Voilah! French festival of arts and food goes to the heartland

Voilah!, the annual French arts and culture festival, is going into the heartland in a big way

Heartland residents will be getting a taste of French flavour next month.

They can watch a live performance of traditional French music at a library in Woodlands or a community club in Kallang and even tuck into French cuisine at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West in Choa Chu Kang.

These events are part of Voilah!, the annual French festival of arts and culture in Singapore organised by the French Embassy in Singapore and Institut Francais Singapour.

Starting today and running for seven weeks till May 31, the festival boasts 40 programmes encompassing visual and performance art, music, film and even science.

This year, the organisers are making a concerted effort to take the programmes to community spaces and the heartland.

The Baudoin Bros, a duo who play traditional folk music from the Gascony region in south-west France, will play at venues such as the Kallang Community Club, Woodlands Regional Library and Temasek Polytechnic in Tampines.

Their acoustic performances - termed "musical meet-ups" - take place from May 18 to 28.

Over at ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang, Chez West, a restaurant run by students, will whip up French food for a special Voilah! menu, curated in collaboration with French culinary school Institut Paul Bocuse. The menu - to be offered from May 11 to 23, excluding weekends - will be decided through a culinary challenge on April 29 among final-year students of the restaurant management course.

Mr Benjamin Dubertret, the Ambassador of France to Singapore, says: "It is our ultimate goal to propose as Franco-Singaporean a festival as possible and get the local community involved."

Most of the festival's activities are free, including the programmes taking place tonight and this weekendthat open the festival.

These include a mass picnic and a French classical music concert at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and a giant light installation and parade, Lumineoles Ballet, which will travel around Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay.

Many of the programmes have been decentralised this year to reach out to more people in places outside of the city.

Mr Dubertret says that while being present in public spaces and offering free programmes are not new, "this is the first time that we are really extending the reach of Voilah! into the community".

The performances by The Baudoin Bros in community spaces are made possible through the festival's partnership with the National Arts Council.

It hopes to bring "the arts to community spaces to make it convenient for everyone to encounter and enjoy great art", says Ms Chua Ai Liang, the council's director of arts and communities.

Last year's festival attracted an audience of about 275,000. The festival was held annually from 2007 to 2012 and revived last year in conjunction with 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and France.

The south-west of France is the regional focus for this year's festival.

Culinary specialities from this region, such as Jambon de Bayonne, cured ham from the south-western port city of Bayonne, and Ossau- Iraty cheese from France's Basque country, are offered at the companion Voilah! Food Festival, which features promotions and special events by more than 50 food-and-beverage partners.

Hear the hurdy-gurdy and other weird instruments

Roman Baudoin (left) with a hurdy-gurdy and Mateu Baudoin with a violin. PHOTO: NICOLAS GODIN

The Baudoin Bros would have you know that they are not, in fact, brothers. "We are cousins. Our fathers are brothers. But we have been playing music together for 15 years," says Mateu Baudoin, 35, the younger cousin.

Together with Roman Baudoin, 39, he is part of a duo that specialise in folk music from the Gascony region in south-west France. They hail from different towns located near the Pyrenees mountains in France.

The cousins will perform their acoustic sets in Singapore from May 18 to 28 at several community venues including Kallang Community Club, Woodlands Regional Library and Temasek Polytechnic.


Designers behind the buildings

People's Park Complex is one of the buildings photographed as part of the Urban Fork Exhibition as part of Voilah! PHOTO: COURTESY OF PHILIPPE DIVERSY AND BOB LEE

People's Park Complex, Golden Mile Complex and OCBC Centre are architectural icons in Singapore, but do you know who the skilful designers behind each structure are?

To shed light on the history behind these three buildings and five others, French photographer-designer Philippe Diversy and Singaporean photographer Bob Lee put on a photography and design exhibition called Urban Fork.

The free exhibition will be held at indie cinema The Projector from May 5 to 31 as part of this year's edition of Voilah!, the annual French festival of arts and culture.


Festival highlights

The Lumineoles Ballet will be part of this year's Voilah!. PHOTO: PORTE PAR LE VENT


If you are in the Marina Bay area this evening, look up and you might spot colourful fish-like figures lighting up the night sky.

Created by French art company Porte Par Le Vent, these dream-like 7m by 15m "kites" will glide through the air from Clifford Pier to the ArtScience Museum tonight, before heading to the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay tomorrow evening.


French nibbles

Chez West restaurant, located at ITE College West. PHOTO: ITE COLLEGE WEST


While restaurants, bakeries and wineries across Singapore celebrate French gastronomy as part of Voilah! French Food Festival 2016, students at ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang are also getting in on the action.

At Chez West, a 40-seat restaurant in the school, several dishes on the menu will be created and prepared by these youngsters.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'A breath of French air'. Subscribe