The World Puppet Festival is held every two years in Charleville-Mezieres in the Ardennes region in northern France. For the ten days the fete takes place in this lovely town, this is where you will find the biggest assembly of puppeteers and enthusiasts in the world in a truly fantastic spectacle.
Charleville-Mézières is a world-renowned centre for marionettes and puppeteers boasting an association with the art, which stretches as far back as 1961. That was the year a 17-year old called Jacques Felix first introduced a puppet theatre to the town. Now, more than 50 years later, the event has grown into a hugely colourful spectacle which involves leading performers from more than 30 countries and 150,000 spectators who will throng to the town to enjoy the fabulous shows and exhibitions.
Every other September when the year number is uneven e.g. 2013, 2015 (the dates change so check the website for details) the whole town goes puppet crazy, with performances indoors and outdoors as some 600 puppet shows of all shapes and sizes take place. This is not just for the kids, the shows are also for adults and the whole place magically transforms from a quiet, historic place to a vibrant and exciting world of puppets and festivity for “Les Petits Comédiens”.
Charleville-Mézières takes its Petits Comédiens very seriously and has established an International Puppet Institute and an Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, which takes students from all over the world.
If that’s not enough to prove the town’s puppet credentials, ‘The Grand Marionnettiste’ – The Great Puppeteer’s Clock is built into the façade of the Institut de la Marionette and every hour – from 10am to 9pm – it presents a puppet scene from the legend of the Four Sons of Aymon, a medieval tale from the Ardennes. The story is spun around the sons of the of Duke Aymon: the knight Renaud de Montauban and his brothers Guichard, Allard and Richardet and their magical horse Bayard as they revolt against the emperor Charlemagne.
Full details of the Festival, its history, and the tradition of puppetry in the Ardennes are featured on the www.festivalmarionnettes.com where you can also book tickets. .
The town of Charleville-Mézières is just three hours’ drive time from the ports of Calais and Dunkirk
Useful websit: www.ardennes.com