Brittany association welcomes new arrivals

It’s all fun and games at the AIKB’s summer fête, but the organisation offers year-round assistance and support for English-speaking people in the picturesque Brittany region

The chief aim of this Brittany based association is found in its name, Association Intégration Kreiz Breizh (the last two words are Breton for Central Brittany) as it helps newcomers settle into their new lives in the region.

As well as organising activities such as French lessons, outings, a conversation club, fundraising events, a library and get togethers, it provides help with administrative tasks. It has links to the different French authorities and, unusually, it has its own radio show.

Maggie Fee works in the association’s centre at Gouarec in the Côtes-d’Armor: “The most common requests are for help with the health and tax system, but we give advice on a whole range of subjects.

“We have formed a partnership with the CPAM in Côtes-D’Armor, and we can contact them directly by email, which is very helpful.

“We also work with the local tax offices. It is a two-way relationship as we can ask them for information, but they also contact us sometimes if they need help with someone. 

“I give a presentation about the French administrative system to our members, explaining our obligations as residents and how to access the system.”

At present, Brexit is a topic of concern: “We can’t give any answers yet, but I have run conferences on how to apply for a carte de séjour and French nationality.

“We have also been delighted to take part in a research project initiated by the Brittany region which covers all aspects of the possible effects of Brexit on the area in terms of trade, fishing, education and agriculture, and we were questioned about the impact on British citizens living here.”

The association has 580 members but in reality we have more as each membership card can be for a single person, couple or family.

Mrs Fee says that even though she has heard that some British people are leaving France because of Brexit, she feels there is a growing number of people coming to Brittany: “Our emphasis is very much on giving people the tools to integrate into the community.

“We have activity clubs, but we make sure they do not double up on local ones in the area, so we can also offer something to the local French population.”

A radio show, Spotlight Radio, run by AIKB, aims to give English-speakers information about Brittany. One of the presenters is retired teacher Elaine Agrell: “We want to open people’s eyes up to what is going on so they will go out and meet French and Breton people.

“Our programme started in 2007 and was then a 15-minute weekly show broadcast on a Breton radio station, which lent us their studios.

“Now it is a monthly, 30-minute broadcast, on two local stations but also over the internet, via our website plus you can listen to it as a podcast. We have our own studio.”

The programme covers many different topics: “We don’t want to be a tourist programme, we want to reflect life in Brittany.

“We have interviewed the director of the Vieilles Charrues Music Festival and been to Lorient and visited the submarine base, for example.

“Usually the interviews are in English, but if they are in French we add an English voice over. We will talk to anyone with an interesting story about their life here.

“We recently chatted to American and Australian people living here, as we thought it is such a long way from home for them. They told us they love living the simple life here.”

The annual subscription to AIKB is €40 per household per year, with a one-off joining fee of €10. The premises are open at Gouarec from Tuesday to Friday, 10.30am-1pm and 2pm-6pm.

On September 14, there will be an outing to Château de la Ballue and a conference, Getting into The French System on September 27.

New members are welcome and details of events are posted on the Connexion website as well as the organisation’s own site, www.aikb.fr Email info@aikb.fr phone: 02 96 24 87 90 

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