait served on toasted brioche; fishcakes; macarons in a variety of colours and profiteroles served with hot chocolate sauce.

Anthea McWilliams of the Sir Richard Wallace Trust moved to the stand to tell the story of Sir Richard and his connection to both Lisburn and Paris. She referred to his legacy of the "peoples park" itself, to the Wallace School which she attended and to the Wallace Fountains, his enduring gift to the people of France. Anthea shared details of the Wallace walking tour and encouraged everyone to give it a go.

After another musical interlude, Natasha and Alison from Interlinguani, a local language teaching school organised a glove puppet show in French for the many children who had come along. They then entertained them with a story, encouraging them to learn and use simple French words. They offered prizes of chocolate, checking first with mums and dads that that was okay, to those who were the loudest, the quietest and those who got the French just right.

To the left of the bandstand there was a constant queue of parents and young children lining up to have their faces painted. Moustaches were everywhere, Pierrot faces and some aristocratic Marie Antoinette looks too.

Interlinguani shared a gazebo with the Cercle Français de Belfast. Rym, Director of the school was kept busy meeting parents and supplying their children with colouring-in pictures and pens. Alongside, Hilary from the Cercle was just as busy, blowing balloons. A lot of her effort was punctured however as several youngsters burst their balloons to discover the little paper message in French that had been placed in each. Nearby, leisure staff had roped off a piste de pétanque and several adults and children tried their hand at throwing boules, many for the first time.

Back to the stand and the Bailies Mills Accordion Band had taken their seats to play an assortment of French standards including the occasional rendition of La Marseillaise. Beret and marine shirted musicians had dressed for the part adding touches of good humour to the proceedings.

Anthea took to the stage again, this time to read from the Richard Wallace Storybook created by the Trust. Its simple style and illustrations appealed to the children and were also appreciated by their elders. More puppets and story time from Alison and Natasha, then back to the accordionists to bring the event to an end.

Carolyn, event organiser with Lisburn City's Leisure Services, was pleased at the turn out. She was particularly pleased that so many French nationals had participated. Although a hundred or more people had attended, more important than the number was the fact that people had got together around the bandstand to enjoy the occasion and use the facility. Given his close connections to France, no doubt Sir Richard would have been pleased that his people's park had been the focal point for a successful local celebration of La Fête Nationale.



29 juin 2012


Some of our talented musicians on the evening of La Fête de la Musique

Fête de la Musique: 21 juin 2012

More than 60 people turned up on 21 June at the Dark horse Coffee Shop, Belfast to celebrate the Fête de la Musique.  The music, song and dance event was skilfully orchestrated by Vannessa FRANCHETTI in association  with the CFB.  Vanessa's team encouraged and cajoled participants to take to the floor, while The Dark Horse crew were kept busy making up cheeseboards and serving wine.

Many French people came along and it was great to hear the language punctuating the lively atmosphere.  Many complimented the choice of venue and even though the weather wasn't great we were able to fêter la musique au sec!