A bit of Ooh La La in Doncaster

Every month in the town of Tickhill, the Parish Room takes on a distinctly French flavour, in terms of food, chat, entertainment and even dress.

By Sally Burton
Tuesday, 04 June, 2019, 20:38
Folk band Lys de Saint Georges

Les Francophiles de Tickhill is the only French society in Doncaster, but it draws people from all around the area.

Members travel from North Anston, Retford, Blaxton and Wickersley to enjoy lively French conversation and interest with like-minded others.

Janet Erridge of Tickhill is the current Chair of the Francophiles. She is a retired university lecturer, and until recently acted as an interpreter in French for Doncaster Council.

She explained: "Our Society was founded in 2003 by Guy Richeux, who has since moved back to France. He started it with several residents of Tickhill, including Chris Phinn, Peter Chappell and Claire Brown.

"We regularly have speakers, both from L' Alliance Française and from more local areas.

“Food is sometimes a topic...next year we shall be inviting a baker from Penistone to talk about French bread and a butcher from Retford to talk about French butchery.

She continued: "Recently we were entertained by the Yorkshire plants woman, Sarah Hopps, who gave us an illustrated talk on 'The Gardens of France'.

“As well as running her own nursery, Sarah leads guided tours to gardens abroad.

“She set up a stall of her own spring produce, to allow us to buy some beautiful plants.”

The talk followed the AGM and election of officers for the next year.

There was a special May Day celebration, 'Un Bal Champetre' on May 1, said Janet, with the folk band Lys St Georges, led by Peter Barnard from the Isle of Axholme.

They provided music and demonstrated traditional French country folk dances, from central France and Brittany, for Francophiles to join in with.

“We watched how the line and circle dances should be done, then gradually got up and joined in,” explained Janet.

“Some steps were straightforward, others intricate. Visitors came from Sheffield and from Clayworth to get involved..

“We were ably led by Peter Barnard and his partner Kate Billmore, with minstrels Dave Prebble and Katy Robinson.

“Our membership is about 40 in number and we fit snugly into the Tickhill Parish Room, which dates back to the fifteenth century.

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“Our aim is to foster an interest in France and all things French.

“We run a programme of 10 meetings per year, some with speakers, some with homemade French food, celebrating perhaps "La Fête de Noël" and "La Fête de la Bastille", and some with activities such as playing Boules and dancing.”

Talks are in English but always with a French flavour, added Janet.

They enjoyed a talk given in February by Bessacarr resident, Neil Robson, whose uncle's plane was shot down in Normandy in WW2.

This session was both factual and poignant, said the Chairwoman.

“As a result of it we were able to give a donation towards a memorial plaque to commemorate the young airman, some 78 years after his death. The plaque will be sited on the Mairie of the village of Croisilles, near Caen.”

Meetings of the group are held in the Parish Room in Tickhill at 7.30pm on the first Wednesday of the month, between October and July. Refreshments are provided.

New members and visitors are always welcome, and membership of the Francophiles is £15 per annum, or three pounds per meeting for visitors.

A little earlier in the year, folk in France will have celebrated “La Fête du Chandeleur” (Candlemas) and in places like Dunkirk and Nice the carnival season will have got underway, and the group can share such festivities in their own way,said Janet.

Buffets with, naturally, a French theme, are likely to include quiche, moules, French bread, French onion soup, maybe a croque monsieur or madame, and of course, French wine.

This may be the way the evening goes on the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, and games of boules may be included in the celebration.

A March speaker they enjoyed was Peter Elliott of Sheffield, who spoke about his research into the Resistance in France in WW2.

He was followed by local art historian, Rachel Hargreaves-Holland, who gave an interesting illustrated talk on the works of French artist, Renoir.

“We are not one of a very few societies in Tickhill,” added Janet.

“There are around 40, based on all kinds of interests. It is that kind of a place, very community focused.”

For further details about the club or about becoming a member, contact Jan Murray, 07463 007789