“The town is alive – there’s always something going on,” Carl, our host in Perpignan, had told us when he took us for a coffee shortly after we arrived. “I’ll hear a trumpet and drums from my window and I’ll stick my head out and there’ll be a band and crowd moving down the street, so I’ll just go and follow them,” he said.
Which is exactly what he did the next day and why we followed him when he phoned to tell us there were costumed dancers and drummers in the streets, and they were headed for the Place de la République, Perpignan’s main square.
We had noticed guys setting up a stage for some kind of concert when we were on the Place that morning, but we had assumed it might have been associated with the Good Friday Procession de la Sanch, one of the main reasons for our trip to Perpignan. It wasn’t.
Instead, the Place was a riot of colour and sound courtesy of an eco-themed fête to celebrate France’s national sustainable development week or Semaine du Développement Durable. Families, groups of children, dance and theatre troupes, jazz bands, performance artists, jugglers and fire-eaters, filled the square.
Kids wore homemade costumes created from recycled materials, their parents and the good citizens of Perpignan wore green sun hats, and there were plenty of eco-friendly products on display, and organic treats to try.
Perpignan, a city of festivals, is famous for its non-stop calendar of festivals, concerts and events held throughout the warmer months, especially in summer when events are geared toward the holiday crowds.
The most popular is Le Festival d’Été de Perpignan or the Summer Festival of Perpignan, which has a jam-packed programme of dance, music, theatre and film, and is held throughout most of July. Perpignan also hosts a highly regarded International Festival of Photojournalism, Visa Pour L’Image, held from August through September.
This, we’re guessing, was very different to the festivals for which the Catalan city is famous. This little fête was very much a family-oriented, community-driven event and there was something so endearingly local about the performances, the handmade costumes, the hastily put-together displays, as well as the laidback atmosphere. See for yourself.