Sheringham Shantymen’s French festival visit

Nineteen Sheringham Shantymen went over to the small French port of Saint Vaast about 25 kilometres east of Cherbourg to perform at 'premier' shanty festival.

The group performed alongside three French and one other English shanty choir, and stayed at the la Hougue medieval fortress built by Vauban in 1692 and were royally entertained by our hosts led by Jean-Yves Ladune.

The fortress has an amazing history much of which is closely tied to the invading English. Even the local churches were designed like castles so that the local community could retreat safely into them when the English invaders came.

But there weekend was awash with modern day kinship as the local community welcomed their former invaders with Gallic generosity.

The festival was run by volunteers from the local community who give their time freely to help organize a whole series of events to help publicise the area.

In between performances the Shantymen and other guests ate local French food liberally spiced with local red and white wines prepared at the Fortress by the volunteers.

The area specialised in seafoods including oysters whelks and a variety of fish soups with French breads and a variety of cheeses.

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During the group's last performance on Sunday afternoon, which received a standing ovation, they included their hosts in singing a French version of the shanty Santiano.