What’s New in The French Ardennes in 2019

The 20thWorld Puppet Festival will be held in Charleville-Mézières in France in 2019, between September 20 and 29.


A key event in the life of the French Ardennes region for more than 50 years – thanks to the unfailing enthusiasm of its founding father Jacques Félix, who created it to lift spirits during the Second World War – the Festival is once again set to bring together more than 100 puppet companies from all corners and every continent of the world, who will then work their magic to transforms this quiet, historic town into a densely populated and highly atmospheric world capital for ‘Les Petits Comédiens’.


Only held every two years, the carnival occasion has grown dramatically since its inception in 1961 and now attracts the greatest puppet companies in the world, as well as around 170,000 spectators.


Charleville-Mézières itself is not simply the home of the world’s biggest puppet festival, but has also established an International Puppet Institute, and an Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette – which offers a three-year puppetry course to international students.


All of which means that The French Ardennes is likely to once again become one of the ‘must see’ destinations in France, come September. For further details, visit www.festival-marionnette.com.


Nearby Sedan – a small, but historic town in The French Ardennes – is one of several locations in Belgium and Northern France which was used in 2018 as a backdrop for the filming of new BBC TV mini-series adaptation of Les Misérables.


Filming for Les Misérables began in February 2018 in Belgium and Northern France, and while a date for its appearance on TV screens has not yet been announced it is expected to reach the screens in 2019.


Andrew Davies’s non-musical version will delve back through the original novel focusing on Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse chase against the epic backdrop of 19th century France at a time of civil unrest. It is set to air across six one-hour-long episodes.


The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel will feature British actors Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins in the lead roles – alongside an all-star cast.  Brussels, Enghien, Namur and Ecaussines are amongst the towns and cities used as locations in Belgium, along with Limburg in The Netherlands, and Sedan in The French Ardennes.


Sedan was selected as one of the key locations for filming because its historic centre looks like 19thcentury Paris.


The town itself is also looking forward to the opening of a new centre for Architecture and Heritage in 2019.  This new attraction will include exhibition areas, hands-on activities, and an information centre for Sedan.


Elsewhere, a new son-et-lumière show “Les Misérables”, by Victor Hugo, will be played in La Cassine each Friday and Saturday between July 20 and August 17 in 2019.


Ten minutes from the Ardennes town of Vouziers, Olizy-Primat is where visitors to The French Ardennes will find the Argonne Discovery Park – an animal paradise in the midst of the forest of Argonne.  Its 32 acres combine recreational activities with the opportunity to discover nature in the wild.  The highlight of any visit to the park is the chance to see a pack of wolves, as well as racoons and a range of birds in flight, including eagles, vultures and great horned owls.  New for 2019 will be the introduction of two young Arctic wolves into the park.  Full details can be found at www.parc-argonne-decouverte.fr.


Visitors to The French Ardennes should also look-out for the opening of a new National Park Centre in September 2019, in Renwez; and a new trail following in the footsteps of Paul Verlaine in the village of Juniville; and the 40thanniversary celebrations of the installation of the world-famous René Dürrbach stained glass windows in the Basilique Notre-Dame d’Espérance, in Mézières.


A 2019 magazine-style brochure, entitled French Ardennes Inspirations, can be downloaded online http://gb.ardennes.com.


[World Puppet Festival image ©Herve Dapremont]