Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of lace manufacturing in Calais.

This is a recollection of the event by Philip Emerson who was an organizer of the event. Many thanks.
This event was two years in the planning. The main points were to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the beginning of lace manufacturing in Calais, to promote interest in the historic links between Nottingham and Calais, and to build support for a National Museum of Textiles, Costume and Fashion for Nottingham by giving people the chance to visit the International Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais. About 48 people came from Nottingham and elsewhere in England, of which 28 were members of the choir.

I was able to invite a number of French friends and family including:  Christine Loez and her daughter Julie Rivière who came from Paris for the occasion, Françoise Deguines, Née Loez, and her husband Antoines, and Colette Young Boot who knew Bobbie very well (my paternal aunt, Hilda Emerson) - all descendants of Charles Arnett by his first marriage to Sarah Ann Gilbert.  On the Bomy  side, my sister Caroline and her husband Jean Jaques, Ghislaine Bomy née Vanheeckhoet and her daughter France and her son in law Pascal Leroy  and their three little girls. On the Desseilles side, Michel Cocquempot a retired lace designer. Marc Greenhill, whose ancestor Thomas Greenhill also emigrated from Kent to Calais kindly came along. Thomas Greenhill taught for a while at Charles Arnett’s school in the early 1840s.    

At 10 ’o’ clock on Saturday morning we were invited to a reception in Calais’ neo-flemish Hôtel de Ville where we were welcomed by  Deputy Mayor Philippe Mignonet who is bilingual and therefore occasionally answers questions on British TV news. There were other city councillors, Calais movers and shakers and  a few members of the small British community in Calais. After the welcome reception visitors had the choice of witnessing the 11th November wreath laying ceremony, or visiting the iconic 75 metre high town hall belfry.

Turning off the Place d’Arm onto the Rue de la Paix just before 3 ‘o’ clock, I was astonished to see there was already a long queue forming outside the west door of Notre-Dame de Calais. By the time the concert started thirty minutes later, the church was full with some people standing at the back. The audience, in excess of 800 people, was more than at any previous concert at this annual weekend music festival. I said a few words in French at the beginning to explain the historic context - viz. two hundredth  anniversary of the beginning of  lace manufacturing in Calais, etc, (see attachment).

The sea of faces made quite an impression on the members of Choir of Saint Mary’s in the Lace Market, Nottingham, who had never sung to such a large audience before. Appropriately enough, since the church was largely built by the English during the English occupation of Calais from 1347 to 1558, most of the music dated from the Tudor period sung a capella, with three pieces evoking the Armistice at the end. The all adult choir including a number of students from Nottingham’s universities sang as well, if not better, than most British cathedral choirs, and they got a standing ovation as they left. The three leading sopranos could probably crack a wine glass at 5 metres, though they were not put to the test!

After the concert Councillor Dominique Darré did a tour of the church with Christina translating. My grateful thanks to Christina and Caroline for acting as official interpreters and ice-breakers. Also, to Christina for driving me from Cuckfield to Calais and back. Altogether, a most remarkable and memorable occasion.

Philip Emerson's speech in French
Notre Dame de Calais photo 2014
Musée international de la dentelle à Calais
Saint Mary's choir | videos  You Tube
Mes billets sur la dentelle de Calais

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