On the afternoon of Friday 20th June, Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum, assisted by Karl Bullock, reached dizzying heights to raise French Standards over St. Leonard’s Place, York, flagging up a series of events that will soon be taking place in the city.
Make no mistake, these events are part of the city’s Cultural Festival of the Grand Départ, but the reason that this part of the city is not turning yellow and, instead, taking on a more French theme, is because the Grand Départ coincides exactly with the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the two French Squadron’s of RAF Bomber Command. These squadron’s which saw 2300 French personnel stationed at Elvington, provides one of both York’s, and the region itself’s most significant links to France. Elvington was indeed known as “Le Petit France!” 346 Guyenne Squadron and 347 Tunisie Squadron’s carried out their first combined operations on 1st July 1944, bombing targets in their own homeland.
To celebrate this important anniversary, the Yorkshire Air Museum has commissioned a series of events in the city. These are “Maintenant”, which is a conceptual sound art experience painting a picture with sound, featuring 100 sounds of York and 100 sounds of Paris, created by award winning artist Lee Lewis. This is being exhibited in the Keregan Room of York Theatre Royal from 28th June to 6th July from 10:30am to 5pm with admission free.
A new play, ‘Cis and Barbiche’, based on a true wartime romance between a French airman at Elvington and the girl he meets on arrival in Liverpool will be staged in The Studio at York Theatre Royal. Written and produced by acclaimed Australian actress Jenny Davis, the play will premiere on Thursday 3rd July until Saturday 5th July. The play was so well received in Perth, Western Australia, that a second run had to be staged, again playing to packed houses. The young Australian cast are coming all the way over to bring the play to life on the York stage.
Perhaps the flagship event is La Grand Soirée des Officiers Français, taking place in the De Grey Rooms magnificent ballroom on the evening of Wednesday 2nd July. This is where the French airmen would dance the night away before taking to the skies again, perhaps never to return. This event is a 4 course VIP dinner with fine wine from the Jurade St. Emillion with the music of Paris based singer Jean-Jacques Delaunay and his band. The event is held in conjunction with City of York Council, with the aim of raising funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, the official charity of the Yorkshire Grand Départ. Tickets are going fast, but some still available at £80 each from the council on: 01904 554100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.