Good neighbours mark France's 20th Fête des Voisins

A plaque has been unveiled on the Paris building where the first "Neighbours' Day" was held in 1999.

An estimated 30million people in 50 countries around the world are celebrating Fête des Voisins (Neighbours' Day) on Friday, May 24 - an annual event that started 20 years ago in France.

A plaque with the legend "Ici est née la fête des Voisins" was unveiled on Thursday to the front of the apartment building in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, where the first Neighbours' Day was held two decades ago.

Residents who were there at the first event were on hand to watch the unveiling. "We didn't know if there would be any people. In the end, we had filled the courtyard. The goal was for us to talk to each other" a 61-year-old called Isabelle, who was one of the very first fête's attendees, told Le Parisien.

The annual celebration was the brainchild of Atanase Périfan, who had the idea in 1999 after discovering an elderly woman had died in her apartment and not been found for four months because nobody in the building went out of their way to meet or talk to their neighbours.

It became a nationwide event the following year. By 2004 it had spread to Europe and had become known as European Neighbours’ Day, with seven countries taking part and 22 joining in by 2006.

Although it is supported by local authorities and housing associations, the main aim is to encourage local residents to take the lead and organise parties themselves.

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