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My French Life: Straw Sculpture competition Seven Valleys, Pas-de-Calais

Saturday was Straw sculpture Day! Lots of villages in the Seven Valleys take part and vie with each other to build a something out of straw to win a coveted cup for best sculptural composition!

Using a few props is allowed but strictly controlled and the whole raison d’être is to use 90% plus straw to create something aesthetically pleasing, topical – and a bit of humour helps.

It’s a fiercely fought competition, last year one village got very ambitious and tried to create an ethereal concept (no one seems to know exactly what and those that do aren’t telling) off site.  However on the day when they had to erect their masterpiece on the village green disaster struck – it was so huge and complex that it wasn’t possible to transport it well and the whole thing collapsed.

The monuments to straw are erected only the night before or on the day. My village took part and it seemed that half of the residents were out on the bowling green at midnight erecting their tour de force! Bottles of wine and glasses were procured and much merriment was had while the dogs in the village joined in barking and howling – they’re not used to noise at this time of night!

On the day of the contest, voting forms are available and it’s a tradition for everyone for miles around to tour each village on the straw trail and vote for their favourite. As night falls lights are turned on along the straw route called “Les illuminations”. Some villages take it very seriously, lighting tall braziers, others get their Christmas lights out and trail them around a fence post or rose bush.

The roads are clogged with cars touring round each lighted work of art, all driving at a snail’s pace and sometimes stopping mid road to leap out and vote!

For me it typifies rural French life at its best, a little rough round the edges but a heart of gold.

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