Best festivals and events in France October 2020

What's on this month in France? A fashion exhibition, a festival about architecture, a day celebrating nature and more...

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Le Festival Zig Zag, Normandy, October 3 - 18

The Zig Zag Festival celebrates the art, natural spaces and variety of architecture along the Vallée de la Seine (the Seine Valley). Home to approximately 11 million inhabitants, the Seine Valley sits between Ile-de-France and Normandy. Its vast variation of landscapes inspired this festival, which encourages the architecturally and historically curious to explore the different towns, countryside and industrial zones along the Seine Valley, to learn about their history.

The main focus of this year’s festival, however, is not to simply admire the history, but to be able to “appropriate these transforming spaces”, making them “places of life for tomorrow”, an organiser told Connexion. With a rich but fragile ecosystem, the Seine Valley is one that is aware of its need to evolve. The Zig Zag festival will play a part in it re-inventing itself. Attendees can enjoy 30 events spread across the Seine Valley, from Achères to Deauville and Elbeuf-sur-Seine to Goustranville, to name a few.

Each event will give each space a voice, and a narrative and open dialogue will be encouraged. To help visitors understand each local environment, tours will be available – on foot, by boat or by bike – as well as installations, street art, performances, and opportunities for conversations with architects, elected officials, town planners, landscapers and artists.

Le Festival Zig Zag is put on by The Maison de l’Architecture de Normandie, a cultural centre dedicated to architecture in the Saint-Marc district. It works on initiating conversation between elected officials and residents, and does this by creating spaces “for discussion and reflection on the making of the city, peri-urban and rural territories”.

Here are some of the highlights to see, as recommended by organisers:

  • “GENIUS 2020 : D’UN QUAI À L’AUTRE”: Collective Les Gens des Lieux turn the interface of the Saint Nicolas district and the Scheldt area on its head, opening up a new perspective on the space and proposing something different, by erecting a wild garden in the middle of a port wasteland;
  • “LA FRICHE LUCIEN”: have brunch on the Friche Lucien, a space on SNCF’s land awaiting the new station in Rouen. In 4000m2, a creative community will gather and offer concerts, exhibitions, markets and workshops. Come here to discuss with the space’s designers and enjoy this unique site. Register on for brunch;
  • “LE REGARD DE [TRAVERS]”: An interactive experience combining art and aerial dance. Created by In Fine and the Small Bang creative studio. Walk through this lively experience watching choreographies that tell stories of the heritage of the city.

All activities are free, but the organisers recommend registering for the workshops beforehand, as a limited number of spots are available.

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Fête de la Nature, across France, October 7 - 11

The 2020 edition of France’s Fête de la Nature offers a chance for visitors to reconnect with nature after a long and, as many people experienced it to be, a very lonely lockdown. For those who were confined with no outdoor space, this year’s Fête de la Nature cannot come soon enough.

The 14th instalment of the festival runs for five days and will include thousands of events on the subject of biodiversity. The events, all free, will take place all across the country. The organisers of this year’s event, now more than ever, aim to encourage visitors to not only engage with nature at the festival, but also in their own lives, too.

The theme is ‘Let’s take the seed!’ and will be explored in the form of a variety of events organized by conservation and nature associations, schools, businesses, local communities and also individuals who’ll be opening up their gardens for visitors to peruse and take inspiration from.

We asked organisers of the festival to share some highlights:

  • SAVING ALSACE’S LARGE HAMSTER: Conservationists have warned that a species of hamster native to Alsace is in “critical danger” of extinction, with only around 1,500 left today compared to hundreds of thousands in the 1970s. The French Biodiversity Office and Naturoparc have committed to a conservation programme to protect the species. Visitors will gain an understanding of what goes into conservatorship and explore the project behind the scenes;
  • OPEN PARKS: a new addition to the festival’s offering, Fête de la Nature has partnered with the French Biodiversity Office to open up a multitude of regional natural parks, marine natural parks and nature reserves;
  • NATURE TRAILS: via the Explorama application. Visitors can use the Explorama application to discover local biodiversity and natural heritage through the creation of geolocated and personalized quizzes that visitors of all ages can enjoy.

Fête de la Nature was conceived in 2007 and has since inspired Switzerland and The Netherlands to put on something similar. It is a one of a kind festival, one whose visitor numbers have grown year on year as more and more people lean into engaging with nature, learning how beneficial it is, and how much it is lacking in so many of our lives, especially those in busy cities. The organisers of this year’s events expect Fête de la Nature 2020 to be a happy success with newly bloomed nature-lovers coming out to discover all the biodiversity, flora and fauna France has to offer.

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Art, Fashion and Subversion, Lyon, until January 17

Lyon’s Musée des Tissus is playing host to a fashion exhibition showcasing the Lee Price Vivienne Westwood Collection. It is the first exhibition dedicated to the British designer, Westwood, and features over 200 pieces spanning half a century of the designer’s career in fashion.

Vivienne Westwood has been a staple in the fashion industry for over 50 years. Her designs constantly creative and daring, Westwood often draws on the past, proves time and time again that punk is not dead, and also incorporates environmental activism into her collections and shows. She highlights the best parts of British culture, paying homage to the fashion of the Middle Ages and intertwining historical themes with contemporary styles.

Lee Price is a Briton living in Lyon, where this exhibition takes place. A close collaborator of Westwood, Price has assembled countless textiles and accessories for the designer, and is now a collector and guardian of some of Westwood’s greatest works. Art, Fashion and Subversion, three words which together describe Westwood’s ethos and style completely, will celebrate this particular collection and guide attendees chronologically through the long career of the unique designer, from dressing the punk movement in 1976, to publishing her manifesto, Active Resistance to Propaganda, in 2007.

The exhibition features textiles, furniture, costumes, works of art, paintings and drawings, and also invites fashion-loving attendees to examine Westwood’s influences and techniques.

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Lanvellec and Trégor Festival, Côtes-d’Armor, October 10 - 24

This year marks the 34th edition of the Lanvellec and Trégor Festival, a grand music festival celebrating the early music of Trégor. It was founded by an association who came together in 1986 to promote, celebrate and share the Robert Dallam organ of Lanvellec, an instrument which dates back to 1653 and was classified as a French historic Monument in 1971 and 1977. The organ, completely unique in design and sound, is a key instrument in Lanvellec’s musical heritage.

The association curates two other events, the Spring Festival and the Academy of Ancient Music, aiming to bring traditional music into the ears and hearts of classic music lovers across the globe. This year’s schedule is slightly shorter than previous years because of the coronavirus, but the team is thrilled to be putting on the event at all.

“After these somewhat surreal first months of the year when we had to cancel all our demonstrations, the vital momentum pushed us to keep our fall festival going,” says festival Directeur Christian Langenfeld. It is organised into three weekends, each offering different concerts. There is also a conference.

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Weekend one is October 10-11. There will be a concert of sacred and secular music of the 16th century Renaissance, performed in the grand Notre-Dame Church, Plouaret. The second concert, ‘The Celestial Banquet’, will be of 17th century French sacred music performed in Saint-Brandan Church, Lanvellec.

Weekend two, October 16-17, will see two concerts, one on French baroque and contemporary music by The Musicians of Saint-Julien hosted at Champ au Roy Theater, Guingamp, the other featuring soloist Violaine Le Chenadec performing 17th century Italian baroque music in Saint-Brandan Church.

The final weekend, October 23-24, boasts two concerts and a conference. The first concert, named The Garden of Eden, will showcase Medieval music from the 14th century in the Théâtre de l’Arche, Tréguier. The conference will take place in Espace Saint-Anne, Lannion, led by Musicologist Denis Morrier. Finally, the second and final concert, ‘Music for the Emporor’, will explore 17th century German baroque music on the infamous Robert Dallam organ and a harpsichord. This will be held at the Saint-Brandan Church, Lanvellec.

The festival is a combination of traditional, ancient music and heritage, and offers an insight into past centuries, bringing historic music into 2020.

The Connexion works with local tourist offices for the information on this page. Due topossible last-minute changes to programmes and event timing werecommend that you always check withindividual organisers before making a trip.